Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Escape Pods and Sacred Places


















This love affair with automobile as escape pod seems to have begun inside a Model A (or was it a Model T? I'm never certain which is which) some time back around 1959. Someone had parked it in the meadow behind the corn crib many years before I turned the metal handle and hopped inside, looking for a ride around the world. From inside that car anything seemed possible. I had no specific destination in mind, but the West began calling my name pretty early on, especially the Southwest, a place of deserts and canyons and perpetual blue skies. My earliest books told the tale, with titles like, Honey Bunch: Her First Trip West. I signed and dated them even then.




When I was 14, my friend, Rusty, who came up from Des Moines every summer to visit, taught me how to drive behind the wheel of his turquoise and white '57 Chevy. With wheels beneath me and the road ahead, spooling out into the wild blue yonder en route to Roosevelt Lake, my training began.

When I got my license at 16, the car became my escape pod and remains so to this day. If there's a need to get my head on straight, and walking doesn't quite cut it, I get behind the wheel and drive, no destination in mind, just the road melting away anxiety and shaking off any blues trying to get attached. It's always been that way. I used to spend time feeling guilty about it, mainly because others saw escaping as something to be frowned upon. But I say, a little escape can be good for the soul and others no longer decide what I'm supposed to feel guilty about, I do, and it's pretty much next to nothing, and never for very long.

Lately, my time behind the wheel seems less needed. But, like an emergency plan, my car is always ready, waiting for me to turn the key in the ignition. And, apparently, I have not been alone in this need for an escape pod, this sacred place of solitude. For many of us, this need starts early.


"The Sacred"

After the teacher asked if anyone had
    a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all
    said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he'd chosen, and others knew the truth
    had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
    the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
    and how far away
a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key
    in having a key
and putting it in, and going.

~ Stephen Dunn, from Between Angels











30 comments:

  1. Hello Teresa:
    We are most interested to read here how, from an early age, the motor car has become a means of 'escape' to you in the sense of allowing you the freedom to roam at length when something more traditional, such as walking which you cite as an example, does not quite satisfy or, indeed, as is suggested in the poem, a kind of sanctuary.

    For years we had motor cars and then, about four years ago, on impulse, decided to sell them and live without; we have never looked back.

    Later this week we leave for Venice. We shall look forward to catching up on our return.

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    1. Occasionally, I have entertained a fantasy of living in a city with no need for a vehicle, where the streets themselves are the road, with a little neighborhood to walk around in. It still sounds appealing on the level of simplicity, but I fear I would miss my car, my pod.

      I look forward to hearing all about Venice, with pictures! Have a wonderful time!

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  2. Still, today I find myself at times simply driving. There is something very lulling and soothing about riding in the car. Plus, like you say, it is there waiting for me should I decide to head west once again. Or south.

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    1. We share many things, Rubye Jack. This stage of life is interesting and confusing and intriguing all at the same time.... what roads lie ahead? I'm looking forward to them very much, no matter where they lead me, it's going to be good. For you, too. :)

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  3. Most of my best childhood memories are in a car... going somewhere. The very best ones are when I had MY FIRST CAR and "having a key..." of my own. It meant both freedom and responsibility. It meant never again having to ride in the back seat with my little sister.

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    1. "Going somewhere," was key, shall we say.... :)

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  4. Then, there are those hurried moments ... hot in a way we seldom feel again ... oh those summer nights in Dad's 60 Belair

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    1. And my favorite Bad Boy is back in town....:)

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  5. I always took off...just took off!!! Still do. I can drive for hours in silence, with just my thoughts,or music blasting... When heading to the southwest, I just aim. No maps, no particular towns and oooh what interesting things I find. RMNP is another thing. I don't escape till I'm there. I was just remembering mom and dad taking Sunday drives. They must have had these feelings too...

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    1. Stop it, TMoon, you're kicking my wanderlust into gear. :)

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  6. You reminded me of the times when my entire family would move from one place to another, and we would take everything with us in the car. The station wagon back seat was down, with a mattress on top, toys and books, and we kids were in the back, mom and dad driving, talking, going to a new place. It was magical! Thanks for taking me off on that journey. :-)

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    1. Hard to imagine a family moving with only their station wagon, but I can well imagine the feeling in that car.

      You are most welcome.

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  7. That is just one more reason that the elderly find the loss of their freedom to drive so devastating! It is cutting off several avenues of escape.

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  8. I put in around 300 miles going to a candy manufacters store and visiting a favorite prairie and stae park.

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    1. Candy, and prairie, and state parks, all sound like good reasons to get in a car....

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  9. Ah, yes, the freedom of that first solo drive. I remember it well.

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    1. My imagination had been driving for years! :)

      ah, freedom!

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  10. Being elderly, I am in it but cling to memories of the freedom of the road. True pleasure day trippings.

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    1. I love day tripping. Just seeing what there is to see and feeling the road move through.

      You aren't "elderly," that's a word for governmental systems, and we reject them and their terminology. ;)

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  11. There is no tough problem a solo ride down a dusty backroad can't soften.

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  12. Even though I gravitate towards the woods some of my best memories are from long treks in an automobile or truck. There is something about the open road, your future up the road, your past back down the road, that is so exciting. I suppose it would have been just as exciting with a horse and buggy although, certainly, much slower. Loved the image of you in the Model A driving to nowhere.

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    1. But not nearly as comfortable....

      There's a part of me still sitting in that car, riding around the world.... :)

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  13. Wonderful poem, Teresa, and post. I feel this way sometimes, and just get in the car and drive around. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 19. Can you imagine that? The only reason I got it then was that my father had died, a brand new car was paid off due to some death rider on the loan, and I was the oldest, therefore responsible for driving the car. The fact that I was away at school most of the time didn't matter (of course, I wasn't allowed to take it to school). Gosh, hadn't thought about those years in a long, long while. See what you do with your provocative posts?

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    1. I hope the memories these posts evoke bring all of us to a place at the center where live is lived in this perfect moment. All moments are Here.

      :)

      Thank you, Penny.

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  14. This brought back memories! When I was a kid I bought an old Studebaker. Never did get it running, but it sure peaked my interest early and I loved many cars for many years, a love affair that finally ended... when I bought a Jeep.

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    1. A burgundy '53 Studebaker, I have fond memories of one myself.... :)

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  15. I didn't learn to drive until I was 30. I loved road trips rather than city driving. It was hard to give up driving--that freedom to go where you want when you want. I can see why you'd love to be on the road to clear your head. Highway driving is almost meditative. :)

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    1. Well, you got around hitchhiking during those earlier years.... :)

      Yeah, time to clear my head again soon....the best form of meditation.

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