Saturday, January 18, 2014

Traveling by Starlight


In my life, many years have been spent traveling I-80 or I-90, heading west to explore or, later, going between my two lives, the one in Minnesota where most of my family and my two sons remained, and Santa Fe where I spent most of the oughts.

Many times I would travel through the night. I liked the feeling of being out there under the stars, me, myself, and a whole lot of eighteen wheelers. It felt as though an unspoken camaraderie had been established and I felt comforted by this.

Occasionally a rest stop was in order or, on more than one occasion, an exit that led to a closed gas station where I would wait with others who couldn't quite make it through the night. I kept the car locked and my antennae up, but I always felt safe in the company of my fellow travelers.

One night, I assisted a family trying to make it to Cheyenne and the promise of a job. Their note on the door of the rest stop bathroom told me what I needed to do. I told their story here: http://teresaevangeline.blogspot.com/2011/12/will-you-be-home-for-christmas.html


When I opened my morning email to this poem, I was reminded of those times. For right now, I'm very glad to be snug and warm here in my home and not on the road to somewhere. But I sure do like this poem:

"Rest."

It's so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I've done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers' breath.
But instead of resting, I'd smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I'm not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything's fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I'm driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I've got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I'll be home by dawn.


~ Richard Jones, from The Correct Spelling and Exact Meaning. © Copper Canyon Press, 2010



Photograph by J M Hare

38 comments:

  1. What a traveler you are! I used to pull over between Abilene and my home on the exits of I-20 to nap for a few minutes after teaching. Hope all is well.

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    1. Jack, What a great gift on this cold evening... sure is nice to hear from you. Not as much traveling these days but home is a good place to be, too. One of these days ... breakfast at Pasqual's ...

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    2. I've done just enough late night driving to recognize the scenes you create, but not enough to feel at home out there. I love what you did for the family in the car, and I sat and read all the comments. That post really connected with people.

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    3. Nowadays, I'm more at home right here, but I have not retired my traveling shoes, they're just taking a much-needed rest. Yes, these are tough times for many people, have been for some time ...

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  2. Great poem. I like the feeling too of travelling through the night, so long as there is somewhere good at the end of it. I love your header photo by the way.

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    1. Yes, what is waiting at the end of our travels can make all the difference. Thanks, Jenny.

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  3. Love this, Teresa.... I don't see too well at night any longer but I do remember ... traveling by starlight ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn! I hope you're still finding time for travels, you've certainly done some great road trips. Hope all is well with you and yours.

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  4. Sure can relate to your starlight drives on I-80 and I-90. Wonderful poem and story of your travels -- barbara

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    1. I hope your last drive leading to your current place finds you well and happy. New adventures!

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  5. Traveling alone on the road gives some a certain feeling of freedom. The idea that you never really know what's around the next bend or at the next mile marker. I can easily see how you were attracted to the traveling, especially at night. The poem is really heart felt. And although I've never been a trucker (not would I ever want to be) I certainly could identify with the raw passion of the feelings expressed. Very nice, indeed.

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    1. It is that sense of freedom that has so long appealed to me ... now that I have such a greater degree of it, I find the traveling less needed, but still enticing ... Thank you, Bill.

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  6. For me it was I40 to Clines Corners and up to Santa Fe in the early days, and then I40 to up and down 80 in California. I remember one year we were hitchhiking and got stuck in what turned into a blizzard at Clines Corners. Thank goodness for truckers.
    I remember your post on helping out the family. What comes around goes around.

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    1. Rubye! I sure do like that you're back around ... have missed you ... Cline's Corners is a desolate spot ... passed it innumerable times, sometimes stopping for coffee to finish the drive to Texas hill country ... and then on to South Padre ... would love to be under those palm trees about now ... Hope all is well with you ...

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  7. Another reminder to be grateful for what I have, Teresa, and mindful of those who do not. Most of us can dig just a little deeper to make other's lives a little better. This poem came along as a dear friend of ours let us know he was home in Florida, safe and sound after having driven straight through from central Illinois.

    My night driving isn't as pleasant these day, now that I don't see as well as used to in the dark, but, I do enjoy the solitude of those long drives up north to the Twin Cities along 90/94.

    Stay warm. Chapter II of Polar Vortex is nigh.

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    1. Lord, it's cold out there again ... good to be snug at home ... I wish that for everyone ... thanks, Penny!

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  8. Copper Canyon Press knows how to pick them...just a gentle giant of a poem
    I'm not a traveler, though I have had thoughts of it, so I enjoyed your post about your days on the road at night
    The smell of poverty.....how sad
    You did a great thing....helped those in front of you...if everyone did....the world would be a better place
    It is the little kind acts of people that matter
    and yes..it is getting cold again...very cold
    snug in

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    1. Hi Suz, What a treat to see you again ... I forget about folks I've met out here in Bloggerland and so I thank you for the reminder ... I need to get out more often ... :)

      Stay warm ...

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  9. Dear Teresa, thank you for the link to your earlier blog from 2011 on a family living in poverty. From what I'm reading and watching on television, life hasn't improved for hundreds of thousands of people living in this richest country in the world. I, too, wonder how the 1% responds to this as you wondered at the end of that earlier posting. I hope the president will talk in his State of the Union address about the vast inequality in our country and that Congress and he will begin to address this problem in a meaningful and committed way. But somehow I doubt that because Congress truly is dysfunctional and most of those in Congress can't even begin to imagine what living in poverty is like and I think that many simply don't care. That sounds jaded. And it is. Peace.

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    1. It isn't jaded so much as it's an honest appraisal of where we are at ... and no end in sight from where I'm sitting ... change and hope have not been remotely forthcoming...

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  10. As you know, I love traveling, and I've always loved night driving and long hours at the wheel, hurtling forward. Every time I come into Texas from the east and see the sign that says, "El Paso 872 miles" I want to just go and go and go.

    But my vision won't allow such, these days. Despite good health, age is creeping, and I'm not comfortable driving after dark, except locally. I couldn't stand night watch offshore any more, either. I'm glad I had the travel and the sailing I did, when I did. I sacrificed a good bit of security and financial gain to be able to do such things in my forties. But I'm so glad I did. If I were getting ready to retire now, I wouldn't be able to do them at all. As it is, I have wonderful memories.

    Even for me, the words of the poem hold true.

    The way I see it, I've got a second wind
    and on the radio an all-night country station.
    Nothing for me to do on this road
    but drive and give thanks:
    I'll be home by dawn.

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    1. I don't know if you know Old Crow Medicine Show, but their "Wagon Wheel" is my current favorite travel song. You could go miles and miles with this one.

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    2. Thank you so much for that link!!!

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    3. And, I understand the night driving concerns ... I've gotten used to being in at night and night driving presents challenges now for me, as well. I do love those closing lines... :) Thank you for commenting and sharing the music.

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  11. I love your banner shot of the horses. Thank you for your visit to my blog.

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    1. I do love horses ... and so enjoy your blog. I lived in Santa Fe for several years so it's a real treat to revisit some of my favorite places through your beautiful photos.

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  12. Lovely, evocative poem!

    One of my regrets is that I can no longer see well enough to drive at night. But I do remember!

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    1. HI, Linda, hope you're having a great winter!

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  13. same for night driving as Linda Myers, many a time I've stopped at rest stops and given hitchhikers rides in the past but nowadays not sure that's such a good idea, usually I can tell if folks are trustworthy but you never know, this cold winter makes snuggling up a welcome treat for sure. My Gary is a truck driver and he still misses it, we do some of our best talking while driving around with the lull of the highway to relax us.

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    1. There is something lulling and peaceful about the highway ... hope all is well with your new adventure ...

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  14. A wonderful poem and a story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Thanks for sharing them Teresa.

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    1. It makes me want to do more ... there is so much need ... thanks, Bill.

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  15. Quote. . . Santa Fe where I spent most of the oughts. . . Endquote

    Painful for me to think where I have spent my 'oughts'. Very painful.

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    1. oh, dear man, my wish for you and all of us: to let go, let go, let go ... it's all we can do ...

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    2. All of which begs the question about all that time: was igt spent on oughts or squandered? I can't let it go until I understand it. Fully.

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    3. If we sequester a period of time in our lives and try to understand it we could drive ourselves mad ... is it possible to fully understand? Unless we take our lives as a whole and understand that as humans we make flawed choices ... I'm not sure how else to live ... I've made some flawed choices ... terribly flawed, but I cannot wrestle with what I cannot change ...really, I can only hope to do better from this moment forward ... and find peace ... nothing is ever squandered if we learn from it ...

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