The first time I saw it, there was grass growing down the middle, and it was permanently rutted with 4×4 tire tracks from trucks that flew mercilessly through the mud holes after a spring rain. It was barely wide enough for two cars to pass; one had to swerve into the brush on the side and motion for the other to come through. We eventually met our neighbors through this frequent act of road compromise. We almost got hit a few times by drivers who didn’t know the rules.
We measure the seasons by it – waiting patiently each spring for the first green leaves to pop open with the bright promise of another summer. Each October, it is marked by fallen leaves, cluttered at the sides, still clinging to the colors of another season passed.
In winter, it becomes the obstacle between us and the rest of the world. We wait patiently for the snowplow driver to roar his way down, piling the snow banks as high as the car windows by February. Once or twice each winter, Mother Nature turns everything to ice and we skate it’s hills all the way down to the lake, imagining what Hans Brinker must have felt.
I’ve traveled it so many times I know its hills, curves and banks like an old friend. I measure time by the number of woodpecker holes and piles of wood chips at the bottom of the old, dead trees. I’ve walked it when I was angry, crying, frustrated. I’ve taken refuge there when I needed a break from motherhood. I’ve used it to leash train all the dogs that have come into our life, and we had two cats that would come along, running up ahead or meandering behind.
We’ve searched it for lost hunters, broke down truck drivers and stuck snowmobilers. I’ve trucked it with babies on my back, in wagons, on skis and in sleds. Those babies’ first taste of freedom came as teenagers on bikes as they traveled the curves and hills by themselves.
When I turn off the pavement and hit the sand and stones, I take a deep breath and let it out slow. I ease my foot off the accelerator and let myself glide in. I slow down past the lake, taking in a sunset, some fishermen or a full moon reflected across the mirror surface. I head around the curves and up the hills into the woods, taking in the sweet scent of wild cherry blossoms in spring, or the fresh smell of the woods after a summer rain, or the unbelievable quiet of a winter’s night.
Another deep breath … I know I’m on the road home.