Suzie and I play a game of exploration I call finding the road. Not a road. The road. The mythical road ahead, an unexplored road, the yellow brick road, the allegorical path of life, the road not taken, the . . . well, you get the idea. That’s why I just call it finding the road.
What I mean is finding that perfect stretch of open road, at that perfect, peaceful time of day, with the perfect company, leaving all cares behind. The fantasy used to include that perfect song on the radio but now I have so many years of music in my head that the perfect song is most often the whisper of the wind. Insert your own song here:
There’s no load I can’t hold
Road so rough this I know
I’ll be there when the light comes in
Tell ‘em we’re survivors
Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I want to drive it all night long
– Tom Cochrane
Of course, we prefer daytime. Better views. Yesterday, some great views were waiting.
If you had told me sixteen years ago that Suzie and I would share a mesmerizing Sunday afternoon like the one we just had, I would have thought you cruel. In addition to not believing you, I would have felt you were mocking me with tired platitudes.
It’s hard to look into the foggy future and see bliss. Even on good days we don’t risk dreaming the future will be deliriously happy.
Sixteen years ago the road ahead looked like Armageddon, a great smoking hole where our future had vaporized. With Suzie facing an ever-expanding maze of cancers, our Arts and Crafts dream home with a stone fireplace, lots of cozy, built-in book cases and a wide front porch for our grandchildren to play on vanished in a blink.
Losing your dreams is scary. Losing sight of the future around a curve of doubt is unnerving. Being afraid to even look to the future is heart stopping. The best I could do was hope for survival. I had not yet learned one of life’s great surprises.
Sometimes it comes in little things, like the pillowy percussion of a puppy galloping on carpet. Or the thump of a wagging puppy tail on your pants leg. That just happened. I’m smiling.
Other times a magical confluence of events unfolds as if God had planned it all long ago. Sunday afternoon was such a moment. It was like driving through an hour-long post card.
Suzie and I found time after a post-lunch nap to get in the car for a drive. Nessie came along to add puppy wonder and wagging. The sky was crisp, deep, unmarked, New Mexico blue.
We drove up Signal Mountain Highway and crossed to the Sequatchie Valley. The sun, falling behind us, cast a golden glow on the mountains ahead, fading slowly into purple. Bluebirds flew across the narrow black top between undulating green fields. A flaxen Clydesdale appeared on a hill, backlit, silhouetted against the sun like a Hollywood cinematographer set up the shot.
Around a curve on a one-lane back road, a family with three little girls and four puppies appeared, laughing and playing on pavement so abandoned they felt they owned it. And for the moment they did.
We stopped to let Nessie stretch her legs at a white church, built in the 1800′s, tinted orange by the sunset. To the east, a mountain range stretched from Kentucky to Alabama. To the west, another range paralleled, creating between one of the longest, most scenic valleys in the world. In between were fantasy-photo farms riding the waves of grassland down the Sequatchie River.
I was raised on the road. I should be jaded by now. Movie scores played in my head. I spun in a 360 IMAX pan, trying to take it all in. It was magnificent.
It is in these moments that God surprises you with unexpected beauty and grace. Unmerited wonder. Undeserved amazement.
We stood together for a moment, tingling with a view that no one else in the world enjoyed. As if it were created just for the two of us. Nessie was lost in her hidden world of smells, probably wondering how we were missing it.
As we drove to the north, out of the valley and over the mountains, a full moon rose in the windshield.
I mean, come on!
I took no pictures. It would have been a waste and a frustration. It would have taken a full movie crew to capture half of it. Helicopter shots. Orchestra scores. I was overwhelmed just trying to absorb it.
If you had told me sixteen years ago, in a hospital waiting room or a doctor’s office that this day would happen . . .
And this was only one afternoon, admittedly a good one. Imagine sixteen years of trying to be grateful for every day, working hard at appreciating it, attempting to grasp the beauty of it as it passes.
The first time we had seen this valley we were exploring the area our youngest child would be going to college. Now he’s graduating. Think of three children growing, plays, recitals, graduations, proms, dates, vacations.
We drove this valley through waves of memories, through sunsets of days gone by, through dreams arrived and enjoyed and faded into more dreams . . .
Yesterday, we found the road. We could see it stretching into the past. We could see it winding into the future. We could see the whole path, the ache of it, the accomplishment, the adventure.
We understood that, long ago, in our darkest hours, this was ahead of us.
Yesterday, we found the road.
Today, we are excited for the chance to take up the journey again.