A West Texas highway, Summer 1964:
We’re heading to Abilene, Texas, on the way home from visiting our cousins in Lubbock. Daddy is driving the family Oldsmobile station wagon, Mother sits up front reading a magazine (she’s one of those people who can read and ride), and my youngest sister sits between them on the bench seat. Well, sit is optimistic. She sometimes stands (no seat belts in those days) and sometimes peers into the back seat to see what her three older sisters are up to. A couple of us are squirming. But not me. I’ve claimed the window seat behind Daddy, and I watch the clouds.
The distant thunderheads look like the mountains I’ve seen out west with peaks you can see for miles away as you travel the long, straight highways. But unlike mountains, clouds gradually change shape. Today, they’re in a slow-motion boil, their underbellies full and dark and ominous.
Since the land here is flat and treeless, the wind is free to gust at us, and it does, making our car shiver as it blows the full-bellied clouds in our direction. As the cloud ceiling lowers so do my eyebrows. The greenish-gray light bathing the landscape bothers me, and I don’t like the look of the wisp-like tails trailing down from some of the clouds.
When fat drops of rain splat onto the windshield, Daddy turns on the headlights and wipers. It’s not long before the whole sky lets loose, and I can’t see the clouds anymore. Because sheets of rain are blowing sideways across the highway, I can’t see the landscape any longer. In fact, I can’t even see the highway in front of us.
Neither can Daddy. He slows down but keeps driving, hunched forward trying to see. After a few minutes, he rolls down his window and sticks his head out to keep an eye on what he can glimpse of the white stripes in the center of the road. The rest of us sit tight, listening to the drumming rain and shuddering wind.
Eventually we drive out of the storm. Through the rear window, I watch another car’s headlights emerge from the dark gray curtain of rain behind us. Daddy closes his window and wipes rain off his face, and a couple of us start to squirm again. But not me. I rest my forehead against the cool window and study the shafts of sunlight that slice through towering clouds, spotlighting patches of ranch land, a barn, and the long road home.
If you’ve followed my posts for a while, you know that I often refer to life as a journey. It’s a common metaphor. Like my family’s drive home that summer, life can take us through stormy events. When the world closes in on us and we can’t see what’s ahead, we may have to slow down and make our way carefully. Like a trip on unfamiliar roads, life can take us in directions that cause us to lose our way. But unlike a cross-country drive, life’s journey doesn’t come with a GPS or a map. So it can be a bit trickier to navigate. For the next few weeks, that’s what I’ll blog about – finding what we need to navigate ourselves into an unknown future. Next week: What lies beyond the horizon? Can we know? Does it really even matter?
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Text © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy pexels.com.