Maps were important in my childhood. For one thing, maps of the U.S. were changing to include the new interstate freeway system. It was a pretty big deal to be able to ride on one of these new highways where there were no traffic signals or railroad crossings. You could even bypass towns and cities altogether. On television (also a new invention), a popular commercial urged us to “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” And we did. The interstate freeways were a boon to family vacations. We could drive straight to our destination without having to stop and see anything except restrooms.
A few years later my generation took to the road, both freeways and back roads, trying to “find ourselves.” Since then I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve discovered that on the road or not, we’re always in the process of finding ourselves. We are always coming of age. Maybe that’s why I see life as a journey.
We’re making our way through the terrain of time, and our major challenge is that life comes without a map. We know that mountains and valleys, straight paths and crooked roads lie ahead. We’ll have to traverse emotional territory. While we may pick up tips and guidebooks along the way, what lies ahead is unique to each of us. And it’s always uncertain, even though we’re all heading toward the same horizon and whatever lies beyond.
Since I’m originally from West Texas, when I think of the horizon, the image of the cowboy in old Western movies and TV shows comes to mind. The hero rides off into the sunset, his silhouette getting smaller and smaller as he heads toward a blazing band of gold lining the horizon. As the camera pulls back, the gold deepens into fire orange and eases upward, becoming a ribbon of crimson that softens into lavender, turquoise, and rich blue. As the evening darkens, the sky overhead spreads out in a deep violet-black sparked with stars. All the while, the silhouette, man on horse, rides steadily west toward that sinking blaze of gold.
To me, the American West has an aura of warmth, openness, freedom, and possibility that I find nowhere else. Although I’ve lived half my life (most of my adult years) east of the Mississippi River, when I travel west across the U.S., I always feel like I’m going home. There’s something about crossing the Mississippi, passing through the hills of Arkansas, and finally hitting the flat plains and big sky of Texas that releases a tension in me and says you’re home now.
If life is our grand journey, then home is whatever awaits us at the end of our time here. When I was younger, I thought I knew what that was. I took for granted that the beliefs I had been taught – streets of gold, gates of pearl, and 24/7 worship before the throne of God – were absolute truth. What I see now is that no one knows what lies beyond. We have beliefs, hopes, and opinions, but certainty? That, we don’t have.
But what lies beyond is not the point. The journey is the point – the roads you and I choose (or that are chosen for us). Each of us navigates life as best we can. What matters is how we travel those roads, what we discover along the way, what we carry with us, and what we leave behind.
This is Thanksgiving week in the U.S. As you look back on your life journey, what are you deeply grateful for?
Next week: Bridge to the Unknown
If you want me to send these posts and any updates to your email, simply sign up on the right.
If you want to me to send you a calming inspirational thought for the week each Sunday morning, you can sign up at Carry the Calm.
Text and cloud-sunray photo © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.
All other photos courtesy pexels.com.