Learning from Your Road

mountain road picture

On Samish Island in Washington I received a drawing of a road through the mountains, given to me by a 7 year old young man, who seemed to know something. Two weeks later as I started east from the Oregon coast towards Boulder I saw this picture whenever I opened my laptop to write.

Of the many roads I drove in the following days, the ones that taught me the most were gravel and dirt logging roads in National Forests. You have to pay pretty close attention to what is right in front of you, as that is where the pothole that can catch your wheel wrong is going to appear. In the forests the trees cast their shadows most of the day, mixing their patterns with those of the surface. They obscure the ruts, the washboarding, and the all important potholes and dips. When you are looking up the road its easy to think it looks smooth and flat, until you get to it. The road insists on your being in the present moment adjusting to what you see right in front of you.

Going into Teton National Park from Idaho on a gravel road, I had been lead to believe that the middle section was the worst. It certainly got more challenging after the first third. Some sections were much better, and I would start to hope that the worst was behind me. Just about the time that I was going to speed up, there would be a lurking pothole, or a series of them. The road telling me to pay attention to the present, forget the road getting better further on, have patience and be with this section here. The most challenging piece, in fact, came right at the end.

Like the picture I was given, that road got me where I wanted to go, and it was beautiful. I got to explore huge lily filled mountains lakes, little streams to sit along and have lunch by, and all in cooler, clearer air on a hot summer day, when the valleys were full of haze and smoke. It was only my expectations and anticipation that really messed with the magic. When we pause, however bumpy the road, there is beauty around us to be experienced. As for the bumpy parts, as my therapist used to say, they are over when they are over, trust the process.

Later that day, driving south and east through Wyoming, I am wanting the road to lead me to a cool mountain campsite with running water and trees. My mind has given up, as all I can see is rainbow rock, dirt and sage brush. I follow my heart and on a new map, found by chance, I notice a BLM campground in small mountains in the middle of the desert. Right where it was time to stop I find everything I wanted, even deer wandering down to the stream to drink. Magic indeed.

Swimming laps today for the first time in a month it was clear that even at home I must trust my road. Whatever I get done, I get done, how ever far I’ve gone by evening that will be a good place to be for the night. So enjoy the moment, being in the pool, shopping for food, or writing a letter. Focus on the present bit of road. Appreciate the scenery. Listen for the voice that says stop here a little while; go left; move on; feeling it with your heart, and lessons can be learned, magic can happen.

(© 8/2012)

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