A full-on country music festival heated up Manhattan this weekend and marked my cue to leave. I drove to Tulsa for a quick visit with Magpie and Zach; a 4.5+ hour drive each way. I’d downloaded Dante’s Divine Comedy to keep me company, but one half-hour into the drive, I’d entered into my own third ring of hell and switched off the jumbled chapters. What to do for the next four+ hours of cross-plains driving?
I decided to try a new route through Strong City, Cottonwood Falls, and Matfield Green beneath a deliciously overcast sky. The drive was so beautiful; it needed no accompaniment. I switched off my playlist and drove southward in solitude; a mostly easy quiet.
Cows. I saw thousands of cows cooling in ponds, leaping up hillocks, moseying through long swaying grasses, and lounging beneath solitary trees.
Harvest is winding down along the route. Fields were full of stubble, square and round bales, and hungry birds looking for left-behinds. A few combines still were cutting and each time I saw them, I got choked up. Farmers don’t get to blow off their to-do lists. If a farmer ignores one piece of his/her job, the rest suffers. Every day or almost every dawn-to-dusk day makes farm folk some of the hardiest and most resourceful people I know. It is humbling to pass – well-fed – between the fields during harvest time.
Hours of solitude usher uninterrupted hours available to think. I’m not sure if it is the result of an ongoing yoga practice, but I did not allow my thoughts to race down the road ahead of me. I just sat with the surprise of new routes, a magnificent land, and the few folks who passed along the lonely field-bordered roads of Rosalia, Kansas.
Sometimes thoughts of what should I do and anxiety buckled snugly in beside me. These were temporary though frequent weekend passengers. Along hour three of the first route, I learned to remind myself to be present and “Just Drive.” Sooner than I expected, Tulsa and the kids were all around me. Ahhh.
After a slow Saturday morning rise, we bounced down the block to the Cherry Street Farmers Market (one of my favorites) and back towards home. Soon, we were off towards our “surprise adventure” of Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and StarTalk Radio keeping the conversation lively.
Later, full of sweets and coffee, we succumbed to our lazy yawns in a cool breeze and beneath the spreading trees of the town square. As afternoon waned, we left Arkansas on a detour-ish long-way-home of winding roads, rolling hills, hand-painted signs, and southern places like Decatur and Siloam Springs.
I’ve thought about the high points of the trip: my memory always refocuses on time in good company. Curled up with Madi and Izzy, Kenan’s call before his re-entry into Ranger School, Zach’s curry. The breeze and the quiet. Exploring the Library housed in the museum. Slow walking. Spices. Giggling. Lovely people on either side.
Sunday’s homeward launch was hard – it always is. The sky threatened rain, but seemed to relent offering only to cool the road ahead. Another 4.5+ hours of quiet. And moo cows. And poptarts.
I became antsy about four hours into the drive and one hour from home. Typically, this is when I bust out singing or yodeling…mooing and honking at the cattle on the thousand hills. Entertaining myself is not difficult…clearly.
It was more-than-nice to have such company waiting in Manhattan; something I appreciate more after 1o hours of solitude. This weekend left a reminder to be present. Do the work needing done. Plant so you can harvest. Moo at the cows. Hold the hands nearby. Let the quiet roll over and through you.
Sometimes solitude and the thoughts which scramble close behind, take all the derring do we’ve got. Let’s go quietly, then, into some of those good nights…and days of solitude.