Such a lot of time spent idling
When the road will not stay put like you hope
We bemoan stagnancy and yet try desperately to hold to our comfort
So move already
Don’t think too much about it
Don’t worry about what you may become
Don’t look back over your shoulder too often
Just watch the road and if you leave it, take some care
Remember the route
To find your way across, along, beside, or around it.

Way Off the Road

kerouacFriggin’ Kerouac. He at least drove on the road. Why oh why did I have to walk so far? When I left the house, looking for fresh air to clear my head, I thought I’d walk to the end of my lane and turn back. The sky was grey and a few flurries were starting to pick up. I stopped for at least two full minutes when I got to the end of the little dirt road. That doesn’t sound like a long time but even on a road that sees maybe six cars a day, it’s a long time to be standing still.

I didn’t want to enter Robert Frost territory; he wrote about metaphorical paths. I wanted to see if it would spark any thoughts heading in a new direction. So I kept moving forward, not looking back. Well, I did look back at least once, to make sure there weren’t any bears coming out of the woods. I’d passed some questionable tracks by the stream. Not that I would know what to do if I saw any bears.

At this point, I really wished I’d thought my little jaunt through, maybe bringing a cell phone and some tissues because my nose was running something fierce. A hat would have been nice. And my legs were showing signs of fatigue, my sedentary lifestyle taking its toll. Why didn’t I change into proper footwear? The cold wind slapped me in the face as if to say “Are you really going to waste your time in this fresh air thinking only of your discomfort? Snap out of it! Look around!”

So I did. Everything was still brown, but there were little signs of green poking through that I wouldn’t have seen driving past. On foot, I could smell the earth and hear trickles of water as the land thawed around me.

Today’s walk was spur of the moment and while I was happy to be outside after a long winter, I was cursing between heaving breaths that reminded me of when I was in labor. What awaited me at the end of this road? Whatever possessed me to take a walk on this blustery day? Did the road heave this winter or have these hills always been so steep? Why are there so many stories about travels and searching? Why does it seem the grass is greener elsewhere? Are we truly never satisfied?

So I guess I overthink things. Walking wasn’t soothing or clearing anything up for me. I kept going back to Kerouac. He had some interesting travels on his road, but he said in interviews that he lived a mostly quiet life, experiencing a lot of what he wrote about in his head.

Was that my lesson? Should I have stayed home? I don’t know that I would have dug out my copy of “On the Road” and read the underlined passages that appealed to me in college. I may not have been prompted to jot down three story ideas. I wouldn’t be rambling on about roads now with parts of a dirt road still stuck to my shoes.

On my walk, I approached the last hill that led home. My face was numb from the cold at this point, but I was about to come full circle. It made me shiver with anticipation for the warmth I knew would be awaiting me.

So maybe within a cliché I could find a lesson: appreciate what you’ve got but never stop exploring. When I was young and in a rush to experience everything, I embarked on some frantic travels. There was so much white space to fill in my mental journal. As with most people, I’ll probably be happy when I’m old to rest and let the young have at it. But I’m firmly in that weird middle, as in “middle aged” and I’m not ready to rest, but I get so tired. I’m like a child in some ways fighting bedtime. I want just one more story.

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