“. . .That wondrous journey fixed in my mind the idea of a wide world, full of dangers and beautiful things. . .”*
Now, I drive.
The county road is marked at 55 miles per hour. It feels the bumpy kind of slick, too fast for people's backyards. But, much like the first "explorers", no one passing through considers this land property. At least not personal property full of steps towards mailbox posts leaning into speeding edges, nor pets let out to breathe the blood of animals learning the curves alone. I have an old soul which must be why I drive like a grandmother. People go around me. A truck zooms by me. I'm relieved to have the vehicle gone, no longer waiting on each move, each mile per hour I am able to sustain, not to mention hanging on my choices. People who choose not to pass suffocate me. Still, where are they going so assuredly that they can go so quickly, or perhaps it is the act of movement that comforts them? This, above all, I understand. I turn away from the almost funeral procession that approaches me. A glimmer of light into broken glass refracted in the blues, reds and grays of sedans and SUVS. They march, trudge and plod behind the rocking metal of the harvester.
When I sat in the cement block training center those first weeks of Peace Corps, we received cultural training. This consisted of phrases, colloquial phrases, words strung together with syllables that made their true message bump just out of the grasp of a literal translation.
“Qué curvas. Y yo, sin frenos.”
I no longer see curves. I no longer can tell the difference between the press of the brake and choosing a speed so slow, they are not necessary.
“. . .I loved that world, in spite of its crushing vastness. . .”
Now, I walk.
I walk but I don't lead. I follow my dog. Not in control but safe. I follow the dog that made me decide completely, long in coming and too easy, that I should come home. I trip and stumble around dried, cut stalks, almost dug holes and brushed to bramble ditches. The dog created routes in the months since he arrived. Each morning he chooses from the routes he knows. Several of his trails are altered with the seasons. Beans now cut and crunched away leave an open square to sniff. I remind him and he agrees. He shades in covered ground not traced. In the hovering not light, a four legged creature is in the distance. A coyote, I am sure, enough. He tugs and I turn him. Enough. He won't listen so I carry him to remove the strain from the ties around both of us.
I read that coyotes cross your path to make you pause, or so Native American tradition tells. Do I need another pause? It seems all I live are pauses. Manmade and natural molecules bump in front, away from and around me. Still, slow motion is motion, in my car, carrying my dog or otherwise. I don't think I take steps, but I'm not so still to be the mailbox posts braced for smoke and wind and pee stains. It does not trouble me to cross the road home amid the zooming wheels. It troubles me that I choose the road at all. Is it really the animal that could harm me less, or my father's never learned known?
"I thought there would be no trouble today," I say. "That the animals would stay away from the chaos of combine knives."
"They're brazen now. Not scared of anything unless it charges them."
"I don't have a problem with them doing what they do, but I don't want them to hurt Solo."
I say I'm scared for others, but if the dog wasn't there, would I still be scared?
I repeat my phrase again in my own head. Truly, I don't want to get hurt. To go towards something so fast I can't brake.
I have only choices and my only choice is to walk without my father. The ache in his leg vibrates the sensation of combined stems.
"We'll grow old together," dirt stained ridges of his nails write the dog's ending into his own. Itches, inked.
Fly. Drive. Walk.
I used to fly regularly, but I was not a traveler.
“. . .I loved it in spite of the terrible weight of its hope.”
Each faster than the other, but none are necessarily movement, covering distance but no ground. Steps slow to their minimal pace. Movement. Forward. I know it’s the uncertainty makes the traveler.
*“The Map of Salt and Stars” by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar (pg. 116)
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