The Circle


My husband and I purchased a 1988 economy Dodge van with a long wheel base. In the warm days of August we built

    a couch in the rear,
    a storage area accessible from outside,
    a portapotty in a cabinet secured behind the driver's seat, storage cabinets for tools and supplies,
    a spare tire covered unit,
    a shelf with a small micro wave oven,
    a small closet,
    a 120 electrical outlet on each side, and
    a receptacle for outside hookup.

We planned a long trip to visit far-flung family members, practically circling the United States. And in December my husband died. I decided to do the trip by myself in April because the van was adequate for

    extended travel,
    a getaway from home and memories,
    independence from relatives,
    hauling an antique table from Connecticut,
    the opportunity to see more of the USA,
    commitment to the planned circle trip.

Then in February I broke my wrist. My attitude about traveling alone was the same as it had been each time my husband and I took off for anywhere

    taking each mile as it came,
    dealing with road conditions,
    adapting to the weather,
    attending to bodily comfort,
    alert to personal health,
    enjoying passing scenery,
    relaxing in stolen moments,
    relishing the freedom of the highways.

With a left arm weakened by six weeks in a cast from palm to armpit, the trip did not look easy. The cast was removed on March 31. The next day I got into the van

    perched my left hand on the steering wheel,
    gripped mightily to manipulate sharp curves,
    adjusted the cruise control,
    lowered the steering wheel for maximum comfort, munched celery and carrots to keep me alert,
    laid back at rest areas to revive my entire body.

My expectations kept my spirits up. My left arm was nearly useless as its fingers gripped the top of the steering wheel like a bird's foot on a twig. My shoulder muscles could not lift that arm after being held inactive within the cast for a month. I had to move it with my right hand the first week so I stopped often. I felt alone but was never lonely. The solitude was pleasant as it

    spread across the rolling hills,
    beside basalt cliffs,
    beneath whispering pines,
    under a massive sequoia,
    beside a giant saguaro,
    upon a weathered boulder,
    near a fragrant magnolia,
    against newly turned soil,
    and in the driver's seat.

Just a sprinkle of rain fell as I left home. Rain came down more seriously while proceeding on I-84 to Bigg's Junction where I turned south on US 97, a two lane highway used mostly by trucks and local travelers. Rain drenched the windshield and the wipers drummed a slow intermittent beat that I set to words

    away I go, so tallyho,
    and don't you know,
    I have to go,
    so winds you blow,
    and soon I'll know,
    how a sore elbow,
    may force a go,
    right back to ho,
    home that is.

I watched the rain swish down with the blades. I couldn't help but think of all the times my husband and I had driven that same route. And my tears matched the rain because he never could again. For some time I thought the trip would be too lonesome to bear. Later, water changed my mood as it formed

    a serene reservoir above a dam,
    a tumbling waterfall,
    a trickling stream,
    a mineral phenomena underground,
    a placid tide,
    a wild breaker,
    a racing rapids, or
    a puddle in the parking lot.

Wind intruded with the gentle rain that fell when I went to sleep in the Summer Lake rest area on Oregon SR 31. A frequent companion, the wind

    whispered through the junipers,
    whined among the pine needles,
    howled across the rock pinnacles,
    whipped the sand off the desert surface,
    tinkled the leaves of mountain aspen,
    rolled breakers on the ocean,
    retreated to the treetops in the forest,
    broadcast seeds across the meadows,
    gifted the air with the scent of flowers,
    caressed meadow grasses in an ancient battlefield, and ruffled my hair in relentless rhythm.

Rain and wind both subsided as I continued down US 395 into California. Soon I began to feel the presence of the sun as it

    stonily peered through thick low clouds,
    coquettishly peeked behind cumulus fluff,
    skillfully painted blushing sunrises,
    relentlessly burned from a hot white sky,
    weakly filtered through high cirrus clouds,
    grudgingly hid during the blinding rain,
    happily followed the misty hills,
    forcefully blazed brilliant sunsets,
    but, willingly or reluctantly,
    accompanied me along the 10,000 mile trip.

I studied drawing and learned to see the shape of things. Trees vary in different types of terrain and at different elevations

    in shapely towers of lombardy poplar,
    umbrellas of spreading elm,
    drooping tears of weeping willows,
    tall stemmed triangles of pine,
    obese solitary junipers,
    sharp cosmic spines of joshua,
    stately stalks of saguaro,
    huge canopies of live oak,
    delicate networks of ancient dogwood,
    solid masses of towering maple, and
    tight cones of northern spruce .

As a child isolated on farms, I would often wonder at the cars going by. Wondering to what exciting places people were going or what exotic things they see. As I drove along, I mused that the people might wonder the same about me. I saw buildings and machinery and areas surrounding

    landscapes of well groomed homesites,
    enormous windows shrouded in draperies,
    collective buildings tucked into windbreaks,
    hovels with tiny windows peeking through shrubbery,
    A-frames clinging to streamsides,
    mansions perched on riverbanks,
    barns fallen to weather and neglect,
    frames collapsed by devouring vines,
    trailers resolute against the desert,
    wood transformed into fashionable boxes,
    pinnacles of concrete and glass piercing a grimy sky, stone plastered in unnatural geometries,
    adobe buildings happily sunning,
    rock captured in cemented walls,
    moss penetrating receding wood and stone,
    wood edifices dominating sloping terrain,
    round roofs hovered above rows of 4-paned windows,
    clusters of silos,
    long low sheet metal warehouses, and
    lincoln logs fashioned into houses.

Miles and days rolled by

    -a brother in Bullhead City who changed my van oil,
    -a son in Tucson who chauffeured me to museums and saguaros and airplanes and missions and corrals,
    -a son and wife in Montgomery who treated me to grandchildren and Shakespeare and white tigers and a warm swimming pool,
    -a son in Connecticut who showed me Mystic Cove and Gillette's castle and how to set my video trip to music,
    -a son in Massachusetts who showed me books and presses and publishing and a campus monument to a notable woman,
    -cousins in Kitchener who shared their sports channel and home-made beer and wine and Canadian looneys,
    -a sister in northern Minnesota who shared history and birds at window feeder and browsing deer and marauding wolf and beat me at three kinds of cards,
    -in-laws in central Minnesota who took me to thrift shops and smorgasbords and memories.

I arrived home on May 29th to attend my granddaughter's high school graduation.



Copyright 1997 Naomi Sherer - All Rights Reserved




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