Roads More and Less Travelled

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My commute to work takes me 15 to 30 minutes depending on the traffic. The traffic is its own entity with its own moods. I haven’t been able to figure out why some days it takes 15 minutes and other days it takes 30. I’m on a main road all of 1 minute. The rest of the drive is through neighborhoods. I’m trying to find a pattern. Was Tuesday busy because a bunch of people were headed to a weekly meeting somewhere? Was Wednesday slow because everyone on Tuesday decided to go another route on Wednesday because of all the traffic on Tuesday? Until I figure it out I will keep allowing myself 30 minutes to get to work. I’ll either be early or on time.

These are new roads for me. I’ve traded the freeways for 2 lane country roads. No more taking the 8, or the 94, or the 125. No more streets named after trees or fruits. Now I travel on Pikes and Parkways and old roads named for the cities they were destined for. No more passing malls and business parks. Now I pass by homes of all ages and sizes. Some situated close together and some surrounded by acres of pastures and trees.

One stretch of the road is narrow and the trees on either side create a semi canopy. It looks magical even now during winter when the trees are without their leaves. The other morning the wind was blowing leaves into circles around the road. Brown swirling leaves and naked trees lining old rustic fences surrounding dormant grasses under a pale gray sky. It was beautiful. At one point of my drive snow flurries kick up in a crazy way. The snow was swirling around like the inside of a snow globe. Yep, these are new roads for me.

My husband and I decided to come out to Nashville last July. We packed up both cars and took to the road August 2. Our last night in San Diego we stayed at the Omni Hotel downtown. San Diego was beautiful that night. We had a view of the bay looking toward Coronado. Watching the lights get brighter as the day turned into night was spectacular. Being able to shower in a perfectly working shower with lots of room was a treat in itself after being in a slightly run downed 1970s apartment for a year and half.

In the morning we got up early and drove to our apartment in La Mesa to pick up my car and to finish packing both cars for the trip. La Mesa Village is quaint. I walked to Cosmos and got a latte. Then I circled back stopping at Sprouts Market to pick up a few items. The cashier, who has been a part of La Mesa for as long as I can remember, asked how I was doing and I shared how we were moving to Nashville in about an hour. I think she was genuinely impressed.

As I walked through the village I was very conscious of my surroundings wondering if I would ever return. The misty wet sidewalks. The hazy sky. The shops on La Mesa Boulevard. The Methodist Church at Lemon and Palm. The mix of old houses and ugly apartment buildings. This is my hometown. I was born at the local hospital, worked at the local mall, spent a good portion of my teen years here and lived here for the past 10 years. Now I’m leaving…again.

Cars packed and repacked, music queued, we headed east. Me in the lead. My husband right behind me. I felt a little sad. No, not sad, emotional. I had no second thoughts about this move. Tom Petty was my chosen soundtrack for leaving California. Seems like he leaves a lot himself. We drove through the El Cajon valley and up to Alpine toward the mountains. I put my window down, stuck my arm out and waved goodbye. The decision to take both cars allowed me to drive alone and I loved it. I was able to go in out of various emotional states without being observed. Laughing and crying it’s all the same says Joni.

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Gray Days

This morning I left the cave of our bedroom and bathroom to sit on the front porch. Seriously, it is like a cave with earth brown walls and one small window. If you stand right in front of the narrow portal you can feel a bit of a breeze. Thankfully, my side of the bed is where the window is. I sleep with my head practically hanging over the edge of the bed to get as much air as I can. Kind of like a dog who sticks his head out of a car window.

From the front porch I can observe the neighborhood. The house is at a T intersection which allows me to see in three directions the comings and goings of the neighbors. The front lawns are not far from the street and the streets are not wide enough for street parking. This makes it easy to see when the people across the street are watching TV. Granted they have a TV big as a bus.

About 8:00AM the schoolbus picks up a few kids right in front of the house. Sometimes the kids sit in our driveway while their moms stand nearby talking. The bus driver waves to you if you pass him on the street. I think he makes about 5 stops in this neigborhood. This is a nice neighborhood. Lots of families. There’s a walking path that winds through a small forest behind us and there’s a very tiny forest across the street which is really only a large vacant lot full of trees.

This Tennessee morning was gray and damp. Clouds filled the sky, passing cars made slight swishing noises and it smelled like rain coming.

Gray days don’t bother me. Maybe because they remind me of my childhood. Many mornings in my neighborhood when us kids left for school the sky was gray and the streets were damp. Rain didn’t come. It would be sunny before we headed back home. We lived in a low coastal area of Southern California where the fog would hover in the morning and clear out by the afternoon. At least that’s how I remember it. One time on the way to school we saw a break in the clouds through which the sun was beaming down its rays. It profoundly moved me. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. It looked like a picture I had seen in a Bible of God creating man. We stopped and stared at it for awhile. I can only imagine what kind of theological discussion we had. I was among the heathen in the bunch, but even then I was compelled to experience God.

The street I lived on was long and straight. The houses across the street backed up to a main road. The other side of that main road was lined with tall Eucalyptus trees. Beyond that was the Sea Bee Base and beyond that was the ocean. In the evening the trees would be shadowed nearly black against the orange and red shades of the sun setting. I would lean over the back of the sofa and look out the livingroom window to watch. It was probably not my intention to watch a sunset being just a kid. I was probably spying on the neighborhood, but the trees and the sunset were more interesting. I still get sentimental when I see a row of Eucalyptus trees.

The only trees in my neighborhood were young fruitless plums. Each house had one planted in the middle of their front lawn. The builder must have gotten them for a bargain. Maybe he had dreams that someday this new 1960 track development would be characterized for these uniformly lined up shade giving purple specimens? But alas, one by one they started disappearing. As a kid the yards seemed large to me, but I bet they weren’t. Though we did have plenty of room to manuever through Red Light Green Light, Tag or Hide and Seek. Apparently, there wasn’t enough room for games and trees.

I loved my neighborhood and my friends there. Ronnie lived across the street a few houses down. He was my first friend. The first person I knew in the world developing outside of family. We must have known each other as babies or toddlers through our moms. We started kindergarten together.

I remember the day I met my best friend, Lisa. Her family had moved into a house on the same side of the street as us but it was past Ronnie’s house. This gave him the advantage of meeting her first. He introduced us. I don’t know what we were all playing that day, but I remember running back to my house to get a drink of water from the Sparkletts cooler in our kitchen and telling my mom that we were having more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. I think I first started to learn about Jesus from Lisa. I can’t remember the details but I know she and her parents were different and they knew about God.

This must be December 1967. I think I was 8 years old. We're standing in front of the living room window in our front yard.

This must be December 1967. I think I was 8 years old. We’re standing in front of the living room window in our front yard.