On the (country) road

These days, the only way to get Emery to take an afternoon nap is to pack him in the car and go for a little drive.  I’ve been engaged in this tradition with him for the past 6+ months, when it was clear that he was no longer going to settle into a nap in his bedroom, my bedroom, the couch, or any other surface in the house.  The drives have been nice.  I take a water bottle for Emery, my mug with hot lemon-ginger tea for me, and some crackers or granola bars for E.  We usually listen to music, and sometimes I talk to him about grown-up things.  He politely listens, but generally has nothing to say in response.

We take a different route every day.  Some days I have the feeling that he is going to fall asleep relatively quickly, so I just drive around the neighborhood that is closest to our house, with its winding roads, mature forests, and mid-century architecture.  No one is home in that neighborhood during the day, but we can detect the smell of burning firewood from some of the homes’ woodstoves, and occasionally, I see the smoke curling up into the air above a house, and I think that whoever is inside should feel warm and comfortable.

Some days Emery is a regular chatterbox and I predict I will need to take a very long route through the neighboring towns before he falls asleep.  We have driven through all sorts of places that I would not have otherwise known to exist; we have driven past dairy farms, turkey farms, raspberry patches, and maple syrup purveyors.  We have driven past oversized, modern homes outfitted with appallingly-large solar panels, next to dilapidated farmhouses with windows covered in plastic, porches caving under the weight of whatever they’ve had to support through the years.  Random cars in ravines.  Turkeys.  Dirt roads pock-marked by weather and frost heaves.  Homes rendered uninhabitable following flooding.  Businesses that people run out of their homes—CPAs, childcare centers, salons.

Some people have horses, some have dogs.  Some people have fences.  Some just post the less-ornamental “No Trespassing” sign, which sends much the same message:  Don’t bother me.  Some roads are bounded on either side by dense woods, obscuring the topography of the land and what lives on it.  Some roads are open and limitless, with views of mountains, and the upcoming dips and ascents of the road beyond.

I’ve done these drives so many times now, that my senses are becoming immune to the surroundings.  Now, I have to try harder to notice less.  To combat this, I’ve started driving my routes backwards—so that I experience an entire road and piece of scenery in a completely new way.  Driving down Brigham Hill Road away from town is a different experience than driving up Brigham Hill Road towards town.  The brightness and contrast, the shadows, the appearance of the trees and plants, the mystery that is felt before each new turn, are all undeniably different if you are going up the road compared with going down.  It’s a different experience.  It’s a different road.  But we call it the same thing.

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