I was born into the farm roads of Indiana…
wide enough for tractor to pass car, narrow enough for a handshake out the window in the passing
bridges with 10 ton load limits that accommodate one vehicle
ditches of wildflowers for new drivers to gauge their growing skills by whether they hear the swish of the weeds or not
Last night, I was on my way home, from my childhood home to my adult home
and traveled in the middle of the night in middle Indiana.
That had not been my intention, the middle of the night part
but there was that sudden electrical storm
a brake light that kept blinking (what is that? what did it mean?…side of the road distress call to Kurt….)
I thought, “surely I can beat this…there is always a road going north then others going east.
But this, this was middle Indiana, near Muncie, northeast of Indy, where the roads have their own sense of connection, one to another.
The highways I wanted to travel would have moved me along, swift and curvy, following the nuanced rise and fall of a flat state turning hill country. The highway I wanted to travel would have gotten me home in good, expected time. The highway I wanted to travel was known.
But the highway I was led to was vast and dark, lined by orange cones and signs signaling to stay awake because anything could happen.
And there I was, suddenly on a country road. My GPS took me here as the way home. I slowed to 50, then to 45, my driving adreniline pumping with no place to discharge. I slowed from looking straight ahead to looking side to side for deer and errant opossum.
I slowed. Forced. Forced on a mystery route unfolding, forced to change my goal from getting home in good time to not going off the burm. Forced to take care…there were no roadside lights making my way easier, there in the middle of the night in middle Indiana.
The road slowed me down. A corn picker straight out of Star Wars was headed home, a late night light in a kitchen came on, farmsteads and houses sat solidly on land that had been in families for generations.
The land culture itself, came to me as a angel just climbed down from a nearby combine. My heart recalled other rural roads, other corn fields, other ditches and bridges limited for use determined by whether you weighed less than a wagon full of hay. The dogs were in for the night. The night life had not yet taken over their natural nocturnal kingdoms.
With each turn the satellite in the sky directed me to, the road narrowed further, offering up bumps in the lumpy patched asphalt… and more slowing. I wondered if the next turn would be to a gravel road. A truck met me at an intersection and I wondered “Hmm, what is he up to this late at night?” I’m sure he wondered the same about me, and then laughed, because it was me who was detouring into his way.
My soul had recovered this pace, this place, this way in the world. It felt good and wholesome and healing. Like a memory of a song lyric that eventually comes back to the hum in your throat.
Without my consent, this detour began. Without my consent this detour ended, a highway caught in my high beams that beckoned me toward speed and home.