This evening I had to drive my teenager to her job. It’s a chore I’ve had to take over since my son has been gone away at school. At first I was pretty irritated at having to uproot myself three times a week to drive her to and from work. But, now I’ve just gotten used to it and it’s part of the weekly routine. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes I turn on the public radio station. Usually, I just drive in silence. Living with ten kids makes me cherish my moments of silence.
Today, as we pulled out of our neighborhood, heading towards the ramp to get on the interstate, I was suddenly very aware of the sky and the trees and the light. The sky was winter grey, heavy with coming rain. The trees’ fall colors were muted, covered in a wispy mist. The light was at that wonderful, pre-dusk level, where you can see clearly, but you know darkness is coming soon.
As I pulled onto the interstate the lights of other cars rushed past me. I wondered at how fast the seasons change here in our neck of the woods. A month earlier I was pulling on my sunglasses when I made this drive, squinting against the bright light. Now, everything around me was making me think about cozy winter days, snuggling up in front of a fireplace, playing holiday music in the background.
Our little city is tucked into lots of little hills and mountain ridges and every available ground is covered in trees. This makes driving around town especially enjoyable in the fall as we are surrounded by red and yellow and gold. But today, as I follow the interstate North, weaving through the hills as I coast along with the traffic, the trees all seem to have hunkered down for the night. The sun has already left the sky, their leaves have nothing else to say, a grey blanket is tucking them in for a peaceful rest. The sky seems to sink lower as the clouds can no longer hold their burden and rain starts to fall onto my windshield.
Inside my car I am in my own little cocoon of warmth, the heater blows it’s hot air, the only sound the slight squeak of the windshield wipers.
I make the whole circuit and finally approach the exit to my neighborhood. I pull over to the far right exit lane, getting out of the way of the three lanes of traffic that are bustling down the interstate, everyone heading home after a long day. I see the red lights on the cars, little beacons disappearing into the distance, and just for a moment, I wish that I was still with them. Driving. Somewhere. Perhaps on a long journey. Part of the great migration. But then I remember my warm fireplace waiting at home, and I smile as leave the interstate and turn into my little neighborhood streets. Slow, meandering roads. Weaving around cars parked on the wrong side of the road as people in this neighborhood interpret the NO PARKING signs as simple suggestions instead of actual orders needing to be obeyed.
I come over a small rise and right there in front of me is a tall tree, Bright Red, leaning over the road. It’s like seeing one of those glamour photos where everything is black and white and then the model is wearing a bright red dress. This tree does not care that it is almost dark. It doesn’t care that all the other trees have decided to turn in for the night, muting their colors. This tree stands bold and tall, flashing it’s bright red leaves for all to see. I slow my car as I pass underneath it. Crane my neck to look up through my window at this shining rainbow.
The last minutes of my drive are quiet. Darkness is here. I pull into my driveway, the house is ablaze with lights shining out of all the windows. Smoke is rising out of the chimney.
What a lovely evening for a drive.