UPDATE, SAME DAY, several hours later. Oops! Forgot to mention this very significant fact: To everyone I met, the clerks and the one standing in line with me at McDonalds on the toll road, the toll road card givers and coin collectors, those who held doors open for me or I for them at rest stops, I greeted, “Happy Valentines Day!” And I swear, at least 90% of these “strangers” smiled, blinked through their distracted gaze, acknowledged me, and greeted me back: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” With each greeting, an uplift of the heart. No wonder the day — and the evening — felt magical! I had almost forgotten this part of yesterday’s journey. It set the tone, guaranteed continuity, and shifted attention, over and over, from the self to the other.
Glad I took I 90, given yesterday’s 8-mile pileup on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Ye gods!
The usual way I power through endless interstate hours is to listen to an audio book. Soon after take-off I put on Pat Conroy’s memoir, Death of the Great Santini, and though I found the writing hugely enjoyable, as usual with this author, the male audio voice that told the story felt rackety and grating to me. I found myself wishing I could just read the damn language with my eyes. That way I could go over certain phrases, sentences, pause when something utterly remarkable had just happened, or just been reflected upon, etc. And I wouldn’t have to hear that damn voice! But like a stoic fool, I kept going, mile after mile with that voice, its tones making every female in the book sound like a wimpering ninny and every male like a salty sea captain. Yuck.
Meanwhile, puppy Shadow was acting very strangely. Trembling, panting, for hours. You’d think I would have picked up on his cues. He too, didn’t like that grating voice, so much so that it made him tremble and pant.
I turned it off. He instantly relaxed. So did I.
The rest of the way was uneventful, except for some white-knuckling near Erie, PA, as I recall, when the still slushy snow at the side of the road felt slippery under my left wheels just as I was trying to inch by a a giant truck that was hugging the line between the lanes and spraying salt and snow and gravel all over my windshield.
What amazed me most about this journey was that I did not need an audio book to remain alert. I held a steady focus for hours and hours, unusual for me, with bathroom and small walk breaks every two hours for both Shadow and myself. By the time I rolled in to Acton, at 9 p.m., having started from near Columbus, Ohio, at 8 A.M., I was ready for a glass of wine and good laughs with Sean, Sue and the kids.
Oh yeah, one more thing. I had been dreading the onset of darkness, about 3 hours before the journey was done. But an amazing coincidence set the night into a zone of magic. For just as I was crossing the Hudson River on that big bridge near Albany, heading east on I 90 to the Mass Pike, the enormous rising yellow Full Moon, her face partially draped in wispy silk cloud, appeared directly and precisely centered, over the road ahead.