Thursday, October 10, 2013

Baptism by immersion

I hadn't given it much thought until just recently, but one of the things that means to most to me about living where we do is the road into our place.

To get here from anywhere means a long stint on the highway, at least some time on the interstate, transitioning from the city fringe and suburbs through the exurbs into a rural area of rolling fields and woodlots, past some working farms and past lots of 'estates' with expensive horses and miles of black three-board fences.

The highway leads to where the balance finally tips to 'country,' to where the mountains reveal themselves in the distance. The spaces between houses widen and the houses begin to diminish to where nobody is looking at 'estates' or living in McMansions so much. It's all pretty much just regular people living in regular houses, just farther apart from each other than they live in Fairfax or Arlington. Some of the houses still stand as remnants of the village that once was— before the highway tore the heart out of it. Others seem freshly squirted from the same extruder that spews generic drywall-and-vinyl sided dreck across the whole continent—suburban tract homes, minus the suburban tract.

The two-lane rises and falls, twists and turns, passing dozens of homes great and small as it snakes along the gentle, open ridge top; an undulating ridge frames the western view. Then the road comes to an abrupt end, leaving two choices: straight ahead, down the gravel road towards the river, or left, down the gravel road to home.

The rough, dusty lane drops west along pastures of sheep and horses, views of long driveways and far-off houses. Then abruptly, it curves and enters the deep dark cool woods.

The trees overarch the road. The sudden shade is disorienting. The lane winds downhill, following an old wagon road for a bit,  through a craggy rock garden of lush ferns, rough-tossed boulders and cobbles, and broken tree trunks, before straightening and rushing to the bottomland cathedral of sycamore and cottonwood and butternut and black walnut. The quiet cool air of the bottomland is rich with smells of earth and water and leaves and plants, and has a physical impact as you abruptly descend into it, and emerge just as abruptly on the ascent of the other side.

That immersion and baptism into the air of the bottomland washes the dirt and sweat and tension of the city off of me like nothing else could. I ride the last bit home refreshed and renewed, and I know that I am home to a most special place.