One of the things I make a point to do when I visit my parents in Ohio is to drive on the country roads at night. It’s not so much to see the sights (after all, how much can you see at night?) as to revisit bits and pieces of the past and, little by little, set them aside and move forward.
Twenty years ago the land for miles around the town where I grew up was farmland. Ten years ago the farms were being sectioned off to be sold as residential lots, and now there’s hardly an open field to be found between the housing subdivisions. But there are areas with big yards and older houses tucked back along the creeks and in clusters of trees. There are long white rail fences and twisting, turning lengths of road where you can flip on your brights and drive for miles without passing another car after dark.
There is something meditative about driving the back roads. Caught between the yellow and white lines, guided by their endless presence and at the same time held off-center, forced to one side of the pavement near the mailboxes that slide past in the night rather than the open security of the middle of the road. Following the sweep of headlights I breathe easier and the cares of the normal world fade into the darkness along with the houses and the trees and the rest of reality.
But there is also melancholy, because I first explored these roads and found comfort in their hypnotic unfurling ribbons as a teenager with far too many thoughts and worries in my head. I slipped along those roads in my dark blue hatchback feeling invisible on more levels than I can remember now, and wondering if that feeling would ever leave. A part of me wishes I could reach back and squeeze my younger self in a hug and whisper that everything will be okay. The other part knows it wasn’t necessary.
So I drive my roads at night. They are my roads because they made me who I am, or at least because they’re the roads I traveled on the journey that is only mine and no one else’s. And I drive them now to remember where I’ve been and where I’m going.
And so I drive my roads at night.