I'm often inspired to write when I'm on trains and planes. I suppose it's the hours next to a window and the possibilities of those journeys that fuels my creative mind. It's not quite the same when I drive. There's more to do and more to pay attention to. Nonetheless, there are still moments behind the wheel where I feel inspired, moments like the other night as I drove back home from the south of England.
I waved goodbye to my Mom and Dad who live in a small country village in north Essex where the 14th-century houses lean over the narrow main street that leads to the village church. As usual, the pair of them stood at the foot of their driveway and waved until I turned the corner. I gave one last wave before turning, a full arm stretched out of the window wave. I looked in the mirror and could see them doing the same, then they were gone from view.
I had a long drive ahead of me as I chased the setting sun toward the horizon in a race I couldn't possibly win. The roads were clear and quiet and what few cars there were sped along, the driver's right foot pressed firmly on the accelerator charging through their tunnel vision in a hurry to get from A to B. They probably paid little attention to the surrounding patchwork fields of canola and corn that stretch for miles, or the wooden beamed cottages painted pink and blue they might see along the way.
For me, there was no urgency to get home, no need to hurry or speed. I was just gliding along, letting those in a rush pass me like water rushing over a stone in a stream. This road cut and curled its way westward through the sprawling English countryside, carrying cars like blood-cells to and from arteries. As I drove I felt more like a passenger, not in the car, but in this greater journey for which no map can prepare us for the roads ahead. It was a strange and almost lonely feeling, but oddly one that I found myself enjoying.
A small cloud moved in front of the sun and the sky filled with the sunbeams striking lines outward from behind it like something from an inspirational poster. In a moment of spontaneity, I turned off the main road to a small winding lane I'd never driven on before. I needed to find a spot among the fields to stop and look at this natural phenomenon.
I stopped the car and walked into a field leaving the driver's door still open such was my haste in this momentary change of course. I waded waist-deep into the yellow sea of canola flowers to stand among them and look out toward the setting sun. Birdsong mixed with the distant wooshes of cars passing on the main road not far away as long straight rays of light clung to the horizon like tethers from heaven. I stood there and watched the sun move behind the clouds leaving the day like a celebrity slipping out of a side door to avoid a crowd.
A few minutes later I was back behind the wheel as clouds congregated in the darkening sky. They gathered like delegates for a meteorological event as the dull rhythmic sound of my windshield wipers swept unexpected rain from the view ahead. I leaned forward in my seat to look out at the sky marveling at how rapidly the weather had changed its mind about this evening. But as I sat back in my seat ready for a long and boring drive homeward through the rain, it stopped just as quickly as it started.
As the clouds began to slowly go their separate ways nature decided to give the evening one last splash of color with one of its favorite crowd-pleasers, a rainbow. The arc crowned the landscape like a magical bridge to a place so breathtaking that if it were possible to go there you would surely never return. But like many of nature's most delicately beautiful creations, its ephemeral existence left me little time to admire it.
I continued my journey under a blanket of dark blue clouds above which stars were taking their positions for the night ahead like musicians taking their place in a vast orchestra about to give another well-rehearsed performance. Headlights appeared in the distance then slowly passed me on the other side of the road. The last traces of day gently faded with each passing mile as the sky darkened and the day rolled into night.
I'd be home soon enough, but on this greater journey, I'm okay if there's still a long way to go.