I’m feeling a bit like Bilbo Baggins this morning. I’ve just completed a “There and Back Again” kind of experience. I’m home again, by the water, fog rising, espresso hiss in the background, and the distinguished Starbucks aroma filling the air. It’s a long drive from Boise where I’ve spent the past few days on a teaching assignment and watching my daughter tour her Fall choice for academic furtherance.
It’s a long drive, there and back again. Although I’m sure I had it better than Bilbo with a Mazda 6 to enhance the journey, it was long and grueling at times just the same. I would imagine that the mountains that we crossed would rival his Misty mountains as well. In case you’ve not experienced it, let me share with you that this country of ours still holds a great deal of desolation. You could still die, frozen and alone in the mountain passes, and rest areas don’t always appear on demand. I did wonder at times why we have spent so much time and money investigating whether or not life could be sustained on Mars when we obviously have enough of a challenge sustaining it along many of our own freeway systems. I am sure that I passed parts of our country where no man has ever stepped foot before, as well as others where man did once dare to tread only to be soundly beaten back.
Let me, while it’s still fresh in my mind, offer up a tribute to those individuals who were relentless in their drive to construct these roadways where it is obvious that the rest of us wouldn’t even stop to relieve ourselves. I hope that they were paid well. I’d move that Bud light would commission one of their “great men of genius” commercials for the mileage sign post guy. I would have to say that at times when all seemed lost on our journey, the often ignored signpost with the mileage reflecting off of it would encourage and spur us on. You may think that I’m using a bit of pastoral exaggeration here. You make the drive and then, if you survive, tell me your thoughts. I’m sure that you’d agree, especially if the mileage were reducing, telling you exactly how far till the end of a particular section of the journey, that these markers are critically important to ones sanity.
During one of my wife’s shifts behind the wheel, I was contemplating these signposts, urging them on, anticipating every last one, when the thought occurred to me that, sometimes, this could be a metaphor for my life. If I’m not careful, I could get into the “when I retire” mindset that leaves me in a holding pattern. I could easily find myself just marking time until the next big moment comes along instead of creating moments all along the way. Too many signposts have already gone by and unlike Boise, I can’t revisit them. I remember thinking “I can’t wait until I get my license”. Then it was graduation and college, and marriage, and babies, and school, and graduation, and college, and marriage, and college again (two kids). They’ve all flashed by much quicker than the drive to Boise and I’m all too aware of the ones still coming. The most sobering thought in all of this is that the signs are counting down, giving me some indication that the end of the journey is always approaching.
Encouragement for me comes knowing that I did not just let them pass. I am blessed with a family that, for the most part, has wrung every ounce of mileage out of every single sign. I intend to keep that streak alive. For any reading this, it’s never too late to take advantage of the moment. Live in each one and experience all that they have to offer. Even as we drove through some of the most desolate areas I’ve ever encountered, I found that it was at the same time breathtakingly beautiful. All I had to do was to look beyond the signposts.