Road to Life
This one was no different. He left home nearly 12 hours ago and had
been on the road non-stop, save for the occassional bathroom and coffee
weather was perfect; no clouds, plenty of stars and a light breeze that
hinted to the coming fall weather. He turned on the radio and listened
to Ella Fitzgerald sing “Blue Skies” as he veered his car to the exit
ramp. Now came the interesting part of the trip, but he’d have to hurry
if he were to make it in time.
As he came to the light at the
end of the exit ramp, he winced slightly as his bladder reminded him
that it was several hours since the last stop. No time for that just
now. It would have to wait. An emerald glow lit up the car interior as
the light changed to green. He turned right and pushed the car as fast
as he could on this rural backroad.
The engine roared to life
and answered his call for more speed. As the car accelerated, he could
feel the cool early morning breeze rushing into the window and he could
smell the sweet Jasmine from the darkness beyond the road. Memories
came flooding back of his childhood catching fire flies and smelling
the evening dew mixed with the fresh cut grass of their lawn. It has
been too long, he thought. Far too long.
The road began to wind
back and forth like a snake, the curves becoming more and more
pronounced as he climed higher into the cool air of the mountains. Dawn
was just starting to break on the horizon and with a sinking feeling in
his heart, he realized he may have cut this trip a little too close. He
pressed as hard as he dared on the gas. The roads were not safe at this
speed, but he just had to make it. He had never broke tradition and he
wasn’t about to start this year.
The radio was crackling with
static as he climbed higher up the mountain. He always thought that it
was strange that the radio reception got worse instead of better. By
his way of thinking, the radio signal should get better as you got
clear of the hustle and bustle of the city, but that never was the
case. Still, static or not, he cranked the volume a couple notches
louder as Bobby Darin stared to croon out “Mack the Knife”. How he
missed this old town and the local jazz radio that never seemed to grow
As he rounded the next switchback, the sun started to peak
over the farthest hill to his left. He still had five minutes to reach
his destination and was starting to feel certain that he’d miss it.
After all these years, he was going to miss the one thing that kept him
going each year. The one simple thing that reminded him of how little
some of the crap we deal with each day just doesn’t matter.
as he was about to lose hope, the little hidden turn off that would
take him to his destination came into view. The grass was overgrown and
the small dirt road was almost hidden beneath brush and vines, but it
was still there and waiting eagerly for his arrival.
“Hello old friend”, he whispered to himself.
as if by magic, the car started down the old road at a snails pace. He
reached then end of the drive and sat there catching his breath. He
hadn’t realized that he was holding it since he pulled on to the drive.
He turned off the engine and slowly moved out of the car. Gently he
closed the door and walked to the front of the car. He could hear the
engine still popping from the heat of some hidden metal as he moved
passed the car and toward his goal.
He walked as close to the
edge as he dared and sat down on the damp grass and waited. It had been
a race to beat the sun. Every year he cut it pretty close, but this was
the closest by far. It was seconds before the sun crested the highest
mountain and shone down into the valley below. This year, like so many
before it, took his breath away.
What lay in the valley below
was a fire, rippling across the valley floor, engulfing the very trees
around him. No heat, no ash, just the searing red, gold and orange of
Autumn’s best show. Nothing could compare to the sun’s light as it hit
these trees for the first time in the morning, with dew still fresh on
the limbs. The reflection of the sun’s light through the leaves and dew
drops made the trees sparkle and dance like the licking flames of a
This is what he traveled 800 miles to see, what
he looked forward to every year. This one moment in time reminded him
how very beautiful the world could be and was enough to last him
throughout the year. His grandfather had shown him this place when he
was just 6 years old. They made the trip every year until his
grandfather passed 10 years later. He promised his grandfather that
he’d never lose sight of the fire and had made the pilgrimage to the
mountain every year since. Now, he sat and watched again as nature
worked her miracle.
Peacefully, he gathered himself up and made
his way back to the car. He gave one last fleeting glance at the valley
below and climbed back in the driver seat. The car made the slow return
to civilization below as Frank sang “Fly me to the Moon” through the
static of the radio. Life was peaceful once again…