The Road Awaits by William Klein

The road awaits.

I’m getting ready to return to Ohio from California. I’ve heard reports of flash floods from the rains in California. Winter snow storms are making their way across the Rockies to the Midwest and Great Lake states, but the road still awaits. Did I leave too late, wait too long?  What kind of treachery is lurking on the road?  What kind of elements will be imposing their might on me and the bubble of machinery that holds me in safety? What promise? I guess I find a new way to go.

There is eagerness, anticipation, excitement, and touches of uncertainty and wonder. We never know what we are going to face when we venture into the middle of nowhere, but we still go.

We’re called to go in our own faithful way into this world to see what it has to offer. This is the promise of a life well lived – to photograph in our minds the plight of others and the plentiful fortunes of creative endeavors and templates created by diviners and explorers the world over. We’re called to understand worldviews, and it makes it easier to meet them where they live if you can.

I am saddened when I hear people have never been able to venture outside of the comforts of their own towns, and it shows when you speak to them and the limitations that impose themselves on thinking.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Jesus sent the 72 out with nothing but their clothes on their backs. “Go! I am sending you out like lambs to wolves.” Go where you are welcome. Where you’re not, wipe the dust of that town off your feet as a warning.

It’s not like I’m Woody Guthrie playing a harmonica or a lonesome hobo riding the rails, building fires on train boxcars to keep warm, wondering where I’m going to find my next job or find a way to make it in the world, but the romantic ideal of discovering some uncovered nugget of understanding on the road is right there with me. I must admit that Odetta singing “Rambling Round” presents a poignant smile when I’m moseying down an open road in Utah and staring at a mountain range, and I don’t feel like I’m moving.

The road has always opened me up to new understanding. Every time I return from a trip somewhere else, I feel changed — a little deranged and out of sorts from having ventured and challenged the unknown in myself. The molecules of destinations have shaped me. Even if it’s only for a few days, something has disturbed the air in my thinking that inspires me to look at my ordinary life in a new way with fresh eyes.

I’ve seen the homeless in my city, but my empathy for them is more pointed when I’m out of my own comfort zone.

I’ve been at the mercy of kind strangers pointing me in the right direction and relied on honorable people to help me out in tough situations with my car, and it’s made me think what can I do to reach out more to the vulnerable.

I’ve seen charming boutiques, spas, restaurants and pubs, churches, temples, mosques, skyscrapers, magnificent homes, and neighborhoods like mine, but the ambiance and architecture of a distant place and innovative thinking captures me and takes hold of my wondering about new designs where I live. I see robot carts delivering food here. It’s just a matter of time before middle America catches up and has the same.

When I left Ohio, I watched the leaves of autumn in October creep into the foothills of the southern California mountains as the turn of the earth caught up with the west coast. I felt like fall followed me out here. I left at the height of colors. They were the most brilliant shades and hues I’ve ever seen of golden yellows, tangy oranges and velvety reds in full bloom bursting like bouquets of flowers on the side of the highway.

I’ve seen beautiful landscapes in my city, but the recognition of something distant and wild in another part of the country makes me feel like I’ve ventured into another universe.

This country is resplendent with dynamic exotic landscapes; mountainous regions and forests with rich rivers and shining valleys of harvests. It’s diversity and wild serendipity has provided creative treasures for the eye and formed our provincial identities.

But there are glimpses of familiar experiences wherever I’ve gone. I don’t have a desert where I live, but Buffalo winters present the same stillness that a Mojave Desert of Palm Springs presents. It’s just a different place to witness stillness and much colder.

I’ve nestled in the sweet succulence of a forest’s tenderness and bountiful bursts of waters flooding rocks north, south, east and west. The sound of a roaring ocean is powerful, but the soft lapping of a lake is equally gratifying.

There are common threads in the experience of survival all over this country. I wonder how my favorite trees and parks are faring right now. I guess I’ll know soon enough. The road awaits.

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