Murray, KY – As I write this, we are facing a trip that we are not looking forward to. We must travel north and east to take our son, Wesley, to college. We knew this day would come and we would not have it any other way, but it is still difficult to fathom living at home without him. Thank goodness for email and cell phones. As one friend reminded us, we will only be a short plane ride away. Still, it will take some adjusting for Cammie-Jo and Evelyn and me. And it will take some adjusting for Wesley in a new place, in a new environment, among new friends.
I remember another trip that I was forced to take a few years ago. I lucked upon a window seat on a university bus bound for Lexington, Kentucky for a workshop. Asked to go to represent my college, I promised my dean that I would learn all I could and take good notes. These trips to Lexington are not unfamiliar to me and I am not surprised by the distance. One of the charms of Murray, Kentucky is that it is centrally located four hours from everywhere. During the trip, I read for a while, but then enjoyed the luxury of peering out the bus window, my view for once not hampered by the responsibility of driving myself.
In a bus one is higher up than in a Ford Ranger truck or in a Windstar Minivan. So one is immediately made aware of wider vistas. You look down on the scene, not exactly a bird's eye view, but maybe that of a giraffe or a camel. It was then late spring so the redbuds and dogwoods were all but spent. At that time everything was still fresh and green. Looking away to a tree-lined horizon, the trees floated by with varying speeds depending on the distance from myself. I found it interesting that the nearer my gaze, the faster things seemed to pass by. And then looking down directly to the road beneath my window the paced quickened still, the grey asphalt and white lines rushing by, weaving in and out at a frantic dizzying pace.
I had not watched the road rush by like this since childhood when from a backseat window in our white Rambler station wagon we journeyed from Texas to Oregon and then to Tennessee and eventually back to our Kentucky home. Even though the road rushed by beneath my window, back in those days as a ten year-old boy it seemed like I had all the time in the world. As C.S. Lewis wrote, I had all the road before me.
Now a generation later, my grown-up life has taken up a frantic and dizzying pace much like the road rushing by beneath the bus window. While the road stretches out before Wesley and Cammie-Jo it seems that for Evelyn and me at least, great chunks of road have already passed by. On that long ago cross-country trip, only when I lifted my gaze from the rushing road so near myself to the far horizon, only when my vision took in the big picture, the great wide scene, only then do the trees and fields slow down to a manageable pace. Some of the trees almost appear to move forward. Despite the distance, only when I lifted my gaze could I really see.
And today, only when I lift my gaze away from myself, only then can I really live.