It was 12:20 PM, gotta love metadata, when I continued my drive south from East Glacier. According to my navigation system, gotta love GPS, I would arrive in Great Falls at 3 PM or at 3 AM if I drove straight through to Denver. In perceiving little possibilities of interesting landscapes on this gloomy day and with a winter storm brewing, plus I was using some of my precious two weeks of company vacation time, I set my sights on Denver with the intentions of gaining back some vacation days.
I felt part of my exhaustion from the previous day’s drive was due to what I was feeding my mind. I had started out listening to music of my teenage and college years some forty plus years ago. At twenty-one, after I fulfilled a childhood dream it was on to adulthood, so I put away all my music. The songs just haunted me when I tried to listen to them. They were from a time gone by. Besides, of what I could bring with me on my many life adventures, I was limited to what I could pack on a motorcycle at one point, and limited to what I could afford to keep all the other times. I often wondered why most music was generated out of the rebellious teenage years, and then repeated until we die? Few musicians wrote about parenthood, or corporate life, or aging. Bear in mind, my only source of music in my life came from the limited play lists of the radio station. But still, I wondered. So for the next fourteen hours I drove without interference from the man-made world. The only sounds I heard came from the rush of air that my car was cutting through.
The High Plains of Montana were obviously flat, barren and seemed endless, the sort of visual input one needs to meditate, or while you drive, to go into a meditative state. Blank, visually noiseless. The car’s cabin was mentally noiseless and with a non-descript smell. You could say my senses were on a diet for the duration of the drive. This was wonderful! Ah, relief. I could see why truckers enjoy the open road. They got to be with themselves. I could see why so many seek meditation. They too got to be with themselves away from all the noise of the community, of work, of family, of life. Quiet. The mind relaxes. Calm descends around you.
I noticed that the day was a different drive. I took more photographs trying to capture anything that did not look like the last mile of road. I saw where some places the land was very flat, yet other areas had rolling hills, or very large hills. Out of nowhere bluffs protruding from the earth’s crust reaching into the sky much higher than anything around it. It occurred to me that some may say of these photographs “it’s just a road” and then some may say “it’s just a face” when looking at a book of portraits, but both would be missing the point. It’s not just a face, and it’s not just a road. They were both portraits taken at a certain time under certain conditions. Some may see the emotions each was expressing. A portrait of a face may show an emotion, while the portrait of a landscape shows why the face had the emotion. It occurred to me that many of us would rather see the effect rather than the cause of the effect. For me as I was driving and the landscape evoked peace and calm.
There were natural transitions as flat land turned to rolling hills turned to mountains. Even with the jetting bluffs there was a smooth transition back into the surround land like an ocean wave with its crashing crest and trailing wave. My view out the windshield was all organic, all natural along Man’s ribbon of highway and the strings of fencing cutting across the land.
Yesterday as I searched through the radio dial I began to notice, or more precisely hear a difference between heartland and large city radio. First there were fewer radio stations and of the radio stations it was easy to categorize them. To be clear I only tuned the FM dial. In general, I heard talk radio; a top 40 station which seemed to play a bell-curve of music with some songs from the 70’s, many songs from the 80’s and early 90’s, and some from today; and Christian religion based music and commentary. At first I thought it odd to hear so many Christian stations compared to the other two categories. I wondered why I had never heard other religions on the radio. Where were the Catholics, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism stations or any of the other major religions of the world?
I thought about when I searched the Denver radio airwaves. It was about the same number of Christian stations but not the same ratio. Yes, that’s it, I thought. A striking difference between Urban and Rural was the obvious. With more people living in a city there were more shades of gray, meaning there were more people who can find others with varying beliefs and life styles. Where as in Rural America they had to behave more like a family with the elders, the parents setting the tone and everyone else needed to fall in line and keep their differing opinions quiet if they had any. When you live among a limited group of people, whether it’s your own family or community, and do not agree with the general beliefs, you sickout and most likely will be ostracized or at the very least isolated. That was just natural, if for no other reason than threatening the majority’s beliefs. I had experienced this in my own life. I either felt like I fit in or I did not. In Urban areas, there were more people and a better chance to find others who share your particular views. For that reason there were more nuances to the urban community. Rural life just was not that way.
The road kept passing under my car and I kept clicking as I found more interesting stretches of roadway. I passed through several small clusters of buildings, storefronts and homes, too few for me to call it a town although some signs said “township”, maybe a village, but that too did not sound right. Other places were towns with a central masses building in the town square.
There were many grain silos along the way and you knew a railroad track was not far away.
The road trip was doing what I hoped. I was relaxing, seeing more of the land of the country I lived in. I was expanding my view of what this country was made of, and thinking about how it all fits together. Sure talking with and interacting with the people of this land would complete and enhance my experiences so I’ll need to find a way to do that.
I made better travel time than what my navigation system predicted and arrived back in Denver around 1:30 AM. I pulled into my garage and headed to bed.