There is a road I take on the way to my mother’s house that has one medium-size hill.
Not a huge omg-will-the-car-even-make-it kind of hill, just a rise that is short but pretty steep. By the way, those runaway truck lanes on hilly highways give me the creeps. Did you wonder how many trucks must have terrible brakes that engineers thought they should make a separate road just for failed-brake trucks?
But anyway, as I climb this little hill on the way to Mom’s house, I reached a point just before the top where all I can see is the nose of my own car. And for that split second, I feel helpless. A sudden queasy flash of panic. I don’t have any idea of what I may encounter on the other side. What if a car has broken down just over the rise? What if there is a child or an animal in the road? Ice? A crater?
I am driving into a complete slightly terrifying mystery. For three long seconds.
And then I hit the top.
And everything is clear. In fact, there is a lovely view and I can see for miles.
Life is like that.
Oh, not the rising of the crest and seeing that everything is beautiful and safe.
It’s the three seconds of complete and blind ignorance.
Only not three seconds. It lasts your whole life.
Each time you think you’ve crested and that you are about to get the view… you realize that the hill is just a little steeper and you still can’t see.
That panic sets in – that you don’t know if there is an obstacle in your path on the other side. There are companion-panics too. Will you even have enough power to make it another foot? Will you have the brakes you need if there is a treacherous downhill section on the other side?
How in the world do we live our whole lives not knowing where we are even going?
All we can see if the hood of our own car. Our own reflection.
Life is terrifying and we never quite get a glimpse of safety.
But we do know that under the hood, we probably do have enough power to get there. We may not be able to accelerate but we can keep going.
And despite our worries that our brakes will fail, we also know that we can pull over to the side – turn on our flashers for safety – and get a breath. Let our engine cool down a bit.
On the side of the road.
There’s where a lot of nice stuff happens anyway. On the side of the road. There are sometimes wildflowers. And an apple tree. A cool brook. There might be a spot for a picnic. Maybe a little dog to pet.
The birds are singing.
Did you know that the birds are singing even when all you can hear is the sound of your own motor straining from your effort?
So when you are ready to resume the endless uphill climb, turn off your flashers and open the windows.
You still won’t be able to see what’s on the road ahead of you, but you may be able to hear the birds.