A couple of weeks ago, after a long, tumultuous, overnight rain, I struck out early for work, driving down the street with an apologetic sun peeking out from behind a cloud and making the world seem golden.
It was beautiful. The sun must have been especially chastened, because even the rain-slicked street looked almost paved with a golden glow. I’m just gonna say it: I was blinded by the light because, as the golden glow struck me, my brain immediately transformed it into an aha moment.
What showed up most clearly that early morning were two parallel lines filled with rainwater and bathed in sunshine, a little like airport landing lights, except they are rarely lit up. And if they are, underneath that golden glow lies the evidence of ruts, for that’s what they are. Ruts. Insidious things. Sometimes it takes a long, multitudinous rain (thanks, ee cummings), before you even realize there are ruts in the road you’re traveling. And sometimes not even that helps.
Water collects on roads where tires travel. It’s actually deeper there, so it pools up. That pooling has more to do with day-after-day traffic patterns. Cars and trucks are heavy, and after a time the road no longer contours to shed water but to collect it in those almost hidden ruts, thanks to the relentless press of tire upon pavement, and metal upon tire, summer after winter after summer.
Most of us don’t think about roads that way. My father did, but only because he was the county supervisor of the state road commission. Even on trips to Arizona and other far-flung places, he’d strike out for a drive, and he’d soon be checking out the roads. Our Sunday drives as kids were thinly veiled road checks, not that we cared. There were also haystacks to count, and cows to see, and people just waiting for a friendly wave.
These days I am keenly aware of the ruts in my life, and my early morning epiphany was just another visual reminder to mind the gaps in my life, the ruts in my trajectory. Some of those ruts comfort. Some prod. Some are yet undiscovered. But all need questioned. And if they are found wanting, then like my dad, I’d best be about monitoring the roads I am traveling.