I am home from a few days of driving, aimlessly and watchfully, through the alien landscapes of the southwest. There is such emptiness on those plains, and such searching beauty, and such implacable indifference.
I find this all so reassuring.
I love such traveling. It provides the easy excuse to be a stranger, a state that has always felt most comfortable to me. It provides the delicious ability to imagine rich and uncontestable stories about even the most squat and obvious encountered others. It provides distance from the familiar, which feels somehow safer when preserved in a bubble of memory than it does in person, when every fragile shift is felt. It provides a pleasurable, rapturous sense of anticipation, as if anything, and everything, could happen. (Still, I do not think I would much enjoy a career that put demands and limitations on the luxurious escape these peregrinations provide–part of the enjoyment involves casting all timetables to the wind, or, rather, playing carelessly with time itself. I was gone for days, but it might have been minutes, or perhaps months.)
My favorite stretch was on Highway 71 in Colorado, a Euclidian axiom of plane geometry. I saw, for nearly two hours, nothing save the road, the prairie, and the inexorable distance of the horizon. Or no, that’s not entirely true: at one point a semi passed, greeting me with the blast of a horn and force enough to nearly skip my small car off the narrow two-lane blacktop, and at another, a rabitting thing shot off the same road ahead of me.
Of course the world is never as empty as it seems: after only a few minutes the clouds cataracting the otherwise clear sky gained an alluring significance; after another twenty the hum of the road began to whisper strange lullabies; after an hour I could have driven forever. Perhaps one day I shall try.