Beginner's Heart

the author's

the author’s

You see differently when you’re on the road. Something about the ribbon of highway before you, the enclosed space of the car, the forced closeness and the expanse of sky and road. It’s a kind of magic.

Greater writers than I have said so – I won’t belabour the point. But I do wonder what would happen in my life if I listened (every day) the way I do on a road trip. If I observed with the same lack of expectation. If I let more of my life surprise me.

It’s not that I become some mushy person who oohs & awes over everything — no chance of my inner wiseass taking a permanent vacation! But the suspension of time, the hypnotic rhythm of wheels… Venetian blinds create stripes across a nightscape, and even the familiarity of an unusual name (Toad Suck Park, anyone?) becomes a kind of marker, as if the sign marked more than just a place. As if I should somehow be able to create a greater meaning from the disparate pieces before me.

via flickr

via flickr

So much of life is like this. At least for me — trying to see beyond surfaces while I juggle my tendency to ‘overthink,’ as we call it in my family. It’s a kind of clouding of the inner eye, this building of cloud castles from nothing. Not good beginner’s heart.

And yet, how else do we navigate through the chaos of everyday, ordinary life? We have to think, right?

On a road trip, however, I wonder if ‘thinking’ is the wrong term. What would happen if — instead of ‘thinking’ my way through my life, I listened, observed, watched, and tried to appreciate all I could? Sure there would be pieces of each day I would not like: the guy who cut us off on the right, almost running us into oncoming traffic. The dangerous speeders and the just plain rude. But on a road trip, I don’t stew — such incidents fall by the way, so much leaffall on the verges of I40.

Most of this  trip has been exchanging stories with my elder son as we drive through the upper South into Tennessee, and today into Virginia. It’s been writing tanka as I watch a hawk, or taking notes to write down later. It’s been a slow easy dinner sharing life moments, catching up.

It’s been absolute beginner’s heart. And I need to pay attention.


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