Saturday, November 22, 2003

That Ribbon of Highway

There are times when I truly appreciate what agility had brought to my life.

Waking to an alarm clock at 5 in the morning is not one of those times.

Here is one of them: Dawn on a cold nearly-winter's morning. Driving east on 80, watching the soft glow of the rising sun gradually spread across the sky, reflecting off the lingering fingers of the Tule fog along the Central Valley wetlands. The clouds form a washboard of pale bronze cotton, sunlight streaming between them. The remnants of mist spread a pastel tint upon the landscape. The sun is so low on the horizon that the shadows cast by the roadside trees seem to extend forever, throwing charcoal bands and stripes across a soft gray highway.

The gold of the sky reflects in the spreading acres of wetlands, not like a sea of glass because the rushes and reeds and field stubble interrupt, but glimmering like sheets and smears of pastel metals. In fact, everything is soft and pastel in the mist and the early morning glow. Only the shocking red and yellow foliage of a string of surprising trees along the freeway near Vacaville interrupts the muted colors. Many of these trees have not yet reached full fall foliage, wearing red or yellow still tinged with green. But in California, land of green or brown, the color is a rare and stunning delight.

Here is one of my least favorite times: Evening, after dark. Exhausted from 2 days of agility. Driving west on 80. Coming towards me, an endless stream of identical pairs of glaring headlights. Ahead of me, an endless stream of identical pairs of glowing red taillights. Their combined radiance blinds me to everything except an endless oncoming pair of white dotted lines, shooting away behind me and converging ahead of me until they are consumed by the taillights. Hour after hour. Nothing else to look at. Nothing else to keep me awake except the occasional glaring billboard rising from the darkness and shouting its commercial. I think I'll just run off the side of the road so that something *different* happens! Guess it's time to take a roadside break and walk the dogs in the freezing wind, when I'd rather be hurrying home to bed.

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