I was driving down I-40 when the light cut out. The sun gave up enough to kneel behind the treeline, but it was only 7:30 so the streetlamps weren’t on. A bluish-gold darkness, like ducking your head in old bathwater, or under sheets in the morning, or below two bare thighs. Comforting, but dangerously taking your breath away.
I took off my sunglasses. I’d bought a pair of aviators to replace the old ones my uncle gave me. It didn’t help much, trying to see the world without lenses, only bolded the backlights on fast cars and Saturday fleetrucks tanking overtime. Didn’t change the fact that nothing I was seeing was new.
I have five ghosts that follow me but only know four of their names. They peek through trees around sundown or finger soft scratches on the underside of my car. Mostly they’re reminders of the people in my genes, the squeeze of history, blue smoke, different cancers. The fifth ghost rarely shows itself, though, so I’m wary of it.
I got home at 8:00, pulling in the parking lot when porchlights cut on.
There was a highway beside the neighborhood where I grew up. It didn’t look like a highway and everyone called it Church St. It was two lanes most places. There were many spots you couldn’t go faster than 35. But take it far enough East and you’d hit the Atlantic, far enough West and you’d be in California. It’s strange to think of that packed asphalt having the power to take you to a different time zone.
The NC DOT is currently trying to extend Interstate 540 through the southern half of the Triangle. They want it to be a beltline, something to take the edge off the traffic and accelerate peripheral growth. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, the project involves tearing down 1800 acres of forests and buying out 209 homes with eminent domain. That’s a lot of change for a road that won’t even take you to California.
Tonight, two kids were playing on the swings at my apartment complex. The sun had gone down enough to take the edge off another hot day. The kids ran, jumped, and twisted up the swings like two steel hangs of DNA. Neither of them’s thinking of a highway, or property laws, or the Atlantic, but I wonder what this town will look like when they’re my age? What will be the ratio of neighborhoods to highways?
Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come
The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays