Thursday, September 5, 2013

The sweet smell of home

I love to ride.
I love to ride and look and wonder and learn and remember.
When some folks look for the fastest, shortest road, I seek the prettiest, the windiest, the most interesting way, filled with the treasures of small-town squares, noontime diners and teenagers circling endlessly after dark. If I were a dog, I would wait and wag for the swirling, whirling sensation of windswept freedom as it wrinkled my snout and ruffled my ears.
It's time to head home to the midwest for awhile. There are things to do. Places to go. People to see. And while it's hard to leave our young grandsons behind, school has now started and they will soon be so crazy-busy with new teachers and friends, homework, soccer games and all the other stuff that seems to fill their little lives to bursting, that they might not even know we're gone. 
So it's time to ride.
When we go from east to west, from new home to real home, I watch the land wrinkle and ripple and flatten and change in ways that are both too obvious to miss and too subtle to notice. The coastal plains turn into rolling woodlands, growing fields and hilly hints of the soaring, foggy peaks and valleys that will come soon. Then back to the rolling, sweet-green fields of Tennessee and Kentucky, and then to the flat, fertile countryside that, now and forever, will spell home to me.
Nowadays, most folks seem to use TomToms, Garmins and other gadgets to find their way from A to B. But I continue to rely on badly folded highway maps, atlases missing pages, and bent, torn and worn gazetteers detailing the states I love the best.  In other words, it's often dead reckoning and her best guess. 
If I were a dog, I would probably be my dad's old Prince, who slept soundly on the floor of our family car for miles and miles and days and days of family trips, withstanding and resisting  stray kid-kicks, quick stops for gas and lunch cart hamburgers, only to awaken, suddenly, when home approached. We would watch him, dozing his old-dog dreams, his nose buried among shoes and wrappers and scattered, tattered souvenirs of where we'd been and what we'd seen.
Suddenly, he'd stir.
"He's waking up," we'd whisper. "He knows! He knows!"  
And he did. No matter how far we'd come, that wise old dog would rouse himself, climb onto the seat and poke his greying muzzle into the breeze. 
He smelled the sweet, sweet smell of home.
Me, too.

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