New job. Old commute. As I drive the familiar roads to get to my still-new job I cannot even estimate how many times in the past 24 years I have driven this same route. It’s like my tire tracks are somehow reflecting back at me. Three previous vehicles. Timeless travels to and from school, work, crew practice. This place where I have been student, alumna, friend, volunteer, coach.
There is a field that I pass each time. It has been there, it remains there, no houses built on it. Too close to the riverbank, I suppose. I see a pumpkin patch, even though there has never been one. Not since I’ve been driving these roads. But in my mind it’s there. Always. And there is a little boy and his father searching for the perfect pumpkin.
Do you ever read a book or a story and see so vividly the words on the page in a place in your mind that is actually a place that you know?
Years ago, I read the short story Along the Frontage Road by Michael Chabon. I do not read very many short stories. That feels like an admission of some kind of guilt. I call myself a writer. At one point I was pursuing an MFA in creative writing. The novel is my preferred form, to read and even to write. But it’s really the writing that stays with me, no matter the form, and this story, about a little boy and his father searching for the perfect pumpkin … it takes place on the field on Rte. 47 between Northampton and South Hadley in western Massachusetts.
It doesn’t, of course. Not really. It takes place in the mind of the writer. And then on the page. And then in the mind of the reader. And then is transported to anywhere and everywhere. Or nowhere.
Imagination takes us where we need to be. Sometimes it is as simple as that. And in Chabon’s story there is imagining and, for the narrator thinking about his own childhood while he spends time with his son, a kind of reflection.
As I drive these familiar roads to this familiar place and think so frequently of that story I am happy. Happy to be where I am right now. Happy to imagine a place that doesn’t really exist and yet does, because it is in me and has no inkling of moving or even changing.
It is enough to notice the field and think of the boy. To guide my van around the turns and down the hills and through the small neighborhood that brings me to the buildings that were my home for four years and continue to be a place I belong to now.
It’s a New Year still and I am noticing the old. Still. But it feels purposeful. Intentional. Useful. It feels right. And that’s more valuable to me than striving for more. What I have now is good. And while I am open to more, always, I am content to drive and think about words and life and what I already have. I have no word for 2014. No resolutions written down. It’s enough for me to be back in this place that I so fiercely love. To be happy. To notice. To just write.
Jen Writes, writing