Road Narrows, Road Widens


Crossing the back of beyond I passed a sign that said Road Narrows. I slowed down a bit, although the way was plenty wide enough for me. Then another sign, same warning. I slowed a little more. Tired of sharing the trip between Pasco and Walla Walla with other travelers, I had chosen a very small road, the back way into town, no one in sight for miles.

In fact I hadn’t been on this road for years, couldn’t even remember its name. I hoped that I would recognize it in passing, and I did. I remembered right away how delighted Shel and I had been to discover this little twist of pavement running through low, rolling wheat fields. How we wondered whether we’d really find our way.

In the ten or so years since that moment nothing and everything has changed. The road is still deserted, perhaps narrow for the tractors that must travel it more often than cars, no door to knock on if you need help, or companionship, or directions. I too still feel deserted, my life having narrowed so that there’s still room enough for the everyday, but not for the exalted. And although I’m often looking for a door to knock on, I generally keep on going, heading for home. And now I rely on GPS to find my way.

But last month a friend asked me what I was looking forward to, now that Spring is in sight. “Flowers,” I replied, but could think of nothing else. It took a couple of days for that to sink in, the knowledge that I had nothing in particular to look forward to, except another day on the planet, for which I am always grateful.

Suddenly it felt claustrophobic, to be living my life on such a confining track. My emotional GPS began to shriek, softly, telling me to stop choosing the narrow path, to stop slowing down when there’s really no need. Telling me that it’s time to start knocking on my own door.

For a whole host of reasons I’ve been neglecting this space. I’ve been working as a writer, and so free-time writing has felt redundant. And my life has felt unremarkable, just le train train, as you say in French, the daily thrum of chugging down the rails. Nothing much to say for myself. Feeling that maybe I’m old enough to just let myself get old. Stuff like that.

But now I’ve decided to widen my path. Because of course I’ll never be younger or stronger or braver than I am right now, and it would be a shame to waste all that. So I’m planning a big trip for myself, in just six months. I’ll be doing everything I can to get prepared for that, and part of it will be to hang out here on a regular basis, thinking out loud.

Because when I don’t, it’s often too quiet to hear myself think. And because it feels like staying on that narrow, too quiet path for much longer, I might forget how think at all, might forget how to look forward to whatever’s just down the road.

Explore posts in the same categories: French Letters Visits America

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7 Comments on “Road Narrows, Road Widens”

  1. Jane and Chuck Field Says:

    You are on the right track. Nice to read French Letters again. We are in Utah and have had the daughters and grand kids here for the week.

  2. I know that one. After living without a relationship for several years, my life suddenly widened… or narrowed. I can’t decide which.

    Getting involved with Gary certainly widened my life in some ways. I have a guaranteed companion for parties, I get invited to “couples dinners” more often, and I always have a date for family weddings.

    But it’s also narrower because I used to have a crowd of single friends who would socialize as a big fat group. And now I’m just not one of them anymore.

    I’m certainly happy with Gary… no denying that. But sometimes it isn’t a case of narrowing or widening roads. It’s a case of reaching an intersection and choosing which way to go.

  3. charitydas Says:

    Happy to read your words again.

  4. Barbara Jacquinn Says:

    None of us can ever be younger but we can be stromger and braver like you. So back to France?

  5. Vicki Says:

    Good to read your writing. Missed your voice. Welcome back. Happy to hear anything on your mind.

  6. Suza Says:

    Gorgeous photo; lovely essay. Happy to read your words again!

  7. Judith Klinger Says:

    Go for it! Go big or stay home as the snowboarders say!

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