I'm usually inspired to write when I'm on trains and planes and I've written some of my favorite 'meanwhile's' in exactly those situations. It becomes a little harder when you're driving to feel inspired but as I drove back home from the south of England the other night that's exactly how I felt... inspired.
I waved goodbye to my Mom and Dad who live in a 14th century village in Essex. The houses lean over the narrow main street that leads to the village church that still has a place to leave a horse, should that be your chosen mode of transport to church. As usual they stand at the foot of their drive way and wave until I turn the corner. I give one last wave out of the window before turning, a full arm stretched wave. I quickly scan the rear view mirror and see them doing the same, then they're gone from view.
I have a long drive ahead of me as I chase the setting sun toward the horizon in a race I can't possibly win. The roads are clear and quiet, what few cars there are speed along, the drivers right foot pressed firmly on the accelerator charging through their tunnel vision in a hurry to get from A to B. They pay little attention to the surrounding fields or rape and corn that stretch for miles and look like a patchwork quilt when seen from the air.
I'm not speeding, I feel no urgency to get home. I'm gliding along, letting those in a hurry rush past me like water rushing over a rock in a stream that has no plans to move along with the flow of its surroundings. This road cuts its way westward through the sprawling English countryside, carrying cars like blood-cells to and from arteries. But tonight for some reason, despite being the driver I feel more like a passenger, not in this car, but in this greater journey for which no map can prepare you for the roads ahead. It's a strange an almost lonely feeling, but oddly one that I enjoy.
A small dark cloud moves in-front of the sun and the sky fills with the trails of sunbeams striking lines outward from behind the cloud. In a sudden and unplanned move I turn off the main road and into a small lane where I stop my car. This is the last sunset I'll see today so I'm going to take the time to witness it. Leaving my car behind with the drivers door still open such was the haste of this momentary change of course, I clamber through a field waist deep in a bright yellow sea of flowering rape. And then I stand there and look across at the setting sun. Watching it slowly make its way to faraway places like a ship on the horizon, fading away like ripples on a pond, and feeling like I could be the last person on the face of the planet, like I was being granted a glimpse of the heavens.
A while later and back behind the wheel, clouds congregate in a darkening sky,
gathering in number like delegates for a meteorological event. The dull rhythmic
sound of my windshield wipers sweeping unexpected rain from the view ahead
tries to cast me into that near hypnotized state that can so often entrance
a driver. I lean forward in my seat and look out at the sky marveling at how
rapidly the weather has changed it's mind about this evening. But as I sit
back in my seat and ready myself for a long and boring drive homeward through
the rain, it stops, just as quickly as it started.
As the clouds begin to slowly go their separate ways nature decides to return color to this evening with one of its favorite crowd pleasing gestures, a rainbow. Its arc spectacularly crowns the landscape like a monument to all creation, or a magical bridge to a place so breathtaking that if it were possible for a person to go there they would surely never return. But like many of natures most delicately beautiful creations its ephemeral existence leaves me, and others on this road, little time to admire it.
I continue my journey under a blanket of dark blue clouds above which stars are taking their positions for the night ahead like musicians taking their place in a vast orchestra about to give another well rehearsed concert performance. Headlights appear in the distance then slowly pass me on the other side of the road. I'm playing some mellow music on the stereo which is backed with the familiar sounds of cars swooshing past from time to time. The trace of day gently fades with each passing mile and the sky becomes a deep shade of blue.
There's still a long way to go on this journey.
--- Article Notes ---
The thing is I just love writing, and sometimes
the act itself is more important than the finished result. I wanted
this piece to go somewhere, but after
some consideration I decided to put it aside and like so many other
'unpublished Meanwhile's', maybe come back to it another time.
It's a shame really, because the drive was itself truly inspiring.