Usually a hairpin turn in the road causes me to grip the steering wheel tighter. I try not to imagine spinning out of control and shooting off the asphalt into the side ditch, but not on the road home. As soon as I have finished my errands and I turn the car towards home, my whole body relaxes. I turn off the main road and leave the hurried commuters behind me. As they speed off to wherever life has required them to be, the first thing I see is the weathered, gray barn looming close to the road home. The speed limit down this curvy, narrow road is 25mph, but my heart always makes me go 15mph.
There have only been a handful of times that I have ever met another car on the road home and although you must slow to a crawl and straddle off the road to allow them to pass, it’s nice to see their smiling face through their windshield. Along with the smile is the customary wave that you see in the country of a friend. When you live on a country road you know the cars, their occupants but rarely their names. There is the old rusted truck with just a whisper of the bright blue that used to cover its body. You can hear it coming well before you see it and it will be driven by a old man that wears a ball cap. His face is so wrinkled that the smile is just a deeper crease below his crinkled eyes. His wave is big with purpose and the black and white dog that bounces around the bed of the truck will run to the side, tongue flopping and greet you as well with a friendly bark. You might pass a golden Buick luxury car. The outside gleams with fresh polish but is not nearly as bright as the smile of the polished little old lady that guides the car on the road home. Her wave is friendly but just as regal as the car she drives when she goes to pick through the veggies at the local market.
After I pass the weathered barn that is no longer capable of providing shelter from the winds through the gaping cracks in its boards, I turn into the first hair pin curve. Rather than grip the wheel with whitened knuckles, I feel the stress of the day whoosh out of me in a breath that says I am on the road home. The trees alongside the road begin to grow closer together as if tightening their guardian force against the outside world. Their branches lean over the road providing a natural tunnel allowing sunlight to dapple the road. After a few more turns the trees open up again to allow for the split log fence that houses the friendly faces of lazy cows that hang through the wires to eagerly snatch the moist grass that is bound to be better on the other side. As my car passes by them, they pause only a moment to nod their greeting through their munching. The reddish bull always stands a little back from the fence watching sternly as the new calves kick up their heels and scramble behind their mothers at the foreign sound of a car engine. In time they will know the sound of the cars that pass and will nod their heads while barely stopping their grazing.
After the first field of cows, I will pass the rusted gate that has a chain hanging through it that used to hold it closed. It has never been locked as long as I have lived here, but is slightly pushed open which allows for the three brown dogs of the country fraternity to bound through it and greet or warn anyone that comes down the road. As my car bounces past them on the old, broken asphalt that needs some attention from the county we are escorted by several other dogs that come to join in the great chase of the day. They always tear up the ground behind us until we reach the first pond and then they relinquish the prize of catching the car to the job of busily sniffing through the tall brush that borders the road. The brush blocks all view of the hay fields behind it, but as much as it seems like a narrow corridor that should be claustrophobic it is actually the most open, free feel as birds flush from the growth as I pass by.
As I begin to climb the hill towards my home, I pass another field of cows. These are my neighbors and I know them all by sight. The white fuzzy matron who watches over all the calves born is usually closest to the fence. She’s learned that when the faded yellow school bus stops there every afternoon that the children who get off often have sugar treats in their pockets and her greedy nature stands patiently waiting for those lumps of sugar and pocket lint. The cautious black cow with her white face stands a little behind her. She draws courage to come for those treats by always allowing the matron to go first. They are always the first I see on the climb to my home.
The brick of the house always looks a little foreign in all the nature around it, but never unfriendly. No matter how the sun hits our home it always looks warm, drawing you closer. The porches on the front and back shelter the rocking chairs and benches that just wait for us to come sit and watch the clouds float by, a sinking sun or the acrobatics of the birds that grace our skies. As I turn off into our driveway a sparkle often catches my eyes. The pond across the street with its two ducks catches any available light and rather than hold it captive; shoots it into a million different glittering reflections. The diamond sparkles off the water magically dance around the always paddling ducks. I am home.
No matter where my day took me the road home always strips off the stress and replaces it with an earthy dust that cleanses my spirit. On the road home I am renewed.