Last night, instead of going west to the new route home, I turned left, following a line of cars down a new road without being sure if I was heading toward a dead end or back to my favorite old road home.
For 16 months, Louisiana Street — the best way for me to get from home to town and vice-versa — was closed, not just for repairs but for a partial vanishing act. Part of the wrangling for the new trafficway resulted in increasing the wetlands that were previously on the east and west sides of Louisiana Street, consequently erasing a long stretch of Louisiana Street. It’s not often roads was unpaved and plowed under to allow for migrating wildlife, but this is precisely what happened*. When that new road curved back to where Louisiana Street starts again (a mile of it to the north now wetlands full of egrets and tall grass), I felt a surprising blast of joy and sweetness.
I know it’s just a road, but it’s the road that runs through the core of my life for many years. I drove up and down this road ferrying babies and toddlers, then a gaggle of little kids, and eventually teens to various schools, piano lessons, doctor appointments, and mostly downtown where they could treat the library like their personal rec room. We drove late at night down this road after too-long road trips for work for family. I drove through blinding snow, piercing sunlight, lines of blossoming trees with billowing thunderheads to the west and great blue herons overhead. Many years ago, I sadly hit and severely injured a deer who the sheriff had to shoot to put her out of her pain. Once I stopped to herd a cow back over the fence. I taught, or at least, tried to teach, my kids to drive on this road. Thousands of days and nights, I took in the familiar markers: the bungalow on the corner, the row of pear trees, the ridge thickly wooded to the east and full of cattle to the west. I drove this route in great despair, utter joy, thorough boredom, obsessing over little stuff, at peace with all of life, and outrageously confused; sometimes I saw the real life vibrating all around, and sometimes I drove this road on instinct and memory, not taking in anything but what I was thinking.
“The road is just a river/ it can’t help to bring you home,” Kelley Hunt and I wrote in one of my songs, and I felt this truth as I returned to my old road. Like a river, you can’t step into the same place twice, but like a river, you can rejoice in the old comforts of place in its flux. I’m grateful to be back on this road.
*For those of you locals with a dog in this fight, I haven’t been a fan of the new trafficway, and I wish there had been another solution. Then again, it’s good to see wildlife inhabiting the solution that landed. Thanks to all of you who put years into advocating for saving the Haskell wetlands and sacred sites — my heart is with you.