We're on an old highway.
Old highways never go away. They're always just replaced by something newer and wider, sort of like televisions. They find themselves just out of the way, with bushes and trees growing freely on their banks. There's always some old boarded up attractions that once thrived on the drive-by impulse of curious highway travelers. A father cutting the wheel at dangerous speeds and parking his family-loaded car in front of Animal World, or Cartwright's Family Pitch n' Putt.
The sky threatens darkness like a mother calling upstairs one last time, that supper's ready. A sky so dark it's barely blue and bleeds pink at its edges. And this pink horizon is actually our destination. Not the place, but the idea of it, like walking through an art gallery and arriving at a painting.
We pull over and you turn on the 4-way flashers.
We open the doors, and all four of us are outside, looking at the tree's silhouette high up on the hill above us. We're breathing air so cold it weighs something, our lungs and our skin lock hands and strain to bare the weight.
This moment instantly becomes the longest of our trip. One laced with uncertainty, a minute to decide, yes, or no.
Yes no yes no
We're so used to saying no followed by something else. Maybe later, maybe tomorrow, maybe this is far enough; good enough for now.
But it's not, not this time. And we're off, running along the old highway embankment like hitchhikers running to a waiting VW van. We're a machine, fighting to stay warm, five breathing mouths, and twelve hurrying legs. The dog is just excited to be a part of anything at all.
The snow covered farming road presents itself flawlessly. That is to say, without flaw, and we start down it. Downhill at first, the snow comes to just over our sneakers, those foolish enough to wear them. I look around and see that that means only me.
We're at the lowest point now, the ditch, and from here it heads upward, to the tree. This place is alive with flowing water, and it's wide, too far to jump, but not far enough to turn around.
Two carefully placed fence posts, and a few shaky karate stances later, and we're across, victorious, and unstoppable, at least for now.
This hill takes its time becoming one, and so we walk up it fairly easily. The snow is shin deep in some spots, while other spots remain bare. The wind is to blame for this, and it whips around us, like we're not welcome. Like an angry farmer waving his double barrel.
Half way up, the soft grass beneath the snow, gives way and we're standing in what used to be a corn field. The stalks have been cut and removed, leaving rows and rows of perfectly straight five inch stumps that remind us of a military graveyard. We stand quietly looking at this phenomenon before moving on.
A little farther and we're there. Mission accomplished. The wind is angrier here, spiteful maybe, that we made it. It bites our cheeks and sifts its way through our clothes.
I look back the way we came and far, far below I can see our car's lights blinking in the near-dark. The lonely, flashing yellow light, a sign of warmth, of safety, of home.
The old knotty tree yawns beside us and its branches sway in the winter wind. The photographers photograph, and I let out a screech, and chase like a mad man after the wild-eyed dog, my feet numb to the cold snow.
©2009 Broken Chair