I’m old enough to be part of the generation which used to go on “Sunday drives”. Growing up in Ohio, after church and the mid-day pot roast, my family would sometimes pile into the car, four kids squished together in the back seat, and just drive around. Mostly I remember pinching one another, seeing how long we could each endure pain without crying out. With good behavior, we were promised a rainbow sherbet ice cream cone from Isalys, at the end of the journey. I think these excursions were in the Fall because I can remember looking at dense stands of red and gold trees which lined the roads we meandered. I could be confusing this with a much later time, when my girls were little, and we lived in the suburbs of Boston, and took Autumn drives out to apple orchards to buy fresh cider. But the sky back then was this blue and the colors were this brilliant, and I suspect this time of year is seared into body memory of all of us who suffer with nostalgia on a quintessential Fall day.
On Sunday afternoon, we drove home from east of the Divide. Don had cyclocross races in Bozeman and Anna had a soccer tournament in Helena, so we spent the week-end nights on the road, going from one athletic event to the next. And, what a spectacular three-plus hour drive we had back home, over MacDonald Pass out of Helena, through the Avon-Helmville valley, and then up the Seeley-Swan. The aspen trees were shimmering in the sunshine and the tamaracks were well on their golden way. The lakes and sky were identical in the bright blue color of Autumn. This is a no radio signal/no cell service drive, and while we’ve finally figured out how to use Bluetooth and play music from our phones, we loved the quiet. I thought about the Sundays of my past, when all the stores were closed, including grocery stores, and the endless diversion of the internet was far into the future, and it seemed Sundays just stretched out endlessly. The notion of “just driving around” seems so arcane now. How fast Time has truly accelerated, and how little of it ever feels endless. Spending a bright Sunday October afternoon on a quiet drive is helpful, as is sitting on a bench at water’s edge, watching busy chipmunks, and the yellow leaves twirl and fall to the ground, just before sunset.
For the Chipmunk in My Yard
By Robert Gibb
I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.