Thursday, May 26, 2011

Driving Up Woodchuck

The sun was stark. There were three clouds in the sky. One was an enormous monolith, a rounded form. I often imagined clouds of that magnitude to be enormous spaceships, things so massive that current human engineering had but a glimpse of it as a possibility. The other two were white tufts, so thick and clearly defined against the bright blue of the sky. Most of the sky was clear. The clouds, despite the wind, did not move from their positions.

I had on my plastic sunglasses, built in the wayfarer style, but made of plastic with neon green arms. It provided minimal protection from the sun. But that was all I needed. The wind blew in waves across the desert landscape. Bright swells pulsed over the mat of cheat grass that covered the spaces between the sagebrush and junipers; a shimmering maroon and yellow. It was sunny everywhere, it was as if the clouds did not have shadows.

I sank into the leather passenger seat. The radio played quietly—just loud enough to remind me that it was there. The three of us sat in the driveway. Hara children—or were we? I had just graduated college. Olivia had just gone to the mechanic and fixed a car. Natalie was soon to finish her first year of high school. Child was a generous term.

Natalie was behind the wheel. We were going to drive up along the unused roads behind our house. Natalie wanted to learn to drive. The roads were a perfect training ground. Windy, newly paved, and empty.

Olivia was tense in the back. A myriad of comments ranging from “you are going to ruin the car and kill us” to “you are ruining the car and killing us” were emanating from the back seat. I told Natalie to relax and pull out of the driveway slowly.

“Which one is the gas and which one is the brake?” Natalie’s question did not reassure me. I told her and she immediately looked more confident. I knew that this would be stressful—I would be calm and relax. I would just let her drive. If need be, I could always intervene. So I enjoyed the scenery. I let the curves of the road ebb below the wheels of the car.

A little unsteady at first, Natalie got the hang of it. She picked up on the concept and readily applied it. I mused at how such a foreign concept to her had become second nature to me. Driving had evolved from a painful experience to one that was leisurely and freeing. For her, that future was far distant.

Natalie clutched the wheels and good naturedly took Olivia’s commentary. In just the few minutes we went driving, I saw that uncertain future come into focus briefly. The course seemed set, if not straight. It was a matter of adjusting to the constraints of the road, and using the tool that was the vehicle effectively. Natalie was no pro, but she was well on her way to being more than competent.