My family and I moved to rural Colorado this past June. We are now coming out of our first full winter living at an altitude above 8000 feet, and all I can say for sure is that it has been a learning experience for us all! (Did you know that there is no such thing as a Snow Day here and that everyone carries on with their lives like it’s no big deal in weather that would get you arrested for even thinking about driving back East?)
During one unexpected and INTENSE snowstorm, I was driving home from the grocery and found myself in a complete whiteout while traveling over the little mountain pass to get to our house. I mean, I couldn’t see a damn thing but WHITE. EVERYWHERE. This was about the third or fourth time that I had experienced driving in a whiteout thus far – and I tried to plan trips into town by watching the weather. The storms here just roll in so quickly and unexpectedly that planning travel around them is impossible. And our home is in a very rural area (population around 700), so we are not exactly a focal point on The Weather Channel radar.
I can assure you that I have not experienced anything as stressful in my life as driving through a whiteout – traveling through driving rain does not compare, icy roads are no match, nor is unmedicated childbirth. Trying to operate a 7000lb moving vehicle while effectively being blindfolded will get the adrenaline pumping like no other. Oh, and remember, there are other people on the road doing the same thing. And you’re all just hoping and praying that you don’t find each other.
You’re thinking, “Why don’t you just pull over?” And that’s a great idea except there is no where to go – it’s winter in Rocky Mountains, so the sides of the road are snowbanks. And you can’t see any driveways. You just have to keep driving forward. (For any of you country music aficionados out there, I’m pretty sure the song “Jesus Take The Wheel” was inspired by a songwriter driving through a whiteout.)
I was driving smack-dab in the middle of this storm, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel and quite literally reminding myself to breath, when I felt my Expedition plow straight into a snowbank. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backwards. I exited the vehicle and decided to try to dig myself out – heart pounding as I prayed that no one else was on the road and I thanked my lucky stars that I ended up buying a red vehicle (even though the last thing I wanted was a red vehicle). I dug away with the only tool I had available – no, silly, it wasn’t a shovel. I hadn’t lived here long enough to realize that they sell collapsible plastic shovels one can store in one’s vehicle for just such an occasion. I had a twitch, which (for those of you who aren’t “horsey”) is really just a big stick with a rope on the end of it. Just think about that for a minute: I was trying to dig my behemouth of a vehicle out of a four foot high snowbank with a big stick. In a blizzard.
Anyway, fortunately for me, within a few minutes three vehicles stop to help me (and none of them hits me! Thanks, red truck!). A very nice man named Jeremy pulls up in his pickup and begins to unravel his tow strap (another piece of necessary winter equipment in these parts). I tell him that I’m really embarrassed as this is our first winter here and I’m already stuck in a snowbank. As long as I live I will never forget his response:
“Don’t feel bad. I’ve lived here for 25 years and it still happens to me. When you can’t see the road all you can do is drive where you think the road is. Sometimes you’re wrong.”
That struck me like a lightning bolt, standing there in the middle of a blizzard. Does Jeremy know that he just uttered, like, the greatest metaphor for everything in life? No matter how long we are on this planet – 30 years, 90 years – we can’t always see the road, we can’t always know where we’re supposed to be going, all we can do is drive where we think the road is. And sometimes we’re wrong. Big deal. Don’t feel bad about it. I mean, sure, it gets messy when you’re wrong and you might find yourself attempting to bail out your life with a Dixie cup (or dig your SUV out of a snowbank with a stick…), but maybe if you’re lucky you will be rescued by some humble and wise soul. And maybe you’ll even find yourself grateful for the experience.
When it comes to writing, I’m kind of struggling to see the road at the moment. For a few weeks now, I have been getting up early to write and have been loving it. I had my little ritual going and it was nice. I think it even made me a more pleasant person for the rest of the day, just having that peaceful and creative time all to myself while the rest of the house slept. But then the rest of the house stopped sleeping. My two-year old started waking up about an hour earlier than she should, which not only cut into my writing time but also woke the rest of the house an hour earlier too. And they aren’t exactly morning people. So now everyone was awake during my special time and they were GRUMPY. What buzzkills!
Maybe my two-year old’s early rising has nothing to do with my own early rising, but my partner is convinced the two are intimately related. (I don’t exactly move stealthily in the dark…) So I’m writing this post on my phone, in my bed. These are not my ideal working conditions, but it will have to do for now. I’m hoping this is just a little detour from my road and that my little girl’s sleep schedule will reset back to normal. (I’m also honing my ninja-walking skills during daylight hours so that in a week or two I can try getting back onto my preferred road of writing early in the morning, on a computer, sitting at a table.) But until then I’ll keep chipping away at my snowbank with the only tools I have available to me and do the best I can, just as we all do every single day of our lives. If we slow down, pay attention and look closely, our individual roads will reveal themselves. And we’ll do our best to follow them.