Perspective & Immediacy
Completing the Circle

By: Paula Hendricks

Perspective while driving is an interesting concept. I'm not sure you can get it. Immediacy you get. I'm there, rolling along, on the ground. Seeing things as I drive, or cruise. Driving is both an isolated experience and an immediate one. I can set my car on cruise control, which I love to do in wide open spaces. I can isolate myself with my speed, my not stopping, my staying on the highways. But, I can also appreciate things up close. I stop, open the door, put my feet on the ground, interact with people. I am there. I have found no better way to ground myself than to drive some distance. To drive through places I haven't been before, or haven't been for some time, or simply to drive through places I love - to remind myself.

I count on my car. I suppose, like many Westerners, I have an ongoing love affair with my car, maybe cars in general. My car and its well-being are almost more important than my house.

I am back in New Mexico, after driving to South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. It was a trip about stirring up energy. Gaining new perspective. Testing new waters. Tornadoes were all around me until I went to New Orleans. Car trouble plagued me until I headed south. Family commitments, business opportunities, and web workshops were top of mind until I drove down through the Mississippi Delta. New Orleans was for me - the one part of the trip that was purely selfish.

This trip was uncomfortable. The car trouble especially. I count on my car, like I count on my health and my personal energy. Both were not dependable this trip. I stirred up energy all right. I even wondered about those tornadoes. Being in the bosom of my family had its own tensions. No wonder I couldn't gain perspective.

I had car trouble - I don't like car trouble. My car wouldn't start in South Dakota. The gas dried up in the tubing. And it wouldn't drive smoothly in the hills of Appalachia in West Virginia. Suspected to be an emissions problem. So, problems with fuel and emissions. In places my family has chosen to live.

Once I headed South, followed the Ohio and the Mississippi, other things unnerved me - I got lost in Mississippi and my instructions for finding my way led me right past Parchman (infamous southern prison). Yankee woman driving alone with out of state plates. But those issues weren't my car's fault. I finally got my CB fixed in New Orleans, then cruised on back to New Mexico.

After I left New Orleans I drove west into Acadiana (Cajun country), through bayou country and Lafayette, then headed north through Alexandria and Shreveport. And north again to Dallas, Wichita Falls, then west across the panhandle to New Mexico. Crossing state lines in many places is obvious. Obvious from the landscape. Obvious from the kinds of cars people drive. Obvious from the condition of the roads. Often I don't need signs to tell me I'm in a different state. Colorado, 4-wheel drives, pickup trucks, cattle country. Nebraska, cars, sedans, farms, communities. Louisiana, lush, green, wet, hot. Texas, dry, hot, flat, brown.

It was in the middle of the panhandle I started to gain perspective - cruise control set to 1 mile over the limit. Mile after mile after mile, flat, brown landscape. Poor looking towns. Rusting buildings, scabby siding, older cars and trucks. This part of the country felt lonesome, desolate, beaten down. I wondered how I had gotten here. I could see myself in my old life in New York City, and recognized for the first time what courage it took to leave that urban life and come west, knowing no one, having no work waiting. But, i realized I hadn't gone to Texas, to the panhandle, I had gone to New Mexico.

In New Mexico the land turned greener, with red earth underneath and mesas rising out of the high desert. A more mysterious place - and I had chosen New Mexico. This land of juniper and piŅon. A place where time collapses and I can see as I cruise the wild bands of horses, the Indians, the covered wagons, the cavalry. And I can see artists trying to capture the light. I needed to immerse myself in those possibilities for a time. I did. Now it's time to move on.

I can now see past the landscape - the stark beauty of the New Mexico desert. I can climb out of my car, put my feet on the ground, breathe in the hot wind, appreciate the land and the time I spent there, and know this sere, stark land no longer sustains me.

While I may have gained some perspective, I still haven't answered all my questions. I'm glad to be back in my own space, but I already miss being on the road.

Comments welcome.

Paula Hendricks is a freelance writer/photographer living in Corrales, New Mexico. She owns paula hendricks & associates, a web development firm.