When I drive alone, I often meditate.
It’s not what you might think. I don’t close my eyes, of course. I just enjoy the peace and the time alone to think. I don’t forget about driving. It would be both foolish and dangerous to do so.
I try to allow extra time for a more leisurely drive. I avoid superhighways. Backroads are my preference because I never know when I might need to stop to take a few photos of the fantastic scenery that Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley affords.
Unlike my younger years, I drive silently. No radio, no CDs playing. I enjoy the quiet unless the road surface is too rough. Then I take in the music that my tires sing to the tune over the various macadam surface textures. The octaves change by the mile.
I’ll use the GPS when I have to. Once I know the way, however, I am on my own, like the other day when I had a doctor’s appointment 35 miles away.
I left nearly two hours before my 2 p.m. appointment. Besides a couple of brief planned stops, I knew there would be photo opportunities along the way. I had been that route before.
Driving in that contemplative state helps to clear my mind from all of life’s noisiness. Plus, I get to enjoy the mountains to my left and mountains to my right. In between, there is nothing but gently rolling countryside dotted by farms, fields, forests, and more gigantic chicken houses than I care to count.
Weather permitting, I ride with the windows down and the sunroof open. I sometimes pay the price if I pass a freshly manured field.
This trip turned extra-special. Once I passed Sulphur Pump Road, I turned south on the narrowest windy way with no ditches and farmers’ fences hard against the blacktop.
The paved path twisted and turned, rolled up, down, and around until I made a slight right onto Battlefield Road. In less than a half a mile, I crossed a short narrow bridge in the curve of the road. Ahead, an old plantation sat high on a ridge behind a grove of mature pines.
At this exact spot at the bottom of the hill, Americans fought Americans in a Civil War skirmish. Hand-to-hand combat ensued, with heavy casualties on both sides. Today, fruit trees and fence line trees waved in the wind.
No historical marker identified the bloody spot. I knew it from a Civil War class that I am taking remotely. It was this week’s lesson.
Farther south, a couple of miles, two different historical markers on opposite sides of the road defined the facts and sight of a deadlier clash, the Battle of Piedmont. Field corn and an impressive planting of soybeans nearly hid both plaques, while the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park created an enchanting backdrop.
I wondered if people knew what had taken place here, the massive loss of life, the many casualties, and prisoners of war, the consequence of the Union victory. If they knew, did they still hold a grudge or even care?
Did they appear only as fields of corn and beans to them? Were people merely on their way from point A to point B in their daily lives as they passed?
I pondered all of this as I arrived at the impressive multi-storied medical office building. I donned my mask, had my temperature taken, responded in the negative to all of the required COVID-19 questions, and waited my turn for my 21st-century exam.
My nomadic meditation had ended.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2020
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