It’s a forty minute ride through the country, past old forgotten places and newly built houses. In the early morning hours as dawn breaks, the sky is painted various shades of purple, orange, pink, yellow, and blue. Each day is a new masterpiece to see. Sometimes clouds upon billowy clouds like marshmallows in tie dye. Sometimes a simple streak across the sky. Sometimes nothing. The trees are colored with hues of red, green, yellow, orange, brown. And then again, sometimes nothing.
The back roads take me first through woods, where if I’m lucky, I’ll see a deer on the edge of the tree line. Its ears flickering in the brisk morning air, not yet knowing to be afraid. A skunk may cross my path. A cat sits on a wooden fence post, waiting patiently for a mouse, a grasshopper, or a nap.
An old church from the late 1800s or early 1900s stands up on a hill to the left. Old, faded lettering announces it was once the Pickens Chapel. Behind the church, out of view from the road is a cemetery, with graves so old many are marked with just a rock. Slave graves. Graves of confederate soldiers. Children with no names. I know this because I’ve walked back there against the warning signs of no trespassing. It’s easy to stand out there in the middle of the silence, hearing the whispers of the dead, and imagine the gatherings that must have once taken place. The funerals, the church picnics, the celebrations. My mere presence commands respect.
Further on, I pass under the shade of trees hanging heavily over the road, the last spots to thaw in the depths of winter, after snow and ice have graced us with their brief presence. A creek to the right leads into a pond where someone has built a rickety bridge jutting only part way out into the water. Lilly pads float ever so gently, crossing over top of reflections. I come to a crossroads. A place called Slabtown. As far as I can tell, Slabtown is one building. Run down, boarded up, sitting on a corner, long forgotten for whatever purpose it used to hold. No longer maintaining any signs of life.
I pass many a farm. Fields of cows. Horses. Goats. Donkeys.I pass a house with a rebel flag standing proudly in the front yard. A German Shepherd dog in a small fenced area, far from the house with no grass to roll in, just dry dirt. Hills of green, or gold, or brown, depending on the season. Morning glories blooming in pink and purple, dot the ditches along the side of the road in the warmer months. Large houses with mile long driveways and gates to deflect unwanted visitors. A tire swing hangs from the sturdiest of branches on an old oak tree. Hay bales in fields of gold.
This is my gift each morning as I drive to work. Each day a new masterpiece, never a repetition. Coming home in the late afternoon, the sun of summer, or the dusk of winter, washes the canvas clean to start anew. Viewed from another time of day, with the change of weather and seasons, going home backwards, it appears I never drive the same road twice.