Monday, May 15, 2006

Drive time

My morning commute, of late, is a fifteen-minute drive, mostly on back roads through suburban woods. About halfway out a stream comes out of the woods and runs parallel to the road for a while. I take a left, cross a stone bridge above the stream, and continue into a stand of pines. Then the reservoir emerges, circled by trees with not a building in sight, a few swans in the shallows. A mile or so along its shore there's an intersection, a traffic light and a busier road, then five minutes more and I'm at work.

It's not news that bodies of water have a restorative effect on the spirits. I'm not much affected by the sea; I enjoy it and honor it but can't shake the feeling that the sea is not particularly interested in our activities, that no matter how much we try to muck it up its scale remains of another order entirely than ours. But I grew up near fresh water and so lakes and streams always seem right, especially when they're surrounded by an illusion of wildness. And it is an illusion, for the most part, because my ride isn't through wild country at all, it just happens to skirt watershed property that's been kept free of encroaching development, all in order to better slake the thirst of a far-off city that is one of the least wild places in the world.

An island, then, or better an archipelago of the wild, a reminder that all our involvements, compelling as they are, are not the only way to be in the world, that there was once and may be again and in a sense if we are fortunate always is a terrain beyond from which we came and to which we can always return, at least in the mind.

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