I grew up in Mattoon, Illinois, a farm community halfway between St. Louis and Indianapolis. You only had to ride your bike a mile in just about any direction to be out on blacktop roads. And straight…you could go for miles and miles and never adjust your course. And they were hot in the summer. Depending on whether you were riding by corn or beans, there might not be even a whisper of a breeze as you pedaled on your way.
Backroads were the best way to get up to Champaign or over to Terre Haute ~ or when I was going to college, ways to get around the police traps going up to Bloomington-Normal.
Backroads memories allow my heart to open-up more. When I think about those drives back to Na-Wa-Kwa over in Indiana, I think about all the windows open and the music blaring. It was singing Jim Croce or Jimmy Buffett as loud as I could sing. Everything felt wide-open, from how far you could see to how fast you could drive. Somehow time was suspended on those roads.
You could mark your trip by barns or curves or that one big oak tree by the road. The sunsets painted the entire – and I mean the entire western sky in shades of colors that took your breath away. You could drive and drive and drive and only pass a tractor on the road.
Driving an hour commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic at the beginning and ending of the day is a true bummer. Trust me, I have learned the closest thing I can find to a backroad in this daily routine. I go through Tucker from Chamblee to get home to Decatur (and Atlantans know that geographically, it makes no sense at all). But when the “cars are aligned” I can still catch a glimpse of the sky for a sunset that reminds me of home. And seeing the sky's shades of God takes my heart back.
Maybe I’m just missing blacktop roads and the way it felt to drive them. Those roads provided my favorite ways of getting from here to there without having to navigate. Instead you could travel without others dictating your pace; you could make your way and watch the world going by without it passing you by. I miss seeing the horizon just out there and knowing I could find my way, I would always find my way home.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.