It was a pretty dreary week, as we approached the shortest day of the year. It was continually overcast, and when you live with this kind of gray with a short amount of daylight already, it’s tough to care too much about going outside. This sort of “meh,” attitude sinks in, and you’d just as soon binge watch Friends as you would go out and get some fresh air. You look outside and you’re not always sure if it’s raining or if it’s just so gray that your eyes are playing tricks on you.
I spent a good bit of the week traveling around, visiting friends and family. It’s a strange time of year where people are sort of slowed down and sort of sped up. You have more free time, which means you’ve scheduled more and you feel busier because it’s out of the routine. Since we’re in the Advent season, I’ve been trying to be sure to take time out from the hustle and bustle of routine life to really reflect on the season, on the darkness, on history, on my journey through the world, and the hopes I have for a better world. I’ve been trying to write something like one haiku per day. I want to take time to be still and just see how the world is changing before my eyes instead of always trying to exert some control over that change. I don’t think I’ve been completely successful, but I’m trying.
I traveled to Jackson on Wednesday to spend some time with my family. I hung out with my sister and my nephew and niece for a good bit of the day, sitting on her couch, catching each other up on recent life events. It’s wild thinking that about 20 years ago, I’d go hang out in her room, where we’d listen to alternative rock and hip-hop, talking about life then too. When I started driving, we really got close because we started spending more time together. Those long car rides between Jackson and Bolivar, going from school to home to church and back pushed us into important conversations, made us share our music and our stories, led us to understand each other.
I met my dad at his shop to sit down and record him telling about when he and my mom got together. I’m putting together a sort of audio story of them recalling what it was like to be teenagers. It’s been interesting hearing them look at themselves in these other moments in time. That night, we had dinner at Catfish Cabin, a restaurant we used to frequent on Sunday afternoons. They have the best hushpuppies in the world, and the walls are decorated with old farm equipment and animal heads (including a huge moose). It was decorated like this before it was cool for chain restaurants to have this fake authentic antique look. Driving through South Jackson, walking into Catfish Cabin, sitting with my family, there’s something that’s ingrained in my muscle memory. I have a feeling of what it felt like when I was a kid, there’s rush of things going back. It’s similar to that feeling you get as every year turns over, as you get out your decorations, as you feel the cool air under gray skies. You’ve been here before, and there are many more feelings swirling around than just what’s in the present moment.
On Friday, I took Devendre, a Murray State student from India to eat Indian food in Cadiz, Kentucky. I had heard that there is an improbably good Indian restaurant in this small Kentucky town. It’s called the House of Spice, and it’s an Indian sports bar and grill, which looks like any bar and grill in the South (there are lots of sports schedules, racing posters, neon and tvs) only they bring out tikka masala instead of hot wings (though you can get hot wings too). Devendre is spending the break in Murray, and I thought it would be nice for him to get out and taste some food like home. He helped me navigate the menu and ordered this fantastic dessert that is made from cheese curd in this thick honey coating. It was made tasty.
Driving on our way back, I asked Devendre if he had ever seen a buffalo, and he hadn’t, so I took him to Land Between the Lakes to explore the bison and elk prairie. When we first moved to Murray, I spent many winter days with my car parked and the windows open, just watching and listening to the buffalo grazing. It had this very peaceful effect on me (Click here to read about that). I love to share this area with other people. I’ve taken people from Murray who have never made the 15 minute drive, and now I’ve taken someone who traveled all the way from India. It’s crazy the way we cross paths with people in life, crazy how those chance encounters change our routes slightly and point us in another direction. There are times travelers join us, times we leave for other journeys to meet new travelers, then times we intersect again unplanned. When I was young, I never could have predicted all the things I would be encountering with all the people who joined me.
This weekend, we visited our good friends James and Sarah in Nashville and their new baby, Everett. It was a time of catching up, sharing our Oregon videos, getting to know Everett, and lots of great food. On Sunday, James and I hiked about 5 miles at Radnor Lake State Park. We talked about many things, which included our fathers. James had found pictures of his dad when he was 19 in front of one of his early cars. We talked about time and these versions of our parents and grandparents that exist–these versions of us that exist out in space. There are versions of us from the past, who we are now, and something out there in the future we have yet to experience.
On the way home from Nashville, back through Cadiz and Land Between the Lakes, Allyson napped in the passenger seat as I drove. My dog, Digby woke up, and sat up on Allyson’s lap, just barely tall enough to see out over the dash. He just calmly looked out onto the road like I was doing as we drove, the sun getting ready to sit over the horizon in of us. I thought about how I found him, shivering in the corner of fenced in room at the Animal Shelter. They had found him out alone on a street. I couldn’t stop looking over at him–he was like that roadtrip companion on those stretches where you both just look out on the open road, comfortable together traveling. It could be a moment of a movie, where the soundtrack takes off and you know there’s a connection between the main characters without them saying anything. I thought about how he would follow me anywhere, he would ride shotgun with me into the ocean if that was where I was going. He was calm as long as he was my riding companion. It was such chance that we entered into each others lives. But, now we are–it’s been written in the book and it won’t be erased.