On Patience


July 18th (started in San Simeon, finished at home, one month after my first entry)

On Patience

            We spent quite a bit of time among redwoods on this trip, as we always do on the coastal route, and I found myself paying attention to them because I’d been talking about them with a friend right before we left. I kept taking pictures of them for her, although I wasn’t exactly sure why. No photograph can capture a redwood for someone who has never met one. But there is something about the redwoods that reminds me of what we learned on this trip about patience and persistence: when we think about the age of a tree like a redwood, we realize how short our lives are, just some rings to these trees, but if you spend time in the woods, you learn all kinds of things about them. Many are scarred by fire but they still grow, and others still fall over and manage to keep growing—I have even seen them growing when totally horizontal. For those that do die a natural death, as opposed to being logged, they go back to the forest, broken down by an army of bugs and critters to feed the new trees, and all of this takes so much time that I struggle to even understand it, and that’s noting compared to geologic time. I realize that these observations may sound trite or shopworn; after all, many of the signs in redwood groves share precisely this information, but what I never fully fathomed before this trip was that I might need to learn a lesson about patience.

Driving an old car like this bus, you have to have patience. He’s glad if he can drive 50, and he doesn’t often. This car likes 4th gear—he purrs—but he also likes slow. The people on the highway are so impatient, as if they somehow don’t realize that we are driving an actual antique, and we aren’t going slow to be funny or to annoy them. Please understand, we use turnouts when we can, but sometimes there are no turnouts. When cars pass us, often crossing double yellow lines and almost hitting us or on coming traffic, I wonder why. What is their life worth, those that have airbags and expect survive that, and what of mine? Are those five minutes really worth so much? At times like those I wish we driving an actual tractor, squat, fat, and too expensive to hit.

Robert has never been a patient driver, or even a great driver, but this trip has taught him to listen to the bus. “He’s telling me he can’t take the wind, “ Robert says, and I know the car can’t: you can feel the wind in this thing pushing you off the road. What I don’t understand is whether the assholery or the sheer ignorance of the other drivers. Can’t you see we are driving a bus? Can’t you just fucking chill? But the midlife crisis sports car men (and women) in this area (Central Coast) cannot. They want to drive Highway 1 in a convertible at 65 or even 70. This is fine, if they can pass us safely, but I propose a grand fleet of slow busses, cars, and bicycles. This is our road, too, and we deserve to ride and drive it. These people need to learn patience. The world is already so fast—when was the last time you slowed down? Driving at the bus’s speed, I have heard the birds calling in the forest as we pass, the cicadas with their summer hum. What are we hurrying towards? Death. Why not slow down? What difference does the extra minute or two make? Who are you rushing to meet? What need is so great that you would forgo safety and lives?

And then when we run into you, Miata man (or woman), at the inevitable stoplight on Highway 1 for road construction, and we are right behind you, what then have you earned? The right to go fast? You have scared us, risked lives, and arrived at the same blank red light: stop. Learn patience. Take your time. You will get there.

But I also said that I needed to learn about patience, and what my therapist called “tolerating ambiguity.” Looking back at my frantic charge at the beginning of the trip, I wonder what would have happened if I had trusted the process (and Larry) more. I wonder what conversations I might have had with my family that were not tinged by my terrible need to be on the road, to make the impossible epic trip actually happen? I like to think that now I have learned something, but I know myself too well: it is too easy to get caught in the onslaught of doing. Over and over again on the trip I had to remind myself to “be here now,” as my fear and anxiety about the next day often overcame my appreciation of the present. And now that I am home, it all seems like a dream. Was that really us, rolling down that highway? I can remember all of it, but partly it was the patience required to complete the journey that forced me into that position. 100 miles down the 101 are indelibly printed on my memory, the order of the towns, the gas stops, the changing pictures outside my window, all the things I usually ignore. And Robert too is different, I think, more careful and caring as a driver, more able to give someone the benefit of the doubt in traffic, to back off. So, we have learned to be a little patient, and I hope we can carry that lesson forward, but I also know that the bus will remind us every time we drive him.


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