Saturday, January 4, 2014

Espectacular Dia

I groaned and grumbled my way through a TON of "stay-cations" growing up. In fact, I groaned and grumbled a lot more than I should have during my first 20 years (okay, maybe even more than that). I'm not proud of it, but I can't even tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and slid down lower in my seat, for fear of being spotted even by a stranger I would surely never see again, as Mom made Dad pull over so she could read (yet another) historical marker along the road. And, of course, said road was almost certainly never a main highway; oh no, when we went "off the beaten path," Mom was serious about it. We leaned through many a winding curve, sibling shoulders pressed together as Mom sometimes pointed out signs or wildlife and other times simply looked and took it all in.

We camped, hiked, fished, and generally traversed all over Kentucky. I was mortified. 

Then, just last week, when Adam and I were on our way to stay at a B&B in Harrodsburg, it happened: I craned my neck to read a historical marker near Shaker Village.  Not only am I becoming my mother, but I kinda like it that way, healthy adoration of state parks and all. 

So, when Estefania said her family would like to see some of the countryside while they are visiting from Spain, I happily volunteered to chauffeur them around. I didn't think anything of it, expecting a quick drive to a neighboring county I know well and silence from my captive backseat audience. Like reliving my childhood, but as the driver. 

I was so wrong. 

Because one of the things I didn't realize was just how much I failed to see on a daily basis when I was living life with my eyes wide shut. Before we moved about four months ago, I passed these same fields and same houses and barns and gravel roads and Amish stores and gas stations. Every. Single. Day. 

Never once did I stop to take a picture in front of a handwritten sign advertising the price per pound for country ham. I never pointed to the distant hills to show someone the spectacular view. I never tromped through the snow in my in-laws' yard to stand beneath a specific oak tree. I never actually stopped at the bakery that touted homemade donuts on their roadside sign. I never drove around the courthouse twice so a passenger could snap photos, or drove to the local middle school on a Saturday because it is a place of architectural interest. And I definitely never pulled over (twice) to let faster-moving vehicles pass me, because I was always the fast one. This was my hometown. I'd never been a tourist there. Until today. 

Here's what I noticed, in a place I've known for nearly thirty years, for the first time today:
  • More horses and cows than I can count, dark bodies in beautiful contrast to the crunchy snow
  • Skeletal deciduous trees and ridge lines topped with evergreens
  • The bluest sky that ever was
  • Seven jet contrails zig-zagging across each other like a woven basket made of the air itself
  • Dilapidated and abandoned homes, ghosts of their former selves and testaments to a prosperous era gone by
  • Historic, stately homes, passed daily but almost definitely rarely admired
  • A church that was established in 1819
  • The Dairy Queen parking lot dangerously crammed at noon on a Saturday
  • Five cemeteries, plus one I knew about but had never noticed from that angle
  • Four Amish stores, one selling candy oranges for $1.89 and another with caramel-frosted cinnamon rolls for $3.85
  • One store with a guest book for out-of-towners
  • One western wear and tack shop owned by a friendly and inquisitive lady with an adorable dog, filled to bursting with Wranglers, flannel shirts, belt buckles, and salt-and-pepper Conestoga wagons
Not only did I get a chance to re-discover places I thought I knew well and fully discover some others I would have never visited, but I got to share those discoveries with people I love. How lucky. What a blessed woman my mother must have felt herself to be on those weekend journeys in the past. To see, as Sergio said this afternoon, "America profundo" all around us...if we are lucky enough to open our eyes and honestly see it. It truly was an espectacular dia. 

Where might you go if you took a tour of your hometown? What sites would you share with a stranger? And more importantly, what could you truly see if you looked with new eyes at the espectacular dia unfolding all around you?

Live on. 

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