Eisenhower and Johnson

Last night I drove to the mountains. I think this has been a long time in coming. It has been a really good month, but it’s been long and hard too. There’s been so much waiting on my visa to go to Pak. It’s been back and forth. How many times have I called the consulate? How many times have they changed what they say about the timing for when it will arrive? Why does it seem like something stands in the way, fully and stubbornly blocking the path to age long dreams? And there has been so much going on with my friends. I’ve been drawn into a little community at our faith gathering. But no one there is perfect either. I can’t tell you the conversations I’ve had, all beautiful and filling. But how many times can the story change? How often will the same scenario come to pass over and over again, sure as the golden dawn comes? Why does it seem we hurt and hurt despite our many glimpses of glory? I love this mess, this chaos, this bedlam of people, emotions and faith.

But it sort of got to me last night, in the bad way. I got into my car with half a tank of gas, an extra pair of shoes, a purse full of books and pens and a wallet that could supply my needs to the tune of a few thousand dollars. I was wearing my new favourite sweater, the vest with which I am obsessed and my treadless, happily broken in sambas that are four years old this March. This is the problem of unemployment. I have no strings. I am not even staying with G and J right now. I am with Ingrid as my bed was needed for grandma and Ingrid had space, quiet and stillness for me to inhabit. She wouldn’t be home until 1am, not with her job, and she might not notice till the morning that my car had not arrived in front of the house.

So I started driving. Where does I70 end? Does it go to Salt Lake? Does it terminate in Seattle? Could I make San Diego and the coast by dawn?* It didn’t matter. I thought, at the junction, that maybe I’d head North. But North lies Loveland, Fort Collins, Cheyenne. It would take to long to feel lost. Or maybe it would be too fast to find myself awash in the empty wilderness. So I scrambled over in the traffic to the right hand land.

Do you know the rush, the soaring flight of that first uphill climb on I70 just past Morrison towards St. Marys Alice? Do you know the blinking tail-lights, glowing red like tear dried eyes as we clamber up the slopes in third or fourth gear? I whipped around that corner down onto I70, flew past trucks beginning the long ascent and joined the masses of people running, fleeing the city beneath us.

The crowd begins to thin out a little before Idaho Springs. It is only two lanes by then, and there are only the true who continue forward. They have snowboards and skis strapped to their rooftops. They have cases full of winter time clothes, trunks of boots and waterproof gear. I had a $7 vest into whose pockets I stick my bulky sunglasses. They drive pickups and SUVs with the best tires money can buy. They know what a 7 percent grade feels like when you’re out of control and they’ve seen the flashing lights of a runaway truck ramp be blocked by the semi as he goes flying up into the snow, desperate to stop himself. I have a little Hyundai and new tires that I abuse like a race car driver. I know how to downshift and not to ride the brakes. And that, I decided in the first ten minutes on I70 was plenty equipment and know how to get me through to the other side, wherever that may be.

But I thought, as I passed Georgetown, I thought I told Kelsie I was putting this to death. I was settling down, I was planting roots, I was facing fears of commitment and honest vulnerability. I told her I had longed for this, had waited for this, I was just terrified of this.

Roots are scary things. They grow fast; but they are difficult too. They are strong, they are a foundation, a bedrock to a life; but they are vulnerable and somehow easily torn up. But they are worth it, I think, worth taking the chance and worth putting in the effort.

I passed through that first tunnel, the one with rounded roof and snaking lights across the ceiling. I rolled down the windows and listened to the roar as I flew past that slow moving pickup from Missouri. It sounded like applause, like endless cheering. And then it was over and I was out again in the starry night, beneath blackened skies and racing cars. I thought, I should turn around. This is still low enough in the mountains that I know this area. I should get off at the next exit and go back home.

But home is out there. Home is Seattle. Home is San Diego. Home is Chicago. Home is Pittsburgh. Home is a dozen places and I wasn’t even looking for home at this moment. I just wanted away. But my mind kept lecturing my heart that this isn’t right. This isn’t what you do. You go back there, you deal with this, you stand in the muck and mire and you dwell in the junk and you make beauty out of it. You told Kelsie this was done. You know you can’t run. You know that moving won’t solve it. You know that leaving does nothing, it only creates another lost home, and you will carry the problems with you in the backseat with the registration forms for work on Sunday night. You will buckle them in like little children and by moving you will just nurse them towards adulthood. Go. Back.

But we were moving around corners now, and the silver white snow was real. There were flecks of it kicked up off the road that sparkled in my headlights. We had climbed up and up and I did not want to turn around. The lights from the other side were somewhat blinding as we wound in lanes that at some points seem to blur together. I could not always see well, so I kept my eyes focused on the car ahead of me, those round red lights leading me farther up and further in. The lanes shifted or disappeared altogether, thanks to the mag chloride that strips away the paint every winter and especially this one since the mountains have been hammered with endless snow.

I saw the Eisenhower tunnel coming and I sped up to pass a semi that had needled his way a little too close to my front end. The green lit arrows are meant to lecture those passing through that we are not to change lanes. The Eisenhower tunnel would be a catastrophic place for a car accident. So I rolled down my windows again and listened to the sound of the cheering crowd in the tiled roof, echoing between the fire doors spaced so evenly throughout the 1.69 miles (or 2.72km).

It was bizarre. I felt… free. And yet I felt trapped.

I knew I’d come back.

But for a few minutes that added up into 3 hours, I pretended I would not.

I hit Dillon and Silverthorne before I finally consented. I got into that right hand lane. If I hadn’t been blocked in by another car, I think I might have changed my mind. But I got off. I saw signs for Frisco and Steamboat. I thought to myself, just because I’m off I70, doesn’t mean it has to end. I could go to Steamboat. Maybe I could find the house we stayed in, maybe I should call the Collins. I could go the long way round to Frasier. I could knock on the door at the Jackson’s. They would let me in.

But I knew it needed to end. I’ve indulged the need for long enough.

This has to end. You said it would. You said it had.

You must, must, end this.

I drove up through Dillon for a little bit. I drove past a snowy bus stop. There were people there, waiting. Waiting like the rest of us. One held a guitar. Another had oddly patched pants that were baggy and his sweatshirt did not fit. There were people with back packs and another in a restaurant uniform that I could see beneath his thin jacket. They looked like Seattle-ites, somehow. Because they were people.

I went back down the hill. I got into the right hand lane, and with determined shifting from third to fourth to fifth and back down to fourth, I began the climb out of Dillon, out of Silverthorne, back up to the pass and from there down to Ingrid’s.

I flew over the Continental Divide where the waters change their course. I felt heavy. I felt empty. But I knew this was right. By now there was no radio and I had turned to the iPod shoved in the pocket of my vest. I had plugged it in with fumbling hands just past that runaway truck ramp on the Westward side of the highway. David Crowder came on, it’s strange to hear him so often when I avoided him after that epic freshman year in college when I listened too much. He spoke of a collision, and that’s what this is right now I think. It’s like a slow and steady meeting of all the things from past and hopeful present. It’s so damn messy, all of this. But it’s so perfect, so beautiful, everything I prayed for. I am scared, yo know. I am sad sometimes. I am hurting. The same things go wrong again and again. But somewhere, Jesus comes to heal our hurts, to bind up the broken hearted and bring us home to him.

I had to pull off in Silver Plume for a Starbucks. The barista was just a little too friendly, I wanted him to stop talking and just hand me my latte already! But then he made me laugh. While the blonde kid whose hair drooped into his eyes steamed my soy and measured out my vanilla, the dark haired boy was talking with a friend about how he had nothing to do that night. She told him to call some girl named Becca. As the floppy haired barista handed me my latte with a dutiful smile, the friendly one laughed and said, “but I don’t know if I want to make out with a crazy girl!” He caught my eye and grinned almost sheepishly as I laughed. “It’s probably a good thing to avoid,” I remarked and held my latte in the air to bid them farewell. “Happy weekend!”

“Drive safe!”

So I did. I got into my car after almost being run over by a fricking Hummer and I texted a friend. I was driving, I said. I was driving but I was coming home now. Bebo Norman sang to me about being the preacher who lost the faith. Being the promise I’m about to break…again.

I had to find my way across four lanes of traffic to the exit ramp for C470 where I followed a Dakota Dodge with a full cab and a driver who looked just like Jason. But I hardly noticed at first, while Crowder promised to be fully Yours.

Bebo’s right. I’ll break that promise, I break it every day.

But I promise, I am full of earth, but I’ll be fully Yours.

And someday, can I please come home to you?



*obviously not. I’ve done the Denver-SD commute. 6pm to 6am is not physically possible.

sidebar to non-Colorado people: Eisenhower=Westbound and Johnson=Eastbound


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