11.03.2006

Driving in Metaphor

I drive in what feels like premature darkness, clocks reset to standard time to allow us to awake in light and move early into evening. No matter how many years I live through this, the suddenness of the change startles me, leaves me commenting, “Look how dark it is already. And still so early. It feels so late.” My comments bore me, but I must say them as if the words spoken are an annual ritual to mark yet another passing year, much like those who count down and kiss on New Year’s Eve.

As I navigate to an unfamiliar location with the aid of printed Mapquest directions that I tilt to catch the shine of passing streetlights, I observe the accumulation of cars announcing rush hour. In the darkness, the traffic pattern seems behind schedule as if all the city’s workers put in overtime in a stunning act of coincidence.

I bypass the clogged, motionless freeway and push towards a canyon road to carry me over the hill to the valley, an area to which I seldom venture in the typical compartmentalization of Los Angeles life. Benedict Canyon Road leisurely bends and twists. Near the peak, the traffic abruptly slows as if the descent is more difficult than the climb, an odd rejection of gravity. My choice is either to accept the slow decline towards the flats of the valley, drive east, and then climb blocks up another canyon to my destination, or now to suddenly veer right onto the winding, hilltop Mulholland Drive, a road with a steep drop to one side. From there, I can eventually dip down to the valley via a less congested street.

On impulse I opt for Mulholland, more threatened by traffic than the winding road. But as soon as I do, I question my decision, noting the dark night and the relative unfamiliarity of the unlit street. 'Is this the best way to my destination?' I wonder. 'There are lots of bends. Will it take me even longer than the traffic-packed drive?'

As the thoughts escape my brain, I realize I’m driving in metaphor. The winding road. The unpredictable bends. Geography merging with self-reflection as I struggle with the question of whether any of my journeys are getting me closer to my desired life goals. I wonder if I’m on the right path, going the right way.

As the road banks and curves, the option of switching to easy freeway autopilot is unavailable. I must pay close attention. And I do. While direct forward movement welcomes habitual behavior, bends and detours require attention. The harsh drops to the left and the right are real threats. The unexpected turns demand a slower, more deliberate pace.

I glance at the expansive aerial of the lit city below and appreciate the view and the thoughtful journey this drive offers. My choice feels perfect, the drive unquestionably reflecting the structure my life. The life of repeated unknowns. The life of chances. The life of uncertainty. The life of the winding road.

And in that moment I recognize how I’ve grown from the risks, how the risks suit my personality and my quest. I can swallow a little of the fear. And I see the impact of the night coming early. The darkness made me focus better, made me concentrate. The same trip made a week earlier wouldn’t have been with the same trip. Timing is everything.

When I finally arrive at the address on my map, I set my parking brake and reflect. It may take longer to reach the destination on a windy road, it may be scarier and more intimidating, but it may be the only way to get to where you want to go.


4 comments:

acumamakiki said...

I love being able to read about Los Angeles here on your blog DeeZee. And I love how you capture what the time encapsulated in the car can give you, both good and bad.

V-Grrrl said...

Wonderfully written--visual and evocative.

Driving is a metaphor for life. I think that's why so many great songs and poems focus on cars and roads. Bruce Springsteen's work is dominated by images of cars, and racing and the lure and meaning of the highway as a means of escape, enlightenment, destiny. And everyone can quote Robert Frost's poem about the road not taken, not to mention one of my favorite Sheryl Crow songs, "Every day is a winding road." You have to love a song that begins "I used to ride with a vending machine repairman...."

jen said...

what a great piece. the journey truly is the destination.

ecm said...

I also talk indulge in the boring talk of lack of light...and even this, you've given a new spin. I like your title.