Mental Canvas

Doesn’t a long excursion to the country sound extravagant during the Christmas season? Who has time for that, right? I want one anyway and I aim to get it. I do some of my best thinking on an empty road. Today, I prefer an open road, one without much traffic and very few trees to block my view. I want to see for miles.

Do you ever feel like the city walls are closing in on you? I’m thankful that in the surrounding areas of Houston we have nature reserves, lakes, bayous, and plenty of lifestyle nature parks for a quick retreat. Unfortunately, parks aren’t what I’m looking for this morning.

I recall having a conversation with my Grandma K while driving near Superior, Wisconsin years ago. I was up in the northern part Wisconsin visiting her and the neighboring areas. We had decided to rise early, drive to Lake Superior, then board a ferry all in an effort to experience Madeline Island for the day. I made a mental note to acknowledge how important this time with my grandmother would be and I’d chosen not to let it slip away once my visit was over. Time with our beloved grandparents will slip away from us, we all know it will.

Our wilderness drive was producing a lot of laughter. We’d successfully updated everyone in the car on how life was going and even pulled off at a road side store to purchase cheese curds. Stopping for cheese is a welcomed event. An experience you don’t put off for another time just because you have a scheduled day ahead of you. We were relishing our time together. We’ve never had enough time together.

Stop. Back to the cheese. I can’t focus until we talk for a second about Wisconsin cheese.

Northern Wisconsin is an adventure in of itself, but they also have great cheese. When driving in this part of our country, buy cheese when the cheese curd opportunity beckons you from the side of the road. You pull over and you purchase more than you think you need. You must eat cheese when you see cheese, and you’ll do it happily. Trust me. There is no other way, not if you’re going to pay homage to the cheese respectfully.

Okay, back to Grandma and my need for a lucid drive.

Anyway, we were on the road and I think every story she or I shared had been interpreted. This delay was by me saying something similar or even exactly to, “Just look at the trees, Grandma. They’re everywhere and so beautiful, you must never get tired of looking at them.”

To that she replied with an absolute reaction. “I can’t stand them.”

Yea, that’s Grandma K, she doesn’t mince her words.

She grew up in Wisconsin, raised her family in Kansas, and moved back north when I was a child. She went on to tell me that she didn’t appreciate the tall oaks, cedars and pine trees blocking her view every day, usually all day long. She explained they inhibited her ability to see everything around her. She simplified it by comparing northern Wisconsin to Kansas. She noted that moving to the grasslands of Kansas had been startling, because she could see across the great plains for miles.

What she helped me realize is that none of the topography she encountered in Kansas blocked her mental canvas. Apparently, she preferred a clear view, and now I’m beginning to understand why. The open road of life provides a beautiful picture of this miraculous world we’ve been given. It’s satisfying to get out and experience it.

This story remains in my mind fifteen years later. At the time I remember thinking that she had a point. I can’t tell what’s beyond  the next curve, either. And yeah, it does feel a bit like the trees are closing in on me. Yet, I still found myself lost in the idea of what could happen inside those trees. I still look at groups of trees and create stories. I enjoy being surrounded by them.

What’s really funny about the whole day is that this conversation, out of all the important conversations a granddaughter should remember having with her aging grandmother, is the one that resonates with me. Our discussion still comes to mind when I go for a drive. She nailed it. She and I are similar in this need to fight our way out of the junk, which can smother our view. My mental canvas also needs an open road, if only for a short drive.

Today, our conversation weighs on my mind. Grandma’s right, being able to see the sky from left to right and witness the horizon in front of me, is what I routinely crave, as well. My drive needs to be where I can see this abundance of life that God created. I feel this gravitational pull to remember that there is a bounty of life we miss out on when we don’t get out for a drive . I owe it myself to go looking for an open road. I owe it to my mental canvas.

12 thoughts on “Mental Canvas

  1. Oh I love road trips. I’ve taken them across the country with both my kids and had a ball. We talk, watch movies, talk, observe, talk. One trip, I cataloged all the techie stuff we used to get from A to Z (like an app to tell us about traffic in cities like Houston).

    My son’s headed for Fort Bliss (south of you?) in February. I’m going to see if I can tag along.

  2. Love this story, Audrey, and your wonderful memories with your Grandma. Wisconsin cheese is a must, and must be eaten in large quantities to be appreciated. My daughter went to Madison for her freshman year, missed her family, and is now at the U of M…..we will all miss that Wisconsin cheese and Ice cream. I love going for drives and getting lost in the country…do agree, something about that openness that is refreshing!!!

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