I sense it just about the time the freeway merges into only two lanes. Traffic thins; occasional semi trucks hug the right lane. Farms dot the landscape and cattle are found in clumps, and although you can't see the cowboys, you know they are there.
Snowy mountains, green sagebrush, and waving grasses greet me as I pass reservoirs, old barns, and the occasional rest stop. Each turn in the road brings back tides of emotion, tides of memory. The perfect recollection of each place causes me to pause and travel in the past for much longer than wanted. Or needed.
What is it about the smell of sage brush in the rain that reminds me of childhood? Even the smell of cow manure is welcoming --it means I'm almost home. Clouds have never looked so large --the stars are never so bright. Mountains are in the distance; hills, really. Buttes are hallucinations in the distance, but the river (winding like the snake it is) is ready and powerful.
Memories of silence, of perfect vistas, of smells and sounds only read about in novels are always lost on the younger mind. Only in maturity and adulthood can we revisit these places and know them for what they were...what they are...what they were meant to be... Senseless rushing to leave simplicity only leaves with us the craving for simplicity. For wind. For stars.
As I turn off the first exit to my hometown, I'm reminded of how many times I have taken the road. I pass by buildings that didn't exist and signs that no longer exist. Few memorials remain --a restaurant, a museum, a water tower. Change is inevitable. The only place where change is forbidden is in the memory. One cannot re-start the past: It is written in infallible ink. My memory haunts me, and yet it does not help me. Striving for the past is lunacy; but seeing the pictures of the past is privately perfect. A scrapbook of senses. Glimpses of innocence.
I cross the railroad tracks and turn onto the main road. My childhood home is near and my children start yelling with joy. I do not join them; the joy is already in my heart. I have remembered --pain, sorrow, joy, laughter. The passing scenes have left open the gate to my remembering and coaxed it out of the corner.
My Remembering will always be a welcome guest. Especially when traveling home.