Sunday, April 22, 2012

I started traveling  by bus when I was in college.I ranged form the East Coast to the Midwest.I traveled for conferences, to visit friends who had moved away, and to see some of the places friends had come from. I traveled from New York City to Minneapolis, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Durham, Richmond, and they became familiar to me and left an indelible imprint. The small towns along each route some lovely, some nondescript, some beckoning, some forgettable, showed me views I could never have traveling by train.

I traveled mostly in late afternoon and evening or throughout the night. It saved a night's expense, but part of the reason was I loved nighttime travel. For a true night person, the night is magical.

There is a sense of peace and anonymity in nighttime bus travel. The driver speaking in lowered tones even for announcements, the other passengers either silently looking out the windows or whispering to one another, establish a sense of intimacy that is lacking during daytime travel.The whole world seems either resting or asleep. And the motion of the bus as it speeds along is lulling. I did some of my best thinking and writing at night on these trips. I still do.

William Least Heat Moon spoke of blue highways in his book of the same name that recorded his travels across the United States. I never could envision what he meant until one day on one of my own trips I was fortunate enough to see a blue highway. The time of day was late afternnon; a bit of sunlight was still evident although dusk was moving in. I glanced at the physical highway and in that perfect light, the highway appeared to be blue liquid. It has never happened again since, although I have taken many bus trips over the years. I treasure the rarity and beauty of that moment when I saw what he saw.

And I hope one day I may see a blue highway once again.

Iowa Rest Stop

A green field level, closely cropped, moving gently in the moist air,
And an orange-pink swath of clouds skimming it.
Above, a single line of white jetstream, the tail reflecting
the last shimmer of sunlight,
 streaking across a purpling sky,
 angling up and across my vision.
To the right, a small, clapboard, gray-shingled shack,
the single window slanting toward the highway.
And the silence between dusk and night:
Twilight in Iowa.

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