Driving in the Dark

A few observations struck me upon arriving in Sacramento and picking up my rental car around 1am on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Firstly, that the night air felt more humid than what I’d been used to in LA, and it felt good. My skin, hair, everything about my particular composition seems to thrive in humidity. Definitely need more tropics in my life. Secondly, the roads were MUCH smoother than in LA. (I’m sure the rental car also made for a much smoother ride than my 21-year-old vehicle.) I set off across the 5 South, 80 East and 49 North hoping to make record time on the near-empty roads to a bed in a trailer on some farmland in Nevada City, to get some sleep before one of my best friends would be getting married in about 9 hours.

My lovely, goofy, Energizer-bunny friend of 12 years was marrying an equally lovely, soft-spoken, tuned-in Brazilian who studies The Human Design and elicited help from a Vedic astrologer in choosing their wedding date. Hence, the wedding fell not only on a Thursday, but in the morning. (The day turned out to be quite magical, with a rainbow fully encircling the sun, which I’d never seen before, and ‘summer snow’ floating through the air from cottonwood trees.)

A majority of Nevada County residents subsist quite well outside the 9-to-5 lifestyle (and when is it ever just 9-5 anymore? ++9-6++ phrasing just hasn’t yet taken over), so it was no big deal for most of their friends to attend the ceremony and party. However, I was still working a corporate job, feeling perpetually deprived of vacation time, hence squeezing in this late-night journey after a full workday.

I played music loudly to help keep my energy up, and drove through increasingly dark areas until I knew the blanket blackness on both sides was nothing but forest. Previewing the trip on Google Maps earlier in the day, I’d marveled at how my friends lived in the ‘green’ part of the map, versus my Los Angeles neighborhood, which was a gray tangle of roads.

I thought of other road trips I’ve taken, much longer ones, driving through southwestern states where desert landscapes gradually yield to hill country and forested eastern flatlands in Texas. One time driving through a severe thunderstorm in Texas that forced me to be tensely, utterly present in the moment navigating through the blinding sheets of rain that pounded my car. One time in LA, driving an ascending part of Highway 2 where incredibly thick fog reduced visibility to near-nothing. One time in northern Washington, returning to Seattle from a day trip to Vancouver, when a full moon provided immense help in navigating rural roads.

On this night, the thinnest sliver of crescent moon offered me no illumination, but thankfully there was no inclement weather to slow my progress. However, I had moments catching myself in nervousness where my mind and body seemed to disconnect briefly, or egoic fear emerged to doubt the tight juxtaposition of the road illuminated by my headlights and that which I was already passing, this curvy, unfamiliar road in the deepest darkness.

Then I remembered a quote I’d heard within the past year that strongly resonated with me, attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.” Something I greatly wished to apply to my personal life, anticipating a transitional period but still consumed with a lot of fear and conditioning. If ever there was an occasion to practice that faith, this was a perfect way to begin the trip, which turned out to be an abundantly heart-filled, inspiring, love- and life-affirming celebration. I perfected an easy speed, enjoying the curves, breathing and singing with the music, and somehow felt back in sync with the present moment, as finite and fleeting as it is, continuously yielding to the next. Driving inch by inch, foot by foot, moment by moment. The drive flew by and soon I saw my landmark sign of “Rock Slide Area – Next 3 Miles” followed shortly by a lit lantern marking the entrance to my friends’ long driveway and welcoming me to my home for the next few days.

I couldn’t wait to see the beautiful natural surroundings in the daylight.

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