I've found myself confined to the city the last few months--I try not to think of it as being caged, but sometimes it's the only word for it. Some days I'm caged in by all the cement, the sidewalks, the people, the cars. Some days I can't stand the way the horizon is fractured by buildings, the way the air is laced with telephone wires. I begin to get restless and anxious, I walk too fast and take the stairs two at a time, get snippy with my dog and baristas. Some days I scream in traffic and beat my hands on the steering wheel when I feel extra caged in, when I can't obey my instincts and let 'er rip. It's not fair, but it's the way it is.
Don't get me wrong, there are also days where I love the city. My heart beats for the way the lights glint off the river and I think I might burst, when I'm on the bus rumbling through the veins of Portland and I make eye contact with a stranger. Some days I could laugh for how much of myself I see in the places I've always been, how glad I am to get lost in the anonymity of city streets and in enormous bookstores. There are days where the pure, chaotic energy of the city feeds me, where I get drunk on the possibility of other people and the stories they've lived.
Sometimes it's a bitch, sometimes it's a beauty. The one thing I know is that if I don't get out enough I start to lose the balance between the two, and I begin to think of it as a cage. That's how I've felt a little in the last few months--I haven't been able to stretch my legs enough, not for real. So as soon as I was free of obligations--grades to submit, writing I had to do--I did what my soul's been craving. I hit the road.
There is no balm like the rumble of an engine is a balm. There is no grace like highway grace. There is no magic like road magic.
I've found I can always restore myself, come back to myself, if I drive. There's something in me that needs to see new sights, that needs the time and the white noise of a car to drown out the frustration and mundanity of daily life. I like to listen to loud music and sing off-key until my voice gives out, I like to talk to myself like I'm giving interviews, I like to watch my wheels eat yellow ribbon until it hurts my eyes. I like seeing the landscape change around me, the world made brand new by time. I like being somewhere new, the feeling when you first open the car door and look around. See where you've gotten.
I drove from the valley to central Oregon, and from there to eastern Washington. Some of it were stretches I'd never seen before, and some of it was the old familiar places I've been driving since I learned how. Either way, it did the trick. I'm back home now and feeling balanced. The city has become my playground again, a place of inspiration, a sight for road weary eyes...at least until my next road trip.