It’s not often I get out of bed before sunrise. However, today was one of those mornings. As I made my way to the grocery store to fetch a supply of coffee and juice, I was reminded of my drive home the previous evening, right around dusk. The reminder was about the two most “dangerous” times of day to drive, dawn and dusk, and I had managed to do both in less than 12 hours. The experience now had different meaning.
The lesson of danger had its roots in my early driving lessons with my dad. He would have me drive not far from where we lived…on the backcountry roads…two lanes of concrete weaving their way through the wooded areas like the many small streams that paralleled our course. Since my dad worked long days, we would either drive before he left for work or when he came home after the sun had nearly set. In either case, there was little danger of me running into another car. However, only a hint of the sky’s light was available for my “daytime” lessons.
The danger he warned me about came from the animals that lived in the woods and the potential of them crossing the road during their normal feeding times. Deer, raccoons, owls, foxes, snakes, rabbits or mice were likely to be moving about in the dim light. I was more than concerned about the damage such an encounter would do to my car. I learned to drive with extreme caution and developed an abnormally heightened awareness of my surroundings.
I still do visual scans of both sides of the road, searching for movement at the point where my headlights meet the dark shadows. I test my skill in spotting camouflaged critters in the bushes or meadows, or look for the reflection of my headlight in an open eyelid, a shadow crouching in a ditch. Once in awhile a large bird, flying fast and low across the road in front of me in pursuit of fleeing prey, will actually cause me to flinch or duck in anticipation of a possible collision. (Yes, it makes me smile, too.) The knowledge gained from those early lessons and innumerable animal sightings since have only validated the importance of being especially attentive when driving at dawn or dusk.
As I now live in a somewhat urban setting, the sound of a haunting train whistle is more likely to be heard than an owl’s screech. Still, there are opportunities to travel backcountry roads and encounter wildlife. I drive more slowly than limits dictate. My attention is focused on an unexpected but welcome encounter with four-legged or winged creatures. I get lost in the moments of anticipation and time has no meaning. There is only an awareness of the interconnectedness of Life, of Nature, if one is willing to pay attention to it.
This awareness brought a new lesson to my mind during the recent dusk-lit drive. As the sun settled quickly behind the mountains in the west, the last sparks of light shot toward the darkening sky and clouds as if flares were set off to capture someone’s attention. I likened the shadowy road before me as Life, my current existence of expression and uncertainties in this world of form. The sun’s rising that morning symbolized my birth into this Life. The setting sun is the time of transition, when my soul will at last depart this world and move along to its next adventure. And what of those sparks of light? Those are the joy my soul will feel when it sees before it how much more Life there is yet to unfold and experience in the eternal Now.
Yes, I will keep my eyes on the road and surrounding landscape…to be aware of potential dangers, wonders, challenges and exhilaration on my journey. I am also blessed by and grateful for the light and darkness of each day…for all the shadows and creatures that cross my path or peek at me from the sidelines as I go by. Life is full and rich and filled with delightful, wonderful lessons. Thank you, God!