The Left

It’s that time again.

The weight of summer heat is lifting, and the wind is whispering the first signs of fall. It’s this way for me every year, and I’ve come to expect the breathless moments that come quickly, undeniably, and often with a hunger that can’t be satiated.

I was 17, maybe 18 when it began.

My father bought an old MGA from a newspaper ad, and began to restore it to it’s original splendor, which was quite a feat considering that it had been sitting in a barn for a few decades. It wasn’t much to look at, at least not initially.

But then again, most of our best lessons come from realizing we’ve used the wrong scale to measure value, don’t they?

It was a convertible, and the torn leather seats smelled of age and memories we would never know. He sat in it and I watched him breathe it in. At the time I didn’t know what he was breathing in, but I do now.

When you were leaving our neighborhood, you could turn right and head into the main part of town. Littered with restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons and the chaos of life, it was convenient in a necessary kind of way.

But if you turned left, you would quickly end up on a winding road that felt like something out of a movie. For miles and miles there was nothing to see except trees that were towered tall and broad with invitation.

It wasn’t an easy car to drive. In the fifties they weren’t making luxury sport cars the way they do now. It was physically difficult to turn the steering wheel, and the clutch was short and unforgiving. The reverse on the stick shift was displaced from what I was used to, and it took me awhile to adjust.

When the first leaves began to fall, I took it out.

Left. I always turned left.

And about a mile down the road, with the music as loud as I could stand it, I felt like I could breathe. I mastered the clutch, intoxicated by how responsive it was-my bare feet balancing the pedals while crimson and rust-colored leaves fell by the dozens.

Hair all around me and not a single way anyone could reach me.

I whipped the corners while the tears raced back toward my ears and my eyes stung from the speed.

I could feel my fingers, sweaty on the leather-wrapped wheel while the sun splotched the road ahead of me, understanding freedom from a depth I couldn’t convey to anyone.

Even now I can’t explain it.

But I’m hungry for it. Aching for it. 

Eventually the road returns home, and life carries on. Dinner plates clanging on tables and papers to be sorted while the bath water runs. My suitcase lies empty on the bed, waiting for me to pack my beautiful clothes again, and I am grateful for the noises and the faces.

I am.

But when the wind starts to stir the grass and I catch myself staring out the window, I wonder if I’m the only one who ever wants to inhale the hours until the blood rushes again.

I find it still; I have to.

I know the way to the grocery store, the hotel lobby, and the reassuring glow of civil and gentle life.

And I live my days turning to the right, smiling and embracing all the goodness that lies there.

In my honest moments, though, I’ll tell you that I’m a girl who can’t live without the left, the wind-stung face and the roar of third gear at it’s limit just before fourth while I laugh because no one can hear me.

So if ever you should notice me staring wistfully into the distance, you’ll know why.

If you catch a look in my eye that doesn’t fit the pretty boundaries sketched out for me, or even in the event that I slip out of the room for a moment to let dusk sit on my skin-you’ll understand.

And you might even see me one day, sitting perfectly still in a car, breathing in that which was made to be more powerful than beautiful and more driven than displayed.

I suppose you could say I understand the value in that now.

It’s hard to resist the opportunity every now and then to flee-just for an hour or so-and let the roads remind me truths that often lie dormant in dinner parties and on stages.

Face flushed, heart pounding, ears ringing from it all-and summer gives way to fall again.

This life is only meant to be displayed and controlled to the extent that it glorifies God, but sometimes we get so lost in the logic that we forget what it sounds like to race against the nightfall. I know, because I’ve done it.

My fingers reach far above my head, reaching for the sweaters I packed away for them last year. As the box tumbles and they all spill out, I can’t help but smile.

I will dress them, comb their hair, and hang their dresses, yes.

But I will use the same hands that gripped the wheel, pulled the gearshift, and turned the volume all the way to the tip-top.

One day I’ll teach them how to drive.

And then I’ll watch them pulling left, wild with anticipation, and I’ll smile, knowing the truth of it all.

It’s the road that will teach them how to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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  • Jennifer

    Beautiful! Every once in a while I need to drive alone and dream. Free with my own thoughts and prayers to God who planted the dreams deep and continues to fuels them with His hands on the wheel of my life. And then the “road” I live everyday takes shape into His plan, even though sometimes I try to grab the wheel, He gently guides me, and I learn to follow.

    Great word!

  • Susan

    Even though it was just a “hint” here in North Florida, I smelled Fall for the first time yesterday. I noticed that immediately the smells brought certain thoughts and feeling to my mind. You nailed those feelings with this post. Thanks for taking the time to share. Maybe we’ll pass sometime on that road. ;)

  • Tammie Head

    Angie — I love this. Turning left these days to follow Jesus at all costs. Been knowing it’s coming for several years now. I think some are freaking out – scared I’m going to crash. But I’m happier than I’ve been in years. And I know Who has the wheel.:)

  • KD

    I get this.

    I’m 40 weeks pregnant with my first baby. This is my last weekend… ever… as a non-mom. People keep asking me what I want to do and one of the things that keeps striking me is that I want to drive at sunset, alone. With the windows down and a song that I can belt out. Maybe a Sonic drink and some Twizzlers. One of those last freedom rides where I’m not missing someone who is half of me, where I’m not feeling needed elsewhere, catching my thoughts escaping to laundry and bedtimes. Just me and this sweet anticipation of the life change I’ve been dying for and am simultaneously terrified about.

  • http://itwasbroughtonbylove.blogspot.com/ Southern Gal

    Oh, Angie, this (you) reminds me of my daughter. I’ll never forget the day she was able to drive alone, how she eased the car out of the driveway and how I noticed as she passed the house on the side road that she had the windows down, the music up and her long, curly hair blowing in the wind. When she arrived back home she told us of country roads, being lost, yet finding her way home again. She is the one who longs for the rainy day with no storms so she can run out and dance in it. When I see her all grown up now with two daughters of her own, I still see that 16-year-old girl who lives for breathing it all in. And she’s passing it on to her babies. (I love the left turns myself.) Hugs.

  • Jacqui

    Wow, this is so beautiful. I had to read it again and again to let it fully sink in. It’s amazing how God’s made us – to need the ordinary, the routine, the boundaries, and yet, to need the freedom, the wild, the adventure. All of it’s beautiful. And really, there’s a season for each one. Thank you for speaking to my soul. For encouraging me as a mother and a wife. For letting me ride with you in the wild grace He gives on this road we call life.

  • Debbie Feely

    Yes, I know it. As I read I pictured myself five-years-old running across a field into the fall wind. I love it; I seek it. The challenge is finding that in the midst of the summer doldrums. Lovely depiction, Angie. Thanks.

  • Kathy @ In Quiet Places

    I think we all need a road and a drive like that, I know I do, but I definitely drive it slower now, but I still breathe it in deep…this was such a great read as I wait and watch for fall in Texas.

  • Jessica

    Just what I am feeling …. Miss seeing your post. This was beautifully written by a amazing woman. Hugs from Alabama

  • ritalee

    What a life.

  • rjb

    Yes, Angie, yes! Even now, I see it in her preschool self – and the toddler before it – the “want to be high and far”, the soul-chase for something greater. Thank you for these words.

  • Lisa

    Wow….you captured all of that so beautifully. I think that you are an incredible writer. You really are able to put complex thoughts and vague emotions into very tangible words. I “felt” and completely understood everything you were describing. Thank you for always “waking up my soul” with your words. You have a gift.