Driving through the Dark

The tail lights in front of me disappeared when I drove to Alamosa in the night. All I could see was the double yellow line, with its slow curves and consistency, rounding the road 50 yards ahead. The darkness – deep and rich on the eve of a new moon – tunneled the beam of my brights, blacking out everything on the periphery.

It’s said that awareness is simply observing the external world, along with your internal thoughts and emotions, as they pass through you. That’s what happened to me on the drive: I was conscious of the creeping cold coming in through my car, of the steady climb in altitude, and the sudden heaviness of shadows bearing down on all sides; the disorientation of looking into opaque rearview and side mirrors.

With both hands white-knuckled on the heated steering wheel, I could feel the energy change inside me, from excitement to survival. I was a woman, all alone, in the middle of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I do not know how to change a tire. There are endless rabbit holes the facts of your life will take you down, spiraling as questions about your past answer whether or not you are adequately prepared for an impending plethora of worst case scenarios. Will my karate skills as a child protect me from getting raped and murdered as an adult?

As these thoughts came up, however, I decided to acknowledge them and let them go with a nod and a wave as they carried on and out of my consciousness. I wasn’t going to be held captive by their energy, paralyzed by a fear that was only going to cause suffering for the remainder of the drive. I needed all my wits about me, which meant that I needed to relax and enjoy the ride.

I returned to my senses.

Breathing has always been the art of coming back into the body. I can see the road in front of me. I can hear Jim James on my Spotify playlist. I can feel the heat of my Jeep circulating, the after taste of an electrolyte tablet, and the smell of the outside, in here with me. The darkness I was traversing was not an aloneness, a dumb isolation, but an intense connection. I thought: to be alone is to be with your self; to be in spirit is to have faith.

In less than 48 hours, I would drive this road again, but in the morning light of a new day as I headed home, back the way I came. The sensory contradictions were stunning. The closeness of the night had opened up into an immense stretch of geographic vastness: rolling foothills snow-covered and shining underneath a blue so vivid, it hurt my heart. In the distance, the 14,351-foot marvel that is Blanca Peak, sitting quietly, contently among her sisters along the mountain range. It was impossible to imagine this incredible beauty while driving through all that darkness, and yet, here it was, and there I was, crying like a baby in its arms.

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