They said this was a time of uncertainty. But the mountains stood there, certainly enough.
The scenery sped by, morphing, and the sky transitioned in its own time. I felt outside of time, mid-jump, neither where I had been nor who I was becoming. The steady rhythm of getting up each day and moving forward reflected a timeless aspect of humanity — have humans ever really known where they were going? Still, there is this urge to go. And in the comfort of forward motion, my mind could find some stillness.
In meditation, one sits still and allows all thoughts to pass without attachment. A cross-country drive could likewise be a path to enlightenment. Sit still. Simply watch everything as it goes by but do not get distracted by it. If my eyes track something as it passes, return them to the road. Don’t try to stop from seeing anything, but don’t get attached to it. Let it pass from my vision as quickly as it comes.
I saw a mountain thinking in the distance between two pale green Wyoming plateaus. It kept planting itself in front of me, a pile of thought-bubble clouds as white as its peak trailing upwards from it. The road would wind me out of its sightline and back again, and eventually the thought-clouds drifted apart and began to dissolve into a misty mass, which then blended with the sky. The mountain seemed happier and more peaceful, having released those thoughts. It seemed like it would laugh, overcome by its newfound lightness.
The terrain of the United States is untamable. Altitude varies thousands of feet. Rock, sand, clay, silt, water, every kind of earthly element find their extremes in this landscape. Someone saw that this country could be connected by roadways and railroads, and these were built through impossible geography. Now, there is a slice through the wilderness, on which one can coast along for thousands of miles.
I rode this space-time worm-hole and watched fog become clarity, and then crisp lines become watercolors. Everything functioned as it should — fuel stations, rest facilities, hotel room keys. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was talk on the telephone with friends. If the electricity went out during a storm, the phone line still worked, so I was content to spend time in a way I enjoyed. Something invisible kept functioning and allowed me to pursue my desires, and that was enough to distract me from any inconvenience.
There have been moments where I strained and pushed myself. When I have, it tasted acidic, and it felt like a bell that had just been rung, a metal vibration. Watch me make this quantum leap, I would think, and meanwhile something in me was compressed like in a sci-fi movie where they haven’t worked out the kinks of teleportation. My willfulness would tell me I could transport myself instantly from this place I don’t want to be to where I’d like to go, whether or not time and space could reasonably accommodate that transition in this moment.
Most often, I dance between willfulness and flow. Sometimes I force my way through, sometimes I am part of natural energy movement. With enough clarity of focus, I get there either way. The difference is whether I arrive shaking with fatigue or full of peaceful exhilaration.
There are eyes within my mind’s eye, always watching in the background, no matter what is playing out and how I’m playing into it. I was aware of people doing their jobs, keeping services operating, moving goods along the roads, filling me with the significance of the orchestration of the modern world. I could feel the determination to build roads through inhospitable terrain, drilling through mountains, sculpting around rivers, foot by foot, this roadway being laid, someone saying, we must go on. We must get all the way there.
After 4 days of driving, I got into bed and felt my body vibrating on the mattress, a struck gong. I told myself I would drift off to sleep and my body would release all of that stress as it rested. The biggest comfort was that I could tell myself anything at all. That even when I identify with my stress and put all my focus on pushing through, I am also there watching myself, always knowing I can make other choices in the future. I am my own witness to the fact that I am earnestly trying and doing the best I can. And knowing that if anyone really wants to build a road through a mountain range, they will find a way.
-Sarah Sloboda, May 2020 | Cleveland Family Photographer
All images © Sarah Sloboda 2020; do not copy or use without written permission.
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