I dream a highway back to you, love

I have Gillian Welch’s “I Dream a Highway” in my head this morning.

Oh I dream a highway back to you love

A winding ribbon with a band of gold
A silver vision come and rest my soul
I dream a highway back to you

I find myself hurtling toward 40, a time of reflection, of taking stock. I like to think that the “you” is a former, perhaps more authentic self. The self of youthful dreams and possibilities. A self that believed that more was possible than was not.

Through my adolescence, I wrote compulsively. I wrote short stories, poems, kept a journal with religious fervor. I wrote letters – long, meandering, blushingly raw letters – to everyone I loved. It did not matter if they wrote back; some never did. The act of putting pen to paper grounded me.

I send a letter, don’t know who I am

I dream a highway back to you.

In college, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back. I wrote him letters and sent him my terrible poems. The impulse was to pour myself into him, to fill him with my words, my voice. I wrote myself into his life, imagined a life together. I chose not to see what I did not want to see.

I wish you knew me, Jack of Diamonds
Fire-riding, wheeling when I lead them up
Drank whiskey with my water, sugar with my tea
My sails in rags with the staggers and the jags

I dream a highway back to you.

I write to be heard, to be known. To claim space in the world. Even if only to one person at a time. Here, these words are for you. And these, too.

I’m an indisguisable shade of twilight

Any second now I’m gonna turn myself on

In the blue display of the cool cathode ray

I dream a highway back to you.

These months leading toward 40 have been strange and highly-charged. I am in a constant state of arousal – in every sense of the word. I am raw. An exposed nerve. I find myself crying at the post office, in line to buy stamps: I see a woman holding the hand of her toddler daughter, in a dress like my own daughter might have worn. Or, I see an elderly couple bickering softly in the grocery check-out. Or my son writes his name in big blocky letters beneath an outline of his own small hand.

What will sustain us through the winter?
Where did last year’s lessons go?

Sometimes, I think about what will happen next as if my life were not my own. As if some external force were shaping it, and I only had to keep showing up, moving along in the expected ways.

What will the winter hold? The next year? The next decade?

I don’t know, but I’m holding on.

Walk me out into the rain and snow
I dream a highway back to you.