It is a stretch of highway best navigated with brain cells made nimble by an over abundance of caffeine. Coffee or tea, it doesn’t matter, just as long those synapses required for snap decisions and fluidity of thought have been adequately electrified by the elixir known through the ages to pierce the torpidity of morning and render the dullard awake. Seven lanes, sometimes more, teeming with cars that zip right along at exorbitant speeds, bobbing and weaving like a school of piranha - it is a thoroughfare for which the timid of heart are most certainly unsuited. I learned to drive on this road and I suppose it is a testament to my unflappability that I continue to travel it on a regular basis, my speedometer registering numbers compatible with those on either side of my little green car. But, ever since my last trip to Scotland, I never travel it alone. There is a face that pops into the front of my mind, without fail, at a certain bend in the road.
I first encountered this face in a small coastal village in Aryshire. We had entered Ballantrae still bedazzled from a stormy night spent in a castle of storybook proportions. An early morning sun bounced off the waves in the Irish Sea, reflecting the gauzy colours of Easter over the lane of white buildings hugging the shore. Soft pinks, warm golds - the tiny village shimmered like a dreamscape. Even the cemetery looked inviting. We got out of the car, lifted our faces to the sun and the spray, trying to breathe it all in. As I had letters to mail, I popped into the village store and made my way back to the post office window where I was greeted by a handsome young man with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy at his side. Of course, I can never resist a large-pawed puppy, so the fellow and I were soon conversing like old familiar friends instead of what we actually were, strangers. He noticed my accent.. (accent?) and asked where I was from. When I told him, he broke into a grin and told me he absolutely loved my town - loved the restaurants, loved the stores, and particularly loved to drive the highways. Incredulous, I told him I doubted that he actually knew what the highways were like and mentioned the highway I spoke of above. “Oh, I love that stretch of road.”, he exclaimed and proceeded to provide an accurate description of every exit, every bend. “Ah, I love to be in the sixth lane with my exit comin’ up and know I have to get all the way over in a matter of seconds! It’s so excitin’! I’d just love to live there. You don’t know how lucky you are!” I shook my head in utter bafflement and said.. “But you live in paradise!”
“Ah. It’s boring”, he replied.
Dumbstruck, I left the shop and stood outside in that beautiful lane and wondered why we humans always seem to want what we don’t have. I have straight hair, and have always wished for curly. The dancer wants to sing, the painter wants to dance. The one who lives on the mountainside longs for a week by the sea. I wish every day to be on a hillside in Scotland, but in one of the most picturesque spots in that country lives a man who’d change places with me in a heartbeat.
I always regard this vague longing as a strictly human malady, for I cannot imagine Edward wishing to be anywhere other than by my side. But on a morning last week, I was traveling this notable highway and looked up to see a pair of Canada Geese flying low above the rushing river of cars. Just two of them, so far, far away from where they should be. And I wondered. Perhaps we poor humans are not the only ones occasionally afflicted with this vague longing for another place, another life.
Does the lion have dreams of the city, the mountain goat long for shore?