Sunday, December 17, 2023


Whenever I travel, whether I take a long drive down I-95 or fly on a plane, I always become anxious, worrying about the traffic, gas prices, delays, and even my patience and endurance. A long trip is challenging enough, but I also want to arrive safely and of sound mind. So, as I embark on a lengthy trip, I find my old white woven rope rosary in the box atop my dresser at home and drape it over my neck as I am about to leave. I just feel as if I do this, I carry with me an extra bit of divine protection. Nothing provides comfort like a good spiritual ritual.

Even up on my visor, I have a guardian angel clip my Mom gave me long ago for my trips back and forth between West Virginia and North Carolina. The angel clip remains constantly, transferring from one vehicle to the next. I don't receive literal protection from the rosary or guardian angel. They are just objects made of thick, white string and embossed metal. Neither the woven rosary nor the guardian angel clip carries much comfort without the faith and understanding that must accompany both of them.

Recently I took a trip down south to Wilson, North Carolina, to enjoy a nice, long weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's one of those yearly trips I love, touching base with my son, Robert, and his wife, Emily, and the grandkids to check in and see how they're doing. This year, I decided to head down because it was Kaylee's birthday party weekend, and I had never had the opportunity to be there for one of these birthday extravaganzas. This year was a Neon Glo party, and I simply could not miss that.

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with driving on a trip. It is a serious, body-altering grind to drive 500 miles in one day. It is what it is, and I do not mind the physical repercussions of driving it since it takes me somewhere I want to go. We have all made trips like this; they are something that we do, particularly around the holidays. This time, though, I discovered something interesting during the drive.

I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when I noticed the light snow that had accumulated on top of some of the mountains in the higher elevations. It was so beautiful to me, almost new. How often have I driven these roads throughout the years? How often have I sped a few miles above the speed limit but never really looked at the horizon in the manner I did at this moment? During this trip, I didn't know what it was, but I illegally grabbed my phone, and put two hands on the wheel to snap a picture. I shouldn't have been this reckless, but I was so careful. The traffic was calm; hardly anyone was around me, and I slowed down. I just had to capture these mountains in a picture.

Interestingly enough, as I continued to drive, moving from Pennsylvania to Maryland and then down into Virginia, I noticed how the horizon changed constantly. Where I had once seen beautiful mountains of snow in Pennsylvania, I began to see a different type of sky in Virginia: beautiful, billowy clouds with streams of sunlight shining down onto the roads. Absolutely gorgeous. I took another picture.

I drove down Interstate 95, which was actually quiet and uneventful, particularly since I was driving on an early Thursday morning. I embraced the opportunity to continue my observations of the horizon. I still carefully took pictures because I wanted to revisit these images again when the entire journey was finished. I took pictures in Northern Virginia. I took pictures driving I-295 around Richmond. I took pictures as I entered North Carolina. I had gone from mountainous regions full of hills and valleys to the curves of 95 through Virginia to the straightaways of North Carolina.

The horizons were my obsession not only driving down but also on the long journey home to West Virginia. Days after I returned home, I revisited the pictures and the sequence in which I took them. I'm trying to understand why. Was I searching for a message? Is it possible that God was speaking to me through the horizon he had laid before me?

I started to think about what these different horizons meant to me in my life, as they all seemed to trigger different feelings. Driving across Pennsylvania with snowcapped mountains, I felt the times in my life that were quiet but sadly alone. As I hit Virginia, I saw the billowy clouds, the ones that were keeping away the light. I thought to myself about times when my life was full of clouds, challenging times when I didn't always see the light until it forced its way through. And then, as I drove through North Carolina, I saw the clearness of a horizon that went on and on, a world wide open to me. It is a horizon that I chase but never quite reach. And yet, I still enjoy the journey of searching while never quite arriving.

Each horizon offered a different story on this cathartic journey. I don't know if it was the woven rosary that hung around my neck or the guardian angel that was clasped on my visor, but I felt a calmness that I had never felt on other journeys, a quiet companion who accompanied me on my journey, one who has always been there.

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