Passing Through

by Jenna Schnuer on August 30, 2013

The hawk hovered above some tall grass, its talons pointed at something on the field below. It all seemed impossible. How anything could just stop midair like that. I never saw the bird go in for the kill. That moment, the hovering, was like a movie still. A mind snapshot captured on an Interstate highway as I drove across Ohio in late April 2012.

Some people sniff at the idea of driving major highways on a road trip. They seem to believe that all of life’s secrets are revealed on the back roads, that there is no life on the Interstate. While I love a dirt road or a curving county highway that splits off into three other curving county highways, I find just as much life on the wide paved roads that cut across or down the U.S. The moments are quick, but they’re there. Even on the days when orange cones funnel three lanes into one and a single flagman brandishing a stop sign brings the flow of carstrucksmotorcycleshorsetrailersbuses to a halt. On these long roads, the road atlas goes large. The flat of one state connects to the rolling hills of another. The Interstates tie everything together.

Before I started living two months here or three weeks there or sure I’ll come visit you 1300 miles away next week, I thought the Interstates useful. But little more. Point A to point B. Get there fast or, when in NJ and driving down the shore on a holiday weekend, at a crawl.

Now, I can spend hours driving down one straightaway without tiring of it. Even when a stretch of road threatens to make me antsy and I start cycling through music playlists to liven things up, the road always serves up a reminder that there’s more here than tar. With the sun behind him, a Mennonite man, his hat, and horse cart are thrown into silhouette as he drives across his field. A flock of starlings (or, at least, that’s what I imagine them to be) takes flight swooping just ahead of me, no straightaways for them. Or a field of sunflowers bursts yellow against green grass and a storm-cloud sky.

At times, the thought of so many people all going down one road but toward so many different lives threatens to overwhelm. Cars pulling trailers loaded with the family’s belongings, including toys that will, soon enough, be scattered around a new front yard. Trucks delivering goods from over here to way over there. Vans and RVs that, clearly, are the roving homes of other constant roadtrippers. Montana tomorrow. Perhaps Florida the week after? At night, I love the trucks with safety lights that outline their exteriors. The reds and oranges the brightest spots against a black sky. And the triple trailer FedEx trucks carting, I hope, at least a few gifts from one family member to another.

But, most often, it is a bird. A single bird that brings me joy. As I drive, a bird sailing on wind currents over the highway reminds that, luckily, we can only tame the world so much.

And, of course, every exit and rest stop offers the chance to be still in a place. I stop often. I look. And I’m always rewarded.

Mt. Vernon, South Dakota

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

alan schnuer August 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

makes me proud that you are my daughter. I love your writing. I visualize every
word that you write. Your writing creates pictures in my mind. Pictures that
bring extreme pleasure. Love, Dad


Jenna Schnuer August 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Thanks, Dad. Your comment made my day. Love you, too.


jane August 31, 2013 at 12:45 am

Feels like I am on the road with you. Thanks for sharing your travels; be safe.


Jenna Schnuer August 31, 2013 at 12:47 am

Thanks, Jane. And, I promise, always careful.


Kathryn August 31, 2013 at 3:20 am

Love! Love! Love! And love your dad’s writing, too! I agree and enjoyed being on the road with you while reading this. : )


Jenna Schnuer September 2, 2013 at 4:03 am

Thanks, Kathryn. Miss ya!


Laura Byrne Paquet September 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

This is such poetry, Jenna. Thanks for sharing!


Jenna Schnuer September 2, 2013 at 4:02 am

Thanks, Laura!


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