Saturday, January 11, 2020
The road home ....
"He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night."
― Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"
Tom Wolfe was a writer of novels, dramas, short stories and novellas. One of his books was the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," published in 1940, about two years after his death. Much of his work was autobiographical and impressionistic.
Seeing this ice-covered road brought the title of the novel immediately into my mind. This Dakota road was among my challenges to "get home again" for a few years. In winter, it often was a sheet of solid ice as it is in this photograph taken a few weeks ago. More than once the vehicle I was in slid down it, usually when going up it and failing to travel higher than the point where the road appears to end, sometimes turning completely around a few times, twice going off the road. There were occasions, when after a few failed attempts to reach the "summit," I parked at the bottom and walked up it, then another mile and one-half or so to my house.
A photograph might tell a thousand words, but these do not reveal the entire story of "my" hill. The second photo shows a bit of the twists and turns in the road as it approaches the hill. Try getting your vehicle up to a level of speed while managing to stay on the road rounding the those curves and the sixty-degree one at the base and then slip and slide and fishtail and spin your way to the top.
And, the top of the hill is not even visible in the first photograph -- it goes on for another thirty yards, then has a ninety-degree uphill turn followed by another sixty-degree uphill turn before finally leveling out about a total of another hundred yards out of sight in the photo.
I made up my mind early on to think of reaching the top as a game and actually became quite adept at making the run -- and, enjoying the winter wonderland walk in the dark those instances I did not make it all the way. Sometimes my trek would be following the road, at other times cutting through the woodland .... what better way to find uninterrupted time for thinking? I also like to believe that years of driving on icy roads and my misspent youth racing cars on frozen lakes gave me and edge for handling this hill, too.
All this, of course, has little to do with the story of the protagonist in Wolfe's novel except for me to transfer the notion of going home from a mostly psychological to a primarily physical challenge. I will save the mostly psychological element for another day. By the way, the book is well worth reading, as are all of Wolfe's works ....