I remember being in the backseat of a Jeep, feeling really tired because I hadn’t slept in three days.
It was the beginning of summer, and the car was cutting westward through the wide, repetitive space of land known as Virginia.
I had the window down, and I leaned my head against the crook of the door. The wind whistled in an oddly soothing fashion as it whipped through my side, roughly tussling my hair before exiting abruptly through the opposite window. I didn’t like how this felt, so I slid my limp body up the doorframe until I could feel the warmth of the sun against my face.
I don’t know if the sun shines differently on a specific patch of Virginia highway, but on that particular day I would have been willing to make the argument.
Maybe it was because the summer was just beginning, maybe it was because I was in a car full of friends who had been talking about where we were heading for the previous year, but I’ve never felt the warmth of assurance in what I was doing like that before in my entire life.
The closest comparison I can make to what it felt like is taking a plunge into a freezing ocean on an extremely hot day.
It was receiving the instant sense of relief followed by a coaxing, radiant sensation when you reemerge and the heat in the air no longer bothers you. Rather, it invigorates you in the way you never thought a hot, sticky day could before you took that initial plunge.
It was that tingly sensation, paired with the wind, which due to my new posture was rushing unceasingly up through my nose and out of my mouth, that made me single out that point in time as worthy of remembering. It felt like a fire was nestling itself down deep into the back of my throat before I breathed it out. It was the strangest feeling.
With the rolling green hillsides streaking in and out of sight and the crisp air circulating in and out of my body and the sun caressing my cheeks affectionately, I felt like life itself was running through me just as surely as it was passing by outside of me.
It sounds crazy while I’m putting it down on paper, and my logical reaction to this whole episode as I write is that I was simply lucky not to have swallowed a bug. The only thing that I keep coming back to is the feeling, though, and I can feel it now just as strongly as I did on that day.
There has to be something to it.
Call me crazy, and maybe I am, but if being crazy is what caused me to feel that way on that particular day, I’m content with my insanity.
When I think back on that day, I try to recall it more within the scope of where I was in my life rather than the idea that the sun and air in Virginia possess some type of magical qualities. Although, this could be possible. Try driving through the place. It takes forever, bordering on infinity.
Some things are cliché for a reason, and sometimes it’s because they are the closest things we have to Universal Truths.
Road trips with good friends are one of these things. You’re leaving someplace where you have been imprisoned by circumstance, and you are heading to a destination that is offering you a promise.
If nothing else, it’s a promise that you’ll end up somewhere different than you were before.
The bonds of friendship strengthen as you all share the burden of getting to the destination, each of you with the same ends in mind and sharing the same sense of adventurous spirit that spurred on the whole trip in the first place. This sense of adventure pervades everything, and the relative sense of the unknown excites your world, while the familiarity with those you’re sharing the trip with provides the overall sense that everything is OK.
When you can find that type of symmetry in an otherwise chaotic existence, everyday things like the sun and the wind can take on their own spiritual forms of being. It’s funny what feeling purposeful can do to a person. Reflecting back on these types of experiences is life affirming, and I think that the affirmation of a meaningful existence is the stuff of the best memories.
If you’re still reading this and you think I’m crazy, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you.
I will say, however, that when my time is almost up and I’m remembering the things I am grateful for, I will not be ashamed to recall the day where the wind tasted like fire and the sun kissed me on the face. I prefer to think of these things as an indication that I’m doing something right.