Driving I-95 N. With Nepo.

Wednesday 6:30 pm.

12 1/2 hours after I stepped in my office, I get into car. I need to get home. Dinner. Digestif –  spoon and half-pint of Talenti Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato. (Tongue slides over sweetness on lips.) Then Bed. Then do it all over again.

I flip open Waze, which signals 45 minutes to get home. Just shy of 2x the normal commute. Painful.

I can save 10 mins (per Waze) bypassing fives miles of I-95 by taking the backstreets, before spilling back onto 95.  Construction? Accident? WTH knows? And yet, it’s a coin toss. Get stuck on back streets in traffic, and good luck finding your way out of that labyrinth.

But 10 minutes is 10 minutes.

I take the back streets.

And so apparently do hundreds of my closest friends following Waze.  It’s stop and go. Narrow 2-lane roads. 4-way stops. Near standstill. Damn, and you knew better.

Hand moves to radio dial. I can’t find the right tune. I can’t find a talk show. I’m sickened by the news. I give up. Restless. Tired. Eyes heavy. Traffic nudges forward, inches ahead. I shift in the seat. Right and then left. I re-grip the steering wheel. Sitting all day. Sitting in the Car. I breathe. I sit. And sit. Lower back twitches. I don’t like it either.

Another standstill (sort of, near standstill.) I grab my smartphone to check emails. Eye pans the Unread. I open an email marked Urgent! Commuter behind me leans on the horn. I put phone down, glare at him in rear view mirror, moving ahead to the next light. Mind reverts to Urgent! email which I can’t shake. Can’t solve that now.

Traffic moves to the next light.

Mind flits from one thought to the other. A Hummingbird, without the grace, without the peace, without the nectar or the flowers. Meetings. Work. Calls. Past dues. Tomorrow’s calendar.

Traffic crawls up to the next light.

Shoulders tight, stomach upset (from what?), can’t get comfortable in seat.

I turn up the air conditioner and adjust the vents.

Another 4-way stop. Then another light.

As I wait, staring at the red taillights in front of me, Nepo shows up. I bought his book 8 months ago. 8 months! I’m 30 pages in. And like most books on poetry, or physics or biology, or, or, or, or…I don’t get most of it, it makes me feel stupid, and yet I can’t seem to let go.  Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living. ‘Field Notes on Living.’ Yep, must be why I can’t let go, need major help here. Live and Learn. ‘Things That Join the Sea and the Sky.’ I glance at my smartwatch. A mere 2,100 steps since 4:30 a.m. Or maybe for me, ‘Things That are Affixed to Their Desk.’ 

I edge the car through the intersection, drive a mile to the next light. Cars are bumper to bumper. Waze re-forecasts commute time. “Delays. Heavy Traffic. Time to destination + 10 minutes.” I smile. It’s not like you didn’t know it DK.  Just had to keep moving. Just couldn’t sit still.

Nepo continues. “What have you been through? And how does it make you the way you are? The hard part is getting to a place soft enough…” ‘The hard part is getting to a place soft enough...’ ‘Hard part…getting to a place soft enough…”

Traffic moving, 1.3 miles from the on ramp to 95.

Four cars ahead of me brake suddenly.


Traffic at a standstill, in both directions. No stop lights. No four-ways. No 2-way stops.

And it’s quiet.


No horns.

Everyone sits and waits. Huh?

And then they come.

Father in front.

Three goslings, babies, furry, scrambling to keep up.

Mother trails, neck bobbing up and down and back and forth, urging them forward. “Come on Kids. They’re waiting. We need to get off the highway.”

I watch them waddle into the yard across the street.

Traffic resumes. I follow.

Tension flees…

Hard part…getting to a place soft enough…”


Notes: Photograph: Nathan MacDonough with Driven. Inspired by William Wordsworth (via The Hammock Papers) from “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802”:

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


  1. Glad you landed gently.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “A Hummingbird, without the grace, without the peace, without the nectar or the flowers.”

    How did you come up with this one?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This was akin to the urban version of “Take the Backroads”. On the other hand, you never know for sure where Waze is sending you, but we hope for the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your beautiful, nerve-wrecking writing is only JUST surpassed by that procession of fluffy, cute, terrified goslings. Thank you for still writing when you so deserve some sleep….. (but then you don’t sleep, so that’s quite ok).
    Love from France, also a 7+h weekly (twice) car trip with arrival Fri night 11:15pm

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing the hard part …. and the reminder that we all want to get to that soft spot. Beautifully written 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kalabalu WordPress says:


    Liked by 1 person

  7. So it was worth the effort to take the detour. Funny how the small, “real” things can still put a smile on our face.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Relax... says:

    🙂 We must more often wish one another impromptu gosling parades.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh love the ‘soft part’ and it is often nature that awakens this in us! A beautiful reminder of this Mr K, even in the chaos. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. the soft spots are what keep us going, just when we reach the point where we don’t think we can anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My grandmother used to urge me to hold tight to “the pause that refreshes.” Think that mama and her babies knew just what you needed, pal. Hope that you and yours will NOT be on the roads this holiday weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The magic of the little things in nature. Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

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