The world could swallow me whole if I let it.
The western countryside rolls on and on and on. It’s such a change from the hugging buildings and crisscrossed streets and closeness of my home that I’ve been happily silent for most of the car ride.
I’m riding with my cousin, who’d picked me up from the airport. Eventually. Apparently he’d driven in three complete circles before finding the place where I was waiting for him. It’s just over an hour drive from the airport to his house, and the landscape changed as soon as the airport disappeared behind us.
I’d forgotten how far land can stretch, hugging the curve of the earth with its bumps and divots. Rows and rows of crops mesmerize me as I stare out the window.
There are lovely smells of grass and summer breezes and good dirt, and there are unpleasant smells of cows and manure and hot rubber on blacktop.
My face is an open book as we encounter each new thing. I know I’m wide eyed in wonder at everything that is mundane to my cousin, but I don’t care. It isn’t mundane to me, so I wrinkle my nose, or stare, or point out the eleventh barn we’ve passed so far.
There is wildlife just off the road, and I know they aren’t deer, but I also can’t remember what exactly they are called. Their sandy brown coats and white bellies stick out just enough to be seen in the tall grass. Black horns poke up from their heads, the tips forked at the ends. They’re just standing there, two –no, three– of them, looking for all the world as if they own the land themselves.
“Antelope?” I ask. I’m careful not to say cantaloupe, because that, I know, is a fruit.
“Pronghorn.” he says, barely glancing over. “There’s a loner that visits us every autumn. The kids named him Alfalfa.”
I look out the window again, picturing what it would be like to have a pronghorn near my house often enough to name it. I have to smile at that, because if just one of those visited my house it would drive the neighborhood dogs wild and freak out the Hendersons next door for at least a week. Poor thing would never come back after that ordeal.
Billowing storm clouds are gathering, from white and fluffy on top to dark and flat at the bottom and so, so, big. They fill the sky and make the rolling hills feel small, and me even smaller. The air has changed again, and in it is the combined smell of dust and approaching rain.
I can’t wait to sit on my cousin’s front porch, his kids crawling all over us, to watch the storm blow in. I can’t wait to breathe deep and explore this place. The kids will want to show me everything that’s normal for them, if only for the sheer entertainment of watching my reaction. There’s something vast and wonderful about going somewhere so different from home.
It helps me remember how big the world can be.
And that it’s waiting to be explored.