Sleet tinkle-crackles off my windbreaker as I scrape the windshield. My brother’s home along the Wisconsin River hadn’t, at least yet, been in the bulls-eye of this April 14 winter-mess. Somehow the air above the water bounces away the heavy hail, the golf ball sized disaster for roofs and cars that splattered just a few miles north and west. “Better get on the road, Dave,” he chortles, “winter ain’t over just yet.” I climb aboard, honk a wave, meander backwards out his long drive, and head off. The road follows the river for a few miles, then cuts across “the grade”. The wide levy allows fishing on both sides and wide lanes for traffic each way. It divides the weed-infested, geese and duck nesting reeds and shallows from the main, wide area of the river called Lake Wisconsin. Pintails huddle close to windbreaks as geese bob and bounce in the whitecaps. Two loons swim and dive and all, in my mind, seem a bit confused between instinct and Wisconsin in April. The swing onto County CS flips a switch, turns on the gusts of wind pelting sleet and snow across the car. Blacktop, now white top, holds ice covered in freezing slush hiding under new snow, a rutting, tire jerking “this will be a fun trip” tenacity of steering wheel adjustments and avoiding quick moves. Three and a half miles brings me to the freeway, eastbound 94 towards Madison, then on towards Milwaukee and the Highway 83 exit. The ramp isn’t good, the four-lane wet, but clear from all the traffic pretty much oblivious to dangers and travelling at the 70MPH speed limit. Seated, buckled up, hanging on – make a choice. Have fun or drive in panic? Kenny Chesney, being interviewed on “The Highway” channel 56 makes my option simple.
“If you wallow in the negative for too long, that’s what you become.” The DJ cuts to Chesney’s new song, “Get Along.” I sing to lyrics I don’t know and question why we can’t all just work together and enjoy life, sing myself into happy and yea, this will be a fun trip. The drive becomes almost like two of me at the wheel. A driver, cognizant of rapidly changing road conditions, a seemingly very angry wind spewing bully-ness whenever it chooses, and scanning ahead, sides, behind, gauges – auto pilot stuff experience brings. The other, a passenger of sorts, a thinker of ways to describe the whisk-by of scenery, a guy, who like George Carlin, wonders about this time named ‘now.’ As he joked, “there it’s coming, closer, closer, here it …. And it’s gone.” What happens to ‘now’ if we don’t really notice it before it’s “there it went, I hope I can remember”?
That ethereal guy riding in my right brain captures moments. Just past Highway 60 a crazied murmuration of chickadees and sparrows bulges and undulates amidst the breaths of harsh snow, biting snow. “Really out of place in this.” A 4×4 Toyota pickup rocks past, taillights waggling in rhythm with the rut-jerked sways. The storm eases near Sun Prairie, then returns with vengeance on the sweeping left curve in Madison that heads me southeast towards home. Centrifugal force doesn’t need help. Steadily the outside beats and pounds become symphonic, a scale with a face and an e g b d f choreographing cacophony with sudden codas and just as sudden refrains. An electric line offers lookout for a hawk and a fence line wound with last year’s weeds creates seclusion for prey. Lake Mills’ rest area holds a herd of semis, each puff puffing white-grey exhaust as drivers slip to dreams of better weather. And then I’ve outrun it, the rearview bleakishly, freakishly hazy and the front view sprinkley, brighteningly grey. Oh, I’m sure within an hour or so of “I’m home” will bring all this to town, but then I’ll have just one of me to tend to the viewing. I will pray thanks. And enjoy somnium. Dream.
Submitted by Dave Smith 4/16/18