The scene outside my office window as I closed the blinds last night was one painted in shades of gray and muted white, the dark trees covered with snow and the distant snowy hills just a white line against the graying sky. But like one of those old hand-tinted black and white photographs, a swath of pale pink colored the sky just above the hills. Quiet and surreal, I felt like I was part of a piece of artwork hanging on the wall in a great gallary, and indeed, I suppose I was.
Driving north from Utah to my home in Montana on Friday, I could see the snow clouds firmly sitting at ground level as I approached the Idaho/Montana border. By the time I came to the little town of Spencer, Idaho, I was engulfed in blowing white. But it was not really sticking to the roadway, and there was hardly another car anywhere to be seen (the other drivers having actually checked the weather forecast before setting out), so I just slowed down (careful not to use my brakes) and continued on my way. The audio book I had rented the week before continued to play (a new Anne Tyler book, Digging to America), and, as stopping really wasn't an option, I just kept going, over Monida pass and on into Montana.
When I pulled over to get gas and a chocolate bar in the little town of Lima, Montana, a fellow pulled in behind me. As we both got out of our vehicles, he called to me, "Hey, that Monida pass was really something, wasn't it?"
"Oh, I've driven it when it was much worse," I replied. "At least today the road wasn't snow packed and icy."
"Well, bless you," he called back.
It is not unusual for someone to follow another's tail lights in a storm. I have done it many times myself when I have been unfamiliar with the way. But this is the second time in the past year that I have had someone follow me through a storm on this same stretch of road.
I feel unsafe in so many places--church, the grocery store, a symphony concert--but I never for a moment felt unsafe driving home through that blizzard on Friday afternoon. I think it is the known vs the unknown, and solitude vs a crowd, that makes the difference. I know that road, having driven it so many times in so many varying conditions, but I never know what I will confront when I walk into church or a supermarket. And I was virtually alone on that road (or thought I was), the master of my own fate so to speak, while in a crowd I am at the mercy of strangers, or even people I know, who pose a threat by their perfumed proximity.
In solitude and the familiar there is peace. It's good to be home.