Sunday DrivesSep 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Maggie Barnes
“Do you want to go for a ride?”
I fully admit that the dog and I reach comparable levels of excitement at this question. Especially on Sunday nights when the dishwasher is whirling away the mess and I’ve already designated the least wrinkled garment in my closet as my Monday outfit. There is something special about a ride in the country in the waning hours of the weekend to settle the soul.
Our region of the world offers countless scenic drives, and you don’t have to go far from home to take the road less travelled. We usually stay right in Chemung County, crisscrossing over hills, venturing down roads we’ve passed many times but never investigated. We read aloud signs for fresh eggs for sale, small engine repair, raw honey, and homegrown garlic. We grin at the road names: Hogback, Dininny, and Wyncoop Creek.
I marvel at the vast variety of house styles and sizes, and openly plagiarize ideas for our home.
“Mums planted in a tire swing? So stealing that. What color would you say those shutters are? I’d like a bench in that shade. Those porch spindles are beautiful! Could you make those?”
My husband usually ignores such home improvement musings, as he knows most of them mean work for him. His eyes are on the road which, in the Finger Lakes region, dips and rises and bends with the curve of the earth. Challenging for the driver. Gorgeous for the passenger.
People wave and we wave back. The fact that we don’t know each other has no relevance. I often wonder if they think we have an agenda, or do they exchange knowing looks and say, “Sunday drive.”
There is no such thing as a bad season for a Sunday drive.
In the summer, you see big swaths of sky with pink and blue cotton candy clouds foretelling of sunsets being drawn before your eyes. Fields show off their bounty in corn you could see over the top of just days ago, but not now. Silent farm market stands remind you to visit on Saturday and load up with ruby tomatoes and prickly cucumbers. Windows down, you are bathed in that sweet smell of warm earth and growing things. The deer are on display, speckled tan against verdant green. Such a ride cools your skin and eases your mind.
Come winter, there are vistas bleached with snow so that every tree stands as distinct as an ink drawing. The farmhouses illuminate with warmth, and you swear you smell dinner mixed with the woodsmoke. Little remains of the corn crop, looking like fields of an old man’s stubble. You round a bend and slow for the small gray fox moving across the road, mouth holding tight to its unlucky meal. Horses breathe in bright clouds of white. Sunset comes early, and the world turns that winter blue as the snow reflects the last of the day’s light. Such a ride makes you feel cocooned and safe.
It’s spring, and you can feel your heart rejoice at the splashes of green all around. Clumps of snow hide in the shadows next to barns and sit like stale frosting on stone walls. The clouds are muscular and lumber across the horizon, indecisive about releasing their contents on the muddy hills. Mama deer are heavy with the weight of their future fawns. They nibble the early grass and dig for the bulbs you planted last year. A brief crack of the window brings a bit of chill mixed with the promise of warmth, a blend that brightens your cheeks and whispers, “Not yet, but soon.” Such a ride fills you with hope and gratitude.
But in the fall...oh, the magic of fall. The sky is almost violet it is so vivid, and you are sure such a color has never been duplicated by man. The late season sun blinds you on a curve and your squint raises your mouth into a smile. Summer’s green has turned emerald, a dense shade that demands to be seen once more before it departs for months. It is a meager attempt to keep up with the blazing reds and golds. The hills bring to mind toppled paint cans, with bands of color running through the trees. Pumpkins smile back at you from porches. Farmers gather what is left in their fields and ready the ground for sleep.
Though much of nature is preparing to slumber, you feel something energizing about turning inward. All the inside tasks that you couldn’t bring yourself to do during the warmth of summer still await you. You feel the call of nesting, preparing your home for the darker days to come, knowing there will be a gentle kind of closeness that doesn’t come in the heat of summer. This season brings the joy of soft blankets and hands cupped around warmth in a mug. The holidays approach with the speed of a calendar page turning. A ride like this brings you waves of reassurance and comfort.
Such a simple thing to get in the car with no destination and drive until the dark steals the views. A passive pleasure of sitting and watching, so in contrast with a world that expects productivity out of every waking moment. We know the coming days will bring noise, faces, and tasks that need doing by a defined point in time. But the value of such excursions comes from the very nothingness of looking out the window, trying to see every detail of the scenes as they roll by. It resets the mind, clearing the way for all that is to come in the new week.
I highly recommend it.
In fact, where’s the dog? Grab the keys, pick a direction, and let’s go.