I-70 stretches 449 miles across Colorado. I’ve been plugging away at this stretch of highway for thirty years. It houses a portal to every memory I have.
Somewhere in my mind I think that I will have finally grown up when I can drive I-70 without a combination of sweat, tears, and laughter in an empty car. But it isn’t happening this time.
It’s my own fault, as it always is. This time I had to start my trek west with a run north, to Lyons, CO. I filled up the gas tank while biding time for the great poodle hand-off to my former life. You can’t pay at the pump at the U Pump It in Lyons, and as I handed over my card to the cashier, I stared at the hand-drawn town map. There were shocks of quaint houses, small shops, loopy cursive road signs, and miniature dogs and children frolicking in the park. I sighed. Even the characters on the map seemed to live homier lives than me.
I left Lyons in a flurry of wants, needs, and selves, and called Peter on the way to I-70. I made my case for being the opposite of everything I just saw.
Peter disagreed. “You can’t just interpret the action of a whole town,” he said.
“But they were buying flowers and shrubs.”
He paused on the phone back in New Hampshire. “Well,” he said, “it’s not as if you couldn’t do the same. Have you thought of a portable garden?”
It’s not a bad idea. I could convert the pop-top of my Eurovan to a mobile garden and grow rutabagas, kale, and garlic. It would be the ultimate in green living—I could sell my produce everywhere under the same local label. As long as I was on the move and the dirt stayed in place despite highway winds and snow, I would be my own localization.
The garden might help in the middle of my mobility. As it stands, I’m bad at nostalgia, but constantly nostalgic. It’s an odd system of self-awareness. I press into memories and places to see what shakes out on the inside.
Lately, I-70 is the densest. I drive it continuously to work, to get away, to go toward, to see family, to see myself. Weddings, ski jumps, the birth of my niece, the deaths of friends, speeding tickets with former partners, road trips with former friends, solitary treks with my right foot on the gas the whole way through.
I’m turning up my life by doing this. Other people turn up their gardens, plant something new, and come June they have fresh morsels straight from the earth to flavor their lives. But perhaps what I am doing is not that different—it’s just flavor of a different sort. Can you make a mobile garden, in your mind?