A conversation from earlier in the day moved my thoughts towards a song that has been stuck in my head for a few days, Starting Over by Chris Stapleton (check it out here: https://youtu.be/A3svABDnmio). My audiobook was focused on the power of stillness and something just seemed to click. I paused my audiobook and thoughts just before Arcadia and gave in to the urge to listen to the song.
Singing along to that song I started to focus on the colors of the sky, the rolling hills of the driftless area, and all the trees surrounding the road. I was lost in a sense of complete wonder. It was like I’d captured the essence of so many vacations, experiencing the beauty of the present moment more vividly than ever in an effort to drink in all of the details and burn them forever into my memory. I’ve driven this stretch hundreds of times yet this time felt like the first.
As my smile grew I realized what I was doing, I was taking a road trip for my soul, a soul trip if you will. I decided that the next twenty-ish miles would be a road trip for me, I’d use a traveling mindset and be 100% present. To help set the mood I loaded up my favorite travel playlist and hit “Shuffle.”
Almost as if on cue a deer crossed the road in front of me. I paused to let allow it safe passage and then saw another coming out of the woods and headed to the promised land on the other side… and another… and another… and another… and so on until eight of those brown haired beauties scampered in front of my car. I couldn’t help but laugh with childlike excitement like the first time I’d seen kangaroo live in Australia, it was awesome! Throughout the next handful of miles I’d see more than two dozen off in the distance and I appreciated each of them. Their presence made the soul trip feel all the more complete.
Not to be outdone, the sun and sky wanted to make sure they were noticed as well. Streaks of purple and pink crossed the sky as the clouds caught different lighting from the setting sun based on their height. The colors were spectacular! The pinks and purples opposite the orange and gold skies nearest the sun. The combination of clear skies above me and to my right was complemented by the scattered clouds to my left. The air seemed perfectly still as nothing moved in the wind. The cold air added extra clarity to the entire expanse of the heavens.
The bluffs stood by, quiet and majestic. The undulating hills covered in a layer of snow, brush, and cut corn stalks. The combination of the colors, the whites, the browns, the yellows, and and the tans of exposed rock all changed colors as the sun made it’s trip across the sky. The rocks of the bluffs jutted out at seemingly random angles and locations and yet all seemed perfectly structured at the same time. The views through the valleys were so beautiful as to almost make my eyes water.
I considered stopping to take a picture but there is no way I could gather all the expansive beauty in a way which would begin to do it justice. This was a moment to take in, breathe in, and remember without the distraction of a lens.
There was a perfect stillness in my soul, a joy which can only be reached by a true state of presence. There was a complete and total lack of noise surrounding me, only quiet calm. Occasionally a memory of a vacation would slowly appear, help me appreciate something I had been missing, and then slowly slide out of view. Time slowed to a standstill almost as if it were willing me to take in more detail, to savor each miracle surrounding me. The state of stunning solitude and transcendental presence felt both completely devoid of anything and completely full of life at the same time. The balanced paradox of emptiness and fullness felt more right than almost anything. In that moment I was being me, enjoying the gifts of The Big Dude Upstairs (or God, the Universe, Logos, or whatever name you’d prefer to use for the higher power – why argue semantics?).
The soul trip may be over for now, but we can access it at anytime. That calm and completeness will forever lay just under the surface. All we must do is pause and look for it. It is wherever we go, whenever we choose it, and ready to welcome us in with a giant bear hug of peace and serenity.