Lisa Joy Samson

The Sunday drive, while not beginning until the 1920s or 30s, seems to me to have its roots in horse and buggy days. Laura Ingalls, this little white girl’s “every girl”, and Almanzo Wilder, dreamy and strong, would settle in behind his beautiful Morgans and they would sail over the prairies as she kept her sun bonnet from flying off even though it was tied under her chin. But that might have been from the television show. According to his sweetheart, the man could handle a fast and furious pair of horses. Mmm. That Almanzo.

I was in love with him for years.

In my own life, three threads lead to the patch of identity called Sunday Drives and Sunday Drivers, a patch I cherish and seek to maintain with my own stitching and appliqué. These threads are easy to ascertain. One belongs to my paternal grandparents. One belongs to their son, my uncle. And the other belongs to me, the granddaughter/the niece/the mother/the human.

Naturally, John and Lizzie laid down the first thread. Born in 1895 and 1894, respectively, I imagine as children they both experienced a Sunday drive or two with horses’ reins tucked inside the grip of their own Almanzo. Perhaps a cousin, a grandparent, or family friend. Lizzie grew up on a farm, the homeplace my family called “the shack”. My grandfather loved horses so much I would actually call him when the Budweiser Clydesdales cantered onto the TV screen and tell him what channel they were on. He was once a stable boy. Yes, to the horses, yes, to the buggies. I know this almost certainly because they took that aesthetic into their own drives.

Lizzie, after making a delicious, post-mass Sunday dinner—be it sauerbraten or crab cakes—would leave the dishes to her offspring. With a chiffon scarf tied under her chin to preserve Judy’s Friday hairdo and gloved hands because that’s what ladies did, she plucked a produce box off the back porch of their Baltimore City row house, ready to go before even a single, dripping, sparkling plate found its way to the drain board. John, feet in polished, long, thin leather boots with fine lacing and mildly decorative puncturing, felt hat tipped at an almost jaunty angle, but not too jaunty as he was the neighborhood eye doctor, would have the car heated up in the winter, or the windows already down and the interior heat driven away in summer. John always “brought the car around” in the most comfortable condition possible to pick up my grandmother at the door to the dark green wooden gate in the cinder block wall that cut off the cement yard from the cement back alley. He would escort her from the porch to the car.

It was lovely to behold.

Lizzie would hand John the box to be placed on the back seat, my memories always deferring to the light blue upholstery of his shining, black Chrysler Imperial. She slid into the front seat and allowed her husband and to tuck the black lap robe/shawl she always kept in the car tightly over her lap if it was cold enough for that.

They would drive to the country, mostly, for fresh produce for Lizzie’s dinners. She was serious about providing good food. My grandmother bought the best ingredients because they made for better tasting food and with quality fabric made fine clothing, suits included, that rivaled any seamstress or tailor. I wish I had learned from her. (Insert, if there is one, the jingle for Big Lots!)

The second thread was woven in by Uncle Lawrence, my father’s older brother, a WWII veteran stationed in the Philippines, who never married. Though I have written thousands and thousands of pages in this lifetime of mine, I am hard-pressed to describe how much I adored my uncle. As in love with cars as his father, my uncle’s go-to car in my memory is always his silver, 1968 Dodge Charger with a maroon interior. When my father’s family ventured out of Baltimore to our suburban split level for birthday meals or holiday celebrations, my uncle (and sometimes my grandfather) would load us kids up in the car and head out for a drive. Uncle Lawrence would invariably drive us down Pot Springs Road and over the series of humps that had us flying off of our seats, backsides in the air, because seatbelts were merely a suggestion in those days. Grandpop took those hills so fast he would sometimes scrape the undercarriage at touchdown. And we laughed and whoa-ed and begged them to do it again. They rarely did, by the way. Those cars could only take so much, I guess, and they knew how much. Uncle Lawrence and his sister, my Aunt Sis, who also never married, would take Sunday drives together as well to places like Valley View Farms for Christmas shopping or to meander through Baltimore County’s horse country.

The third thread, my own, continued, although maybe not as regularly, but just as much appreciated. I love to drive. I love to experience that black swath of asphalt and those yellow and white lines as they cut through fields and mountains and parallel rivers and creeks. Today is no different as I set out with my daughter. We’re not driving to another county to visit our favorite farm stand for produce or freshly baked pies and sticky buns, relishes, or jams. We’re headed into the Rocky Mountains with strong, drive-thru coffees in the cup holders.

Zeus, our Aussie Shepherd mix is smiling in the back seat, happy to be along for the ride.

*

Life sometimes affords us the experience of complete change. If there has been a theme to my life it has been that nothing stays the same. And while hindsight tells me God hasn’t changed in who God is, my ability to recognize the Divine most certainly has. That beautiful unveiling has shown God as more loving, more caring, and yet more prone to let me move about this life by my own series of choices. The Divine knows I will cast all sorts of blame on It’s shoulders and loves me anyway. God is either driving the Sunday car, having tucked the robe nice and snug, or is patiently along for the ride when my hands are on the wheel. I’ve come to see neither arrangement as a bad thing. I come to see a lot of life now as neither good nor bad if the eventual outcome is an awareness of who I am: a creative force created by the Creator to create, a loving being created by a Loving Being to love other loving beings whether or not they realize that is fundamentally what they are. Either it all works together for good, or it doesn’t. Imagine what the world would look like if all of us who truly espoused Romans 8:28* actually believed that? How much more peace? How much more acceptance? How much more faith? How much much more patience in the unfolding of life’s varied and sometimes precarious road? How much more would we believe that the good works we try to do on behalf of God, ourselves, and others, would actually mean something eventually?

It’s easier to trust that hardship will come and people will choose darkness rather than light. But I am daring to believe that goodness, kindness, and love is winning.

*

We drive into the mountains via the Ute Pass on Route 24, climbing, climbing in elevation. Colorado Springs recedes behind us, the great mixing bowl that it is easily recognized by its geographic features, its weather, and the heavy influence of a military population which hails from all over the country. Sometimes, Sunday drives are just as much about what we leave behind as what we are driving toward and we leave behind a few yellowing trees, rushed drivers**, and so may placard-wielding people it’s impossible to know who are vets, who are junkies, who are both, and God have mercy on us all.

We drive through terrain only rugged people with grit could pave and yet I am astounded and pleased at how little a mark mankind has made upon all this rock and soil in this pass the Ute tribe originally marked. As we climb higher, more is revealed in the distance. We had set out among cityscape, hard roads, hard buildings, hard folks seasoned by years in combat or decades on the streets, years in strict religion or years of trying to become powerful through crystals, magic, and the lines on their palms.

Thankfully, the mountains make room for us all.

*

The Creator says come, come, all of you. See the new. See the grandeur. See the scale of life, for I tell you, in the dimension of the universe of which you are a part, you are much closer in size to these mountains than you realize. In you lies such strength, and for you such strength exists. This very soil, this rock, this earth, supports you, gives you life and shows off her beauty to inspire your imagination and still your longings while you stop and give yourself enough time to be a part of all this glory. Be here now. As you are. Part of the scenery, part of nature, part of Me.

*

The glory is in the midst of change as we drive toward Cripple Creek a town of gold mines, gold seekers, and maybe a few gold diggers, but I’m just speculating about the gold diggers.

As we continue to increase in altitude we ride the tarmac snake as it winds up the mountain, one side a safe wall of rock, the other a deadly tumble down the mountain. Oh, the view from here on the line directly between safety and death, no guardrails, adrenaline oozing a little for those of us who wouldn’t do this sort of thing off-road.

Pikes Peak, now blue in the distance, other lesser peaks flowing like solid waves of sound, cool sounds of purple, violet and lo-fi blue, the ocean of matter before us ripples like a sea beneath the Colorado blue skies.

The aspens, about a third of them, have begun their transformation, the bright gold of their round leaves ready to spread to the next tree then the next in a downward flow that reflects the change in temperature quickly climbing altitude requires. Soon this road will be a pathway to a waltzing of gold and some orange, unlike east coast autumn. And the evergreens will remain, harmonizing, and the ground will support the song that Majesty likes to sing at this time each year.

*

Sunday drives, particularly this one, causes me to realize something afresh. God is right here, right now in all of this. God did not create and then abandon this earth. He made it of God stuff, the only beingness that truly exists. Today, in this car, we are participating in the working of God’s material substance, that inexplicable fabric in which we live, move and have our being.

For some, this would smack of pantheism. Perhaps it does. I don’t know a lot about pantheism. But have come to believe fully in what Saint Paul preached to the people of Athens and I believe he meant that we literally exist in God. Our bodies are in God. Our spirits are in God. Our souls are in God. God spoke and we were created. We are God’s words, God’s voice, so powerful, creative, and loving, it forms us with its own resonance.

I walk in God as a creation of the Divine.

It’s easier to believe that for the trees, though, isn’t it? Why do we have so much trouble accepting that fundamental truth about ourselves and about each other?

But I have asked a lot of questions on drives. Questions such us: How does God know all, even our very thoughts? How is God everywhere from the core of Earth, through us, and on into the outermost stretches of matter? Because God is all. God’s self-proclaimed name is the All in All.

All in you. All in me. All in that man over there, that woman next to you in line at the bank. All in those aspen trees, that mountain, that pizza, that heroin-laced needle by the trash dumpster.

God gave us Divine substance to be of, in, with, and with which to create what we will. For good, for bad. To tear down, to build up To heal, to kill. To love, to hate. The paints, the brushes, the canvases of life are all God. Yes, this makes us responsible, yes this gives us terrible and magnificent options, but no matter what we choose, God still is. How can it possibly be other?

But somewhere along the line we believed that we were torn asunder from our Creator. We were told that separation is the thing and reunification is the name of the game. And our perception of our world became our truth and feeling lost, frightened, and parted from our Creator feels very, very real.
Do you see?

But God feels it all, loved ones. God experiences more first-hand than we could ever dream of. God feels the slaps, the kicks, the angry spankings, the knives, the bullets, the cutting words, the disdainful glares, because we do. God feels not in order to judge us unworthy of him, but to experience the Love of all loves, in love with all things, no matter what.

This is what unconditional means.

This is what is true.

God surely must be feeling the joy in my heart as I witness creation in the clear sunshine as my daughter and I listen to Tyler Childers sing about the desperation of his people in the hollows of Eastern Kentucky. My eyes take in thousands upon thousands of trees as we drive, chit-chatting, pointing out especial loveliness.

And the message of this Sunday drive sings suddenly in a full-throated Godness as I hear the words:

You are just as much a part of this glory as those aspens, that peak, the creek. You walk with feet of flesh upon this jewel of a planet spinning amid stars and comets. Your are this stuff, too, dear one. You are the autumn change, the winter hush, the awakening springs, the summer growth. Do you see you? Do you see Me? Do you feel you? Do you feel Me? Do you hear you? Do you hear Me? Do you taste you? Do you taste Me? I Am here. I Am here. I Am here.

I’m here, too. So is my daughter. So are you.

Sunday drives teach me who I am. For make no mistake, I am.

And right now, I am invited to lose myself in golds, greens, browns, blues, and whites. In clouds and breezes, pine needles and rubble. In the road before me and my daughter’s voice as she sings to her music. In my sweet dog’s grin and the waves and waves and waves of my Creator’s, and your Creator’s, song.

There will be time to mourn, to grieve, to feel the loss of what I shattered, scorned, or gave away without thought to my own well-being or that of others. To recognize the pain and suffering that is real but can never be fully established in the Being of which we are a part. There’s always time for that.

But for now, right now on this Sunday drive, my heart soaks in the present beauty like a salve of healing, the medicine our beautiful planet is always offering to all who are a part of her, all who subsist off of her bounty.

I consciously sing the song of my soul that right now here in the pristine wilderness, the part that can only sing the eternal lyrics, “It is good, it is good, it is very, very good.”

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*And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.
**Lordy!

(c)2020 Lisa Joy Samson 
https://lisajoysamson.com