Reading the Tea Leaves

     Recently my wife, Nancy, and I were returning from Maine on Sunday evening of a holiday weekend. Traffic on the New York Truway was heavy. At one point on the highway we found ourselves on the crest of a hill looking down into a valley. Like a great undulating serpant we could see the line of red tailights stretching down into the valley and up a distant hill. The brake lights brightened and then disappeared as drivers applied their brakes and then accelerated again as the traffic picked up speed. From our position I imagined the ripple of brake lights as a shiver going through the great beast.

     I understood the shiver of bright lights because I was part of the beast. I was driving back to belly with a line of cars in the left lane. Our speed changed minute by minute as the line of cars seemed bunch up and then miraciously find open space again. One minute I was driving sixty miles an hour and the next I was braking back to twenty miles an hour. There seemed no reason for this traffic pattern; there were no accidents, no cars pulled over to the side of the road, it was simply the way the great beast lurched forward, slowly carrying all of us back to New York City, New Jersey and a few on to Pennsylvania.

     Nancy and I had started our day driving leisurely across southern New Hampshire and Vermont. We explored several towns and stopped in Bennington for a late lunch. It was past three in the afternoon when we joined a line of skiers leaving Vermont and entering New York state.  By the time we found our way to the New York Thruway it was dark. I was tired but not exhausted by the day’s activities.

     By the time I found myself part of the undulating serpent I knew it was time to concentrate and focus on survival. I have always felt comfortable driving in high speed traffic on the interstate highway. I positioned myself in the left lane and battled with the drivers trying to cut in front of me. All was fine for half an hour and then I noticed that the brake lights in front of me were becoming fuzzy. I was having a hard time telling if I was seeing seeing tail lights or braking lights. This made it difficult to judge the distance between myself and the car in front of me. Was it slowing down or accelerating? Finally I said to myself: “hey fellow, you should not be driving in the left hand lane!” I moved over to the right lane and dropped in behind a big truck that was not yo-yoing his speed like the demons in the left lane. Nancy and I arrived home a little later than we might have on another trip, but perhaps a little wiser.

     I went to bed exhausted, but as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly opened my eyes and turned in bed to face Nancy. I said: “you know that was crazy of me to drive in that traffic this evening. I could have got us both killed!” She agreed and said that it would not have been any easier for her to drive in it. We agreed that we need to plan in the future to not be forced to drive in similar circumstances. We do not have to stay at home, but when we travel we need to remember that we do not have the same abilities that we had twenty years ago.

     The next morning a dream was clear in my memory. In the dream I found myself on top of a mountain and the only way down was a steep rock face. There was a member of my family there who suggested I could descend the mountain by laying down and rolling over the edge of the  steep rock face. I went to edge and looked down from the mountain. It looked really dangerous to me. Then I noticed that there a kind of chair lift installed on the mountain for carrying the young and very old up and down the mountain. In the dream I decided I would use the chair lift!

     This dream confirmed my unconscious being in agreement with the wiser side of my conscious mind.  It is time to understand that I have to change the way I do many things in my life. I do not have to give them up, but I will have to make adjustments for my age.

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