I remember sitting next to my baby sister, in the back seat of my mom's battered green Austin as Mom drove down a country road with one arm extended out of the driver's side window, holding a baby bottle. She'd packed it in a thermos of hot water so it would be ready when she needed it, but the water had done its job a little too efficiently and the milk was too warm for my sister to drink. No problem! "We'll just let the air cool it as we go."
That outing was just one of hundreds of rambles we took with Mom. If the weather was fair - and often even if it was not - she'd pack a lunch, bundle my brother, my sister, and I into the car, load her paints and easel in the trunk, and we'd set off adventuring.
My mom could never resist taking the long way 'round. Unpaved roads and winding tracks were siren calls to her; irresistible in their opportunities for exploration and discovery. It was, perhaps, the reason she was so rarely punctual. There was always something new to be seen; some great or small delight to be discovered.
It was an enviable way of growing up, really. We would drive the country roads until we found a spot that caught Mom's eye and then scramble from the car to play - perhaps splashing on a river's edge, climbing trees, or chasing bugs and picking flowers in a field or clearing - enjoying the freedom just to be kids while Mom painted, or read, or simply watched us play. A great many happy memories were made on those adventures and, in me at least, the seeds planted for rambling on my own.
Perhaps my nature predisposed me to love wandering for its own sake, perhaps it was my mom's example, or maybe a combination of the two but, whatever the reasons, I am a lover of the long way 'round.
Highways, main roads, and direct paths to our destinations do, of course, have their places. Sometimes when I'm tired or in need of the speediest route to my destination I take them too, but more often you'll find me budgeting twice the time I actually need in order to get somewhere just so that I can act on the impulse to explore a country road or take the scenic route.
My husband was a kindred spirit in that regard. We had a standing date to go exploring once a week. We'd pack a picnic lunch and set off without a destination. Only two rules applied to these trips: We'd spend no money other than the cost of fuel, and we drive no further than two hours distance from our home.
We came to know our surroundings very well. My guy was really good at noticing and admiring the small miracles all around us. He had the gift of stillness - something I struggle with - and so could sit until the small creatures around us came to accept his presence. Then, he would point them out to me. He was an admirer of sunrises and sunsets, of full moons and twinkling stars, of spring flowers and bright fall foliage, and he shared that appreciation with me. We saw amazing things together and shared some of our sweetest conversations while out on our weekend travels.
Both my mom and my husband are gone now; passed away within three months of each other in 2015. I miss them both terribly but I find comfort in myriad memories we made together, a great many of them by following winding tracks and unpaved roads.