Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Road

I would sit at the end of my black-topped driveway, nudging pill bugs with skinny sticks and wiping sweat from my brow, afternoon upon afternoon. There was always an ambient soundtrack running--bird calls, a solitary dog barking, someone beating out a rug on their front porch. But the one that always caused me to lift my head and notice, really notice, was the sound of the '67 Chevy, backing slowly out of the wood framed garage and into the gravel driveway. It was that sound, the crunch of rock under slow moving tires, that stopped me short and still.

Mr. Kauffman did everything deliberately, slowly, with intention. He cut his grass with an old fashioned push mower, the kind motored only by human muscles and blades that whirled and spun, grass pieces flying up like so much confetti. With each turn and switchback he made, laced throughout the smell of moist green and shredded leaves, there trailed sweet and musky pipe smoke, a ribbon of grey fluttering behind him.

It made sense, then, that he would pull out of his driveway with a similar pace and purpose. And the result was a perfectly magical crackle that felt like time suspended.

I now live at the end of a long, gravel driveway, seemingly fashioned from the broken fragments left from when our stone house was built all those hundreds of years ago. Splintered limestone litters the car path, spraying dust into the nearby grass during the dry times, puddling gray and milky after the rain.

And it is still that sound, today, that slow, crackling pop of stone beneath rubber, that stops me short, draws my face to the window, tickles the corners of my mouth and makes me sigh content.

For now, that sound is more like a herald to me, signaling that subtle shift of day when the sun slants keenly and dinner smells waft through cracked windows and young boys shout and run for the door.

I take more gravel roads than paved these days, it seems. That's how it goes living outside of the city limits. The blacktop can only reach so far, you know. Driving to visit friends brings crunching rocks and flying dust and the requisite slower pace.

And as I putter down their private roads and winding driveways, I can't help but wonder if the sound of my coming evokes the same thrill in their bellies as it does in mine. Does the sound of crunching gravel sing a song of home to them?

This is my first attempt at Concrete Words, an exercise in "writing out spirit" by writing about the invisible using concrete words. This week's word is The Road. The idea is to use the word prompt as a catalyst for writing out what is around us. Amber Haines of the RunaMuck began this exercise and she has now turned over the curating to my beautiful friend, Nacole. If you would like to join this community of word weavers who are attempting to use their words to tell a deeper story, hop over here to link up your piece.

Photo credit: Wolf Lake Landing Road by andyarthur on flickr


  1. i never saw road like you describe here till i moved to Missouri. we did the rural thing in NY and IL, but never were there roads quite like the ones in MO. maybe this is not news to you.
    and maybe this is why you savor them so well.
    lovely. always.

  2. Holly, I loved this. What a beautiful picture you paint of the time then and the time now and how similar feeling are felt. I love the nostalgia of your neighbor and the way that he slowly enjoyed life, taking time to savour. and the same crunch you now encounter finding yourselves outside the city and journeying along this crunching paths to your friends. love it. dear friend, your descriptions are ones i want to take off this page and write down, for how tenderly and succinctly do they speak to me. Keep up the great work, you are blessed!

  3. This is an amazing post! So poetic, so lovely to read. Stopping by from the link-up :-)

  4. I do love me some Missouri roads :)

  5. Thank you, Ashley. As I shared with Nacole, I was really intimidated by the whole idea, at first, but once I just ran with it, I began to better understand. I love the way it stretches me to see and feel and hear and touch.

  6. Yay! I got it! I'm so glad that you have kept this going, Nacole. Grateful for the opportunity to participate.

  7. Janel, you are always so encouraging, friend. I hear that you are trying this one out, too. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

  8. Thank you, Ruth. This was my first try at the exercise and I do believe I will do it again! Thank you for visiting.

  9. bluecottonmemoryMay 7, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    Oh, I love this - I remember those push mowers. They LOOKED so easy! I miss life down the gravel road - and the sounds. Your first attempt was beautiful - it makes me want to go sit at the end of a gravel drive - and listen - and wanting my boys to experience that, too!

  10. When my husband bought one of those push mowers I was so excited! That zeal quickly melted into utter frustration when I attempted to use the darn thing. My respect for Mr. Kauffman grew a hundred sizes that day.
    And you know, smell is such a trigger for memory but sound can be almost as strong, I am realizing...

  11. I agree, you are made for concrete words. This is gorgeous. I could hear the slow crackle, see the slant of sun and smell dinner wafting through the windows in the Missouri small town of my childhood. The crackle isn't positive for me but I felt it, and that's what good writing does, it makes you feel like you are standing right there. Lovely Holly.

  12. This is so lovely, Holly. A beautiful linking of sight and sound evoking memory. It engages the heart with warmth and welcome. An excellent post. Visiting here from Nacole's link-up page :) x

  13. I just found your blog and enjoy your writing .... I am bookmarking it .... I also write to heal..

    A new Kind of hope

    thank you for sharing your thoughts


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