I live at the end of a long dirt road. That’s just fine with me, but in my younger years, I abhorred dirt roads. My attitude then was, “Give me pavement or give me death.” I couldn’t wait to make a life for myself in the big city. It looked inviting and tempting with its flash, glitz, and “bling, bling.” It seemed to offer comfort, security, wealth, and endless forms of entertainment.
Then came the day when I realized that those were all empty promises, and I found that just a very little will do because it gradually dawned on me that flash and glitz weren’t really the most desirable part of life. Something within told me there was more. However, the dirt roads were still a problem. Therefore, I left the city and moved to the country, just to try it out. My driveway was dirt, but the road in front of the house was paved. This seemed like a nice compromise: One foot on pavement, the other on dirt — a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll.
It didn’t take long to discover that I had moved in the right direction. The serenity of a cool country morning, the feeling of room to move and breathe, as well as the profound serenity it imparted, slowly seduced me. That voice within said there was still more to discover in going totally country.
So, I started a two-year search that landed me in rural country, where I found the ground I wanted to build on, but the only access was across a long dirt road. It was either terribly dusty or disconcertingly muddy, but I gritted my teeth, swallowed hard and took the leap. If driving dirt roads was the cost of living here, so be it. It seemed a small sacrifice to make for what I had found. Like Indiana Jones in his search for the Holy Grail, I couldn’t see the bridge to my goal until I sprinkled a little dirt and gravel on it.
Since that time, nearly 15 years ago, I’ve come to see dirt roads for what they are: A boundary that separates the substantive, vital, and essential world from the symbolic, virtual, and synthetic world we’ve created.
A dirt road teaches that life is not a smooth path with painted lines to keep you going in the right direction. Bouncing down a dirt road, you quickly learn that life is an uneven, challenging, and demanding thing.
Dirt roads are to the human soul what grounding is to electricity—a way to avoid the harmful side effects of an otherwise useful power.
People who live at the end of a dirt road value one another more because they have learned to appreciate the effort others made to be where they are in life.
That other guy can’t tailgate you on a dusty dirt road. Road rage is never a problem. Neither are traffic jams. Dirt roads teach patience. You can’t do 50 mph on a dirt road without winding up sideways or upside down.
When you do encounter another car going the other way on a dirt road, each slows down and moves over to allow the other to pass. It’s not just courtesy either. It’s simple caution to ensure a margin of personal safety.
Dirt roads teach frugality and planning. You only cross them when necessary. There are no quick trips to the store to do a little impulse buying of things that you really don’t need and can’t afford. Trips are planned and organized.
In my off-the-beaten-path opinion, everyone should know what it’s like to live at the end of a dirt road. Imagine if everyone lived at the end of a dirt road where your value was not limited by your race or ethnicity, and we could accept each other simply for who they are, not the color of their skin or ethnic heritage. The world would be a much more pleasant place.
Not a bad ‘180’ for a guy who hated dirt roads.