Words & Photography
by Sarah Attar
From the car window, I watched as the colors and textures passed by. This became my normal. Observing the passing landscape as we made our way across the country. The scenes blended together into one seamless flow. From place to place, there were drastic shifts in the landscape, but they happened so subtly throughout the day. The city would turn to suburb and eventually country. Slowly the grass would get taller and the rock formations would start to emerge. The open plains became thick forests and snow-capped mountains. The dirt would slowly turn more orange and then eventually red.
All of a sudden where we woke up that morning felt so impossibly far away. Initially it was startling, and then that feeling started to also become normal. We’d follow the sun across the sky, making its way from east to west, as did we. The rhythm of running, then driving, then running again created this unique experience of place, though the place was always in motion, spending never more than a day or two in each spot. Our stops were brief and our days were full, and motion became the constant. Whether that was the blur of sage as seen from the car window, or the dirt below my feet as I ran, there was a steady hum to the land and our experience of it. The way we move through the land feels symbolic to the way we move through life.
"Our stops were brief and our days were full, and motion became the constant."
Time is different on the road. There is an ever-changing and constant stimulus of new experiences and scenes, and this directly influences our experience of time. Time expands, the same way the landscape expands, and that becomes ever so clear after spending hours gazing out at the passing horizons of changing landscapes. Being on the road drums up all sorts of nostalgia and longing and I think this deep yearning comes from the way it reflects the continual forward motion of life. While on the road, we are suddenly very aware of the passage of time and the way we move through life in a very visual and visceral way.
I kept thinking of a quote from one of my favorite books, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit. She says “Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before.” For a majority of this trip, I was greeted by what I had never seen before. The wind blew my hair back, and every moment was full of discovery. It was both invigorating and calming, both stimulating and soothing.
There is something so freeing about forward motion. I feel that in running as well. In the same sense, running is also an experience of constantly acquiring moments of arrival. I breathed in sunrises and sunsets of faraway places I’d only dreamt about. I watched as storms fell across the distant hills. I wandered across colors of dirt I’d never touched before and observed rock formations I’d never seen. I ran with the long shadows of morning and evening and I let the wind spin me around in the middle of the desert. Through these experiences of both running and road tripping, I am reminded of the forward motion of life and how we encounter it one moment at a time. As Jack Kerouac said, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”