Note: I wrote the following article for an upcoming issue of "Back Home in Kentucky" magazine, which appears below in its original, unedited form. I thought it turned out pretty nice.
It’s a beautiful day for a drive.
You’re an hour or so south of Lexington when you cross yet another county line. You didn’t catch the name of it as you went by, but you’re keenly aware that something has just changed. The air feels different somehow.
The top is down, your sunglasses are on, and the breeze rushing past has become pleasantly cool as you maneuver your way down this quiet country road. The faint buzz of cicadas far away on the wind and the sweet smell of fresh cut hay melt away your cares, working together like a tempting siren’s song to lead you deeper into uncharted territory.
You suddenly realize that you’ve lost track of time, and the thought doesn’t bother you at all.
Fields of corn and tobacco stretch out in pockets from the edge of the road to the lush, rolling hills in the distance on either side. You briefly wonder what it would be like to have a home on top of those hills, and then feel a tinge of envy as you see that some people already know.
Everywhere you look, rippling creeks cut their meandering paths under the cover of Maples and Black Walnuts, and quiet dirt roads branch off through the shade of the trees, holding their secrets close.
There are horses and cattle here; black barns & fence. But while the houses & farms may betray the presence of man, the unbridled beauty of it all continues to assault your senses. Your mind is consumed with thoughts that have been absent for years, and they now feel like long lost friends as you welcome them back and become reacquainted: Space. Tranquility. Beauty. Peace.
Around a curve, over a hill, and you find yourself in a quiet little town boldly proclaiming the name of “Liberty”, and the feeling of freedom you now carry with you confirms that it could be called nothing else.
You stare astonished at the hundreds gathered in the park; scores of parents proudly cheering their children as they play ball on every available field of dreams. Your journey takes you by well kept homes – the newer additions mixed in comfortably with the monuments of days long past – and the backyards and porch swings lead you deeper yet toward the center of this town whose skyline is dominated by trees, church steeples, and American flags, and whose veterans are remembered with a wall and a fountain and a Liberty Bell of their own.
At the center of downtown you finally come to a stop at one of only 3 traffic lights in the entire county, and you imagine how your friends back home might laugh about that. But you’re not laughing.
Instead, you’re transported back in time; 50 years, 75 years, 100 years, more. The buildings announce their births from the days of gas streetlamps, and as you stare at the courthouse that was standing long before the first Sunday drive ever took place, the asphalt suddenly disappears before your eyes, the power lines vanish, and the dirt streets that now lay before you become crowded with the bustle of horses and wagons and people from a time long forgotten.
With a start you realize that the light has turned green, though when it did you’re not sure; no one is honking their horn.
Reluctantly, you proceed through the crossroads, and in a flash the town disappears behind you, to be replaced with a cool, winding stretch of road nestled in the hills as it follows the lazy path of the Green River. The late afternoon sun dances over you through the leaves, and you know you could stay here forever.
All too soon though, you find yourself crossing the county line out of this place, and you feel a heaviness and a deep sense of loss as the cares of your world come back to you. You pull the car to the side, turn off the engine, open the door and stand, trying to make sense of it all.
And then a sound you never expected catches your ear, and you look up in amazement to see a black buggy coming towards you on the road, the soft clip-clop of horse’s hooves gently overcoming the faint ticking of your cooling engine. The Amish driver gives you a silent nod as he passes. You nod back. And as you continue to watch him move slowly off into the distance behind you, your eye sees the sign bearing the name of this realm you’ve just left: Casey County.
With the quiet of the evening once again wrapping you in its peaceful embrace, you realize that your original destination doesn’t seem so important anymore, and as you get back in your car you feel the smile returning to your face as you turn around to head back the other way.
It’s a beautiful day for a drive.