We have lived in our present home for 20 plus years, and the lower part of our driveway consisted of dirt and gravel until two weeks ago. We finally decided to pave the driveway up to the point of the existing asphalt because we kept having to re-grade and re-gravel the lower portion every three years or so, and the process was expensive and doomed to never-ending repetition. Our logic (or, perhaps, mine alone) was that while paving was more expensive, once it was completed the driveway would outlast our tenure here and would improve the value of the property. In short, the decision was taken as the result of an abundant application of common sense.
Visually, our new driveway is a thing of beauty – black and healthy, stretching around a corner into invisibility when viewed from the lane adjacent to our property. It draws the eye forward and empowers the imagination to wonder what might lie around that curve. And, since we also applied a new coat of sealant to the portion of the driveway that was already paved, the sinuous black thread continues around that corner and up the hill to the house, drawing visitors past our barn and further into the hidden pleasures that surround and fill our home space with so much grace.
I am satisfied with the resulting visual effect, but find that I miss the crunch of the gravel when I walk to the mailbox. Since its roadbed is three inches above the ground, walking the newly paved driveway is like being abroad on an inverted river (an outie, if you will)passing through the pines; I always hear Joni Mitchell’s River playing in my mind whenever I walk to our mailbox now, regardless of temperature or weather. The effect of Joni’s lyrics is surreal in the context of these waning days of summer, and I wonder if their sensation will pale with the seasoning of time or if Billy Joel’s lyrics to The River of Dreams might take the place of hers for at least some of the year.
Walking the former dirt and gravel portion of the driveway always took me back to a time before our residence in this place; in truth, to times before either Helen or I were born and to places well beyond the borders of this piece of ground on which we live. The sound of my sandal-clad footsteps on gravel in summer inevitably took me to ancient paths winding through the worn-down mountains and deserts of the middle east, making me wonder how perennially ill-shod ancient travelers fared over the course of long, hot, dusty days spent under an unrelenting sun; the crunch of gravel during cold winter months always made me think of travelers wearing handmade moccasins or boots beating their way through my imagination and the forests of a northern wilderness, their presence made known by the sound of footsteps on hard ground, the harshness of breathing through a cold-ravaged throat, and our shared enjoyment of the beauty cast by a pale sun as we walked our respective roads together separated only by the irrelevance of time.
Since it seems that even common sense comes at a cost, I will be forced to miss my fellow travelers on future walks unless I engage in the simple expedient of walking through our fields to our mailbox instead. If I do take this alternate route, the only loss I will suffer will be the lack of a real, honest-to-god road, but I assume that my imagination will be up to the task of providing the kind of path needed to enjoy their world again. Or, perhaps, the lack of a path will prove to be an even greater stimulation of my mind and a more accurate simulation of their realities.
Whichever the case may prove to be and despite my usual pride in its use, I take great solace in the notion that the use of common sense – even abundant applications of the stuff – can be easily thwarted by a small dose of imagination.