Nevada contains inconceivable stretches of wilderness. Salt flats and brush and distant, crumbling mountains feel endless, like some kind of blue funk you can’t quite shake. But there is also something serene about mile after empty mile – a peaceful longing that makes me want to pull the bus over, buy 1000 acres for $6,000 (as the signs offer), and build a small shack in which to spend the rest of my days.
There is something the opposite of serene when you see the bus’s temperature gauge creep upwards on every uphill stretch. There is an internal tension, a focus of will power, a determining that the small red needle will not move any further. And then it does, creeping up over 200. 205. 210.
Then the red light blinks on. The bus shuts off. Since it is impossible to coast to the side of the road when you’re going uphill (at a snail’s pace to begin with), you put on the parking brake, the four-ways, and turn off the engine. Parked in the right hand lane of a two-lane highway.
And there you sit. Sixty feet of vehicle. You might as well drop a mobile home on I-80.
* * * * *
I have many responses to things going wrong. Sometimes I run around like the proverbial chicken, bouncing from one possible remedy to the next. Sometimes I sulk, entering that endless wasteland. Sometimes I lay awake at night, my brain on overdrive. Worry is usually the fuel on which all of these responses feed.
But when the bus overheated, there was one thing we could do: wait.
We waited as the tractor-trailers flew by, shaking us with their passage. We waited as tiny cars we had passed some time ago whirred along. We waited.
So often I try to busy myself to avoid the waiting, and in that busy-ness I miss so many of the things I could have learned, had I embraced the wait. I miss out on life by filling it up with artificial distractions.
After the diagnosis.
After the rejection.
After the failure.
Then, something beautiful: in the midst of the waiting, and the pain, and the disappointment, I find something. Maybe it’s just a small yellow flower growing in the shade cast by a rock. Maybe it’s another way forward. Maybe it’s a different opportunity.
Or maybe it’s an unopened container of coolant in the belly of the bus.