The road ahead seemed to be getting darker, even unstable as the clouds reached down onto the horizon. A brilliant bolt of lightning struck somewhere miles ahead, right in his path. The vivid image was both beautiful and startling. Small drops of rain began to appear on the windshield as the sky became miserable, ready to unleash rage on the earth below. The treetops were swaying heavily in the wind fighting to stay in place. Leaves and pine needles swept swiftly across the road. He was driving right into the giant storm. There was no way around it on that westbound backroad in south Georgia. Things were about to get rough for him.
He noticed a lone pine needle on the radio antennae. It looked as if it were clinging for dear life. The odds were certainly stacked against it with both the speed of the truck and the wind from the oncoming chaos. He spoke out loud to the dangling pine needle, “Hang in there, don’t give up.” It was only another mile or so before the pine needle released itself and flew away into the swelling gusts and increasing rain. He knew that feeling. The feeling of just letting go because it was just too much to hold on anymore. He was also familiar with the saying, “Hang in there, don’t give up.” He had heard it many times from well-meaning friends. But it doesn’t help, it doesn’t change anything. It’s just something people say when they don’t what else to say.
Off to the south the clouds were still mostly white and peaceful. The storm seemed to be only in his path. He wanted to be on a different road, somewhere that didn’t have a storm looming. But he was stuck right there in it. It was a disheartening feeling to watch the turmoil come at him and not be able to change his path. There was no way to get another road. He would have to stay on this one through the storm. He wanted to know what made him choose a road with such a spectacular and dangerous event to navigate through. He wondered if in fact he chose this road or perhaps the path he was on in life had chosen it for him. Did he have any control of his course at all? Or was he only able to suffer through it and get to the other side of the storm as best he could?
The rain began to come down in sheets. His hands gripped the steering wheel, his eyes squinted in an attempt to focus. The truck was pushed around by the daunting wind. He corrected his course and let off the accelerator. It crossed his mind that he could let go like the pine needle had done before and finish what he failed at a year ago. Surely people would know it was an accident. He wondered who would see through the façade and convenience that the storm would actually be the cause of his death instead of him letting go. None of that actually mattered because his survival instincts had kicked in and he did not want to die. But he did want to be out of the storm at most any cost. He questioned whether he could handle the intensity of this storm since previous storms almost killed him.
The rain became so heavy that he was driving 30 miles per hour below the speed limit. He considered stopping, but there was no suitable place to pull off the barren road. He was in between towns, only corn fields and livestock at that point. He could barely see in front of his truck. Then he saw the lights of a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction heading towards him. He wanted to stop and flag them down and ask how long this storm would last. The vehicles slowly passed each other without any communication or acknowledgement. Neither driver would be able to tell the other how much longer the storm would last. They had each been tossed around in the squall too long to remember when or where it started. And neither one could know when the swirling storm would end for the other.
The wind and rain made one last push to make him lose his way and give in to letting go. His knuckles were white from his hands gripping the steering wheel with all his strength as the lightning made its last effort to derail what was left of his confidence in making it through to the other side. He flinched but kept control. Then, almost as quickly as the storm appeared before him, it was now behind him. He made it.
The rain was gone. The wind had calmed. The trees now stood still. The road no longer seemed as threatening. He took a few deep breaths and began to relax. He could see sunlight between the clouds and the horizon. The storm was ending but the sun would be setting soon. He made it through just in time for the darkness set in. The joy of the storm now behind him faded quickly thinking about what the darkness can bring. This was a repeated cycle in life. Storm, darkness, storm, darkness. He hoped he had enough strength left in him to survive the darkness as he did the storm. But he was exhausted. He just wanted to rest. But when? Will he ever truly rest?
David E. George, 2016.