The minivan wove down the entangled road toward a new experience. It hurried us through space, in order to reach a destination not possible on foot in the time available for travel before sunset. The dust curled up from the gravel road announcing the impact of the metal behemoth against the earth.
The blessing of car travel hadn’t yet been made visible to my three children in the back seat as this is all they’ve ever known. The days of travel by foot or horse have long passed. In their stead are shiny metal manifestations of mother earth.
That day, summer sunny and hot was not unlike most. Traveling toward something which seemed to offer up a better option to staying home. An opportunity for adventure, learning, or just to escape routine. Two-thirds of the way to our destination, the van ceased to respond to pressure on the gas pedal. Creeping onto the side of the road, I offered myself a silent moment of gratitude for bringing the cell phone – an item purchased for emergencies that is forgotten at home the majority of the time. I am not interested in being connected to the rest of the world all the time. But this time…this time I was.
A call was made to my in laws – to the home intended as our point of arrival. With mild questioning regerding how it is that one runs out of gas with three small children in the car and a rebuttal identifying the last user of the vehicle as their son, including the important detail that the nearest gas station is located nearly at their front door – help was on the way. I rummaged through the glove box, producing boxes of raisins for the children that were still edible. I nursed the baby and turned up the insidious children’s music – the kind where adults actually pretend to be poor singers in an effort to sound like children. A few games of eye spy later, help had arrived. Gas was funneled into the great black beast and she rolled again. This time into the gas station.
Many lessons were leaned that day, but top of the list was just how staggering the act of getting into a car, turning a key and pressing the pedal can transform the unfolding of our lives. The vehicle and its fuel represent an incredible amount of embodied energy. Metal mined from the bowels of the earth, plastics and gasoline conjured up from extracted oil comprised of ancient decayed lifeforms, rubber from trees growing on the other side of the planet. Effort from the miners, forgers, chemists, designers, assembly workers, truck drivers, oil extractors, oil refiners, advertisers, retailers and everyone in between.
There will be a day when life returns to living within a walkable radius. Perhaps my children will be lucky enough to never know this time. In the meantime, I will do what I can to ensure they know the depth of their privilege.