Last week, I drove in the mountains for the first time ever. My minivan was loaded to the brim with furniture and linens as I trekked through the Allegheny Mountains to visit our newly purchased condo. The first half of the drive was easy: full of flat land, straight lines, old farms and quaint little towns. The dog, riding shotgun, and I settled easily into a nice rhythm.
But the terrain on the second half of the drive changed quickly. The roads started winding through dense foliage, and the sunlight disappeared through the canopy of leaves. My ears popped as we zigzagged back and forth, going up and down the mountain. There were narrow lanes, signs for fallen rock, and steep cliffs without guardrails.
As I slowly continued on, my heartrate rose from a normal pitter-patter to more of a thunder. I noticed my hands were clutching the steering wheel so fiercely that my fingers were aching. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead and I felt as though I had sandpaper in my throat, but I didn’t dare reach for my water.
At one point, we passed a section of the road that had crumbled like a big cement cookie, guardrail and all, into the valley below.
“Holy Shit, Roxy,” I said out loud to the dog. “We’re going to die out here.” Roxy whimpered in response.
Only a few orange barrels separated us from our probable demise. My head almost convinced my body to throw on my emergency brake right there in the middle of nowhere. I was ready to give in because I honestly didn’t believe I could make one more treacherous turn.
But I kept going.
I gritted my teeth, removed my sunglasses, turned up the music and pushed through. Then my dog vomited. Of course.
But still I kept going.
When I was finally at the end of the most dangerous stretch of the drive, a butterfly swooped past my windshield, almost stopping as it entered my line of vision. The loveliness of the creature captivated me just long enough for my nervousness to dissipate. The tension in my back and hands eased and I suddenly noticed the beauty I was immersed in. Nature was all around me. Gorgeous tree-covered mountains, rocky streams, wild flowers, jutting boulders, and all kinds of wildlife.
The fear clutching my throat faded and I began to enjoy myself.
Life, in general, is very much like my drive in the Allegheny Mountains. Some days are undoubtedly harder than others with unexpected twists and sharp turns. Occasionally there might be unforeseen road blocks and detours, but we just find another way to continue on. Life always has its fair share of ups and downs, and highs and lows, but we still move forward on our steady path, trying to stay in our lane.
Through it all, we try to find the beauty.
Once we reached our destination, the view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. Green mountain peaks went all the way to the edge of the horizon where they gracefully, but also jaggedly, met blue skies. The soft breeze smelled cleaner and softer than air I was used to. The land felt untouched and innocent. My dog stood beside me, her tail wagging wildly.
I smiled at what I accomplished.
Standing there on the top of that mountain, I was reminded that that even though it’s important to keep our eyes ahead, pass with care and pay attention, we also need to breathe deep, take in the beauty, and simply enjoy the ride. Most importantly, we have to remember to push through tough situations and stay strong, no matter what.
Because, undoubtedly, the most breathtaking views come after the hardest drive.
Photo courtesy of Jakob Owens of Unsplash