When I was in high school, I often found myself driving home at night in rainy, foggy weather. One of my favorite parts of those drives would be when I would have to cross the Fremont Bridge from the east side of the Willamette River to the west, where my family lived in those days.
The Fremont is the highest bridge in Portland, built so that it never has to be raised for passing ships. When the clouds rest low and the fog rises up from the surface of the river, the air covering the top roadway is thick and inpenetrable. Driving through that soupiness was my favorite part of the ride home. I loved not being able to see the bridge in front of me. I knew that it would continue to curve safely down to Vaughn Street and I knew that stretch so well that I could have followed it in my sleep. I found it joyful, how the bridge would unfold in my headlights, foot by painstaking foot, and would lead me home.
An analogy similar to this experience came up in one of my classes recently. That the process of writing is like driving through the fog, with the only visible part of the road being those couple of feet in front of you that are illuminated by the headlights of your car. But with those few feet, you can travel the entire journey. It’s an example that can be made to apply to life as well as writing. It makes me think of those nights on the Fremont Bridge when I had to trust that the unseen road would continue to ease to the right and take me home.
There’s just one problem. The processes of writing and living don’t feel peaceful to me right now. I don’t feel like I’m traveling, guided by my personal puddle of light. Right now I feel like I’m out beyond the perimeter of my illumination, stumbling and guideless in the absence of light. The fact that I can’t see out into the distance terrifies me. I am wracked with worries that somewhere along this road the bridge will end abruptly and that I will fall. And it will hurt.
I keep trying to remind myself that the road hasn’t let me down yet. That I’ve never actually fallen, and the few times that it felt like I was falling, I ended up landed in a soft, green meadow instead. But fear is masterful, with the power to cloud the emotional memory. I have to remind and re-remind myself that things will work out. And when I get tired of remembering for myself, I call people so that they can remind me.
In three weeks, I’ll be back in Portland for a visit. I’m hoping for a really dark and foggy night, so I can go out and drive the bridge again, to remember how it feels to trust the road as it curves to take you home.