There I lay, wide awake at 4:18 am on a Sunday morning in Brooklyn, New York.
It was my only day off and I had planned to sleep in, but I could tell that there would be no more sleep.
So instead of struggling, I savored the quiet…or relative quiet of the sleeping city…a brief respite from the constant clamor and restlessness.
4:00 AM is a very inspirational time for many of us.
The noisy planet goes quiet and subtle feelings and thoughts can emerge for a time for those who listen.
I had no particular plans for the day ahead.
I sat up and sensed the feelings inside me.
It felt like a day to move…to really mooove. It was a ‘get out of town’ day.
Even more, it felt like a ‘run away from home ‘ kind of day.
Those were rarer… and terribly important when they come.
A day like that comes as more of a summons.
A day like that can save your life…or set the stage for the next chapter.
I have experienced both.
A day like this possesses all kinds of magic…
I got up quickly, pulled on jeans, sneakers and a comfortable sweater
and slipped outside to my car. I inhaled the early morning air.
I felt the thrill of freedom. It was almost conspiratorial.
I suddenly remembered with an almost wicked grin that I have always loved
running away from home.
All I had to do was pick a direction. Where had I not ventured? South!! Done!
I would worry about the reasons later. What mattered now was that I hightail it out of Brooklyn and head for open road. I needed to breathe new air!
The day would come to me as it came…
I left town after town behind me. South and south and south....
State line by state line. And it all felt so good…. So right…
The sun was rising full in the morning sky.
The further south I went, the happier I felt.
I wondered how long I would drive and where I would end up.
As the morning warmed, I smelled jasmine and pine and salt coast…
and sweet, sweet freedom.
No one knew where I was. Just me…free of everything.
Free of routine and expectations. Free forever if I chose…
and, if not…completely free for this day.
I ventured off the main highway and took to the hilly back roads.
It wasn’t long before I was completely lost and winding through
the most enchanting and rustic landscapes.
I smelled morning mist and wood smoke. I heard unfamiliar birdsong.
There was rustling in the undergrowth… raccoons and possums.
Then I came upon foraging deer. It was another world… the real world.
It broke the city trance that I had been caught up in.
And I was grateful…
The world was timeless once more.
I meandered as a child might, heedless and simply happy.
I stopped near a clearing, fetched a blanket from my car and spread it out on the ground.
I laid down and watched the sun light sprinkling the leaves overhead.
I dozed for awhile, overcome by the intoxicating forest air and the warm sun.
I woke gently as the sun dipped over the mountain leaving all in shadow and coolness. I stretched and yawned and shook off any remnants of city life still clinging to me.
As I gathered up my blanket and headed back to my car, I realized for the first time that day that I was hungry.
I wasn’t sure where I was or how to find the highway again, but other than being hungry, I didn’t much care.
I got back in my car and continued to wander through unmarked roads.
Suddenly I rounded a tight bend and caught the scent of ham…and more.
I had stumbled on an old diner... an ancient log cabin with a faded sign that read ‘Biscuits, red eye gravy, grits’.
The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks and old cars that had seen better days. This was definitely my kind of place!
I stepped through the screen door as confidently as I could, knowing that all eyes would be on me...the unlikely stranger.
I felt like I had crossed the border into a foreign country that didn’t much care
for outsiders...even less for city dwellers.
A hush came over the diner.
God, how I wished I hadn’t brushed my hair or put on clean blue jeans.
It was useless to attempt to be unobtrusive.
The waitress sized me up warily...
After a long minute she sauntered over with a pot of coffee and a menu
and gruffly stood by, waiting for my order, acting for all the world
like she had better things to do.
The patrons watched the exchange approvingly.
But I knew that once their curiosity was satisfied that they would return
to their conversations and it would be my turn to study them.
I ordered the platter with absolutely everything, imagining myself as a food critic…from New York City, no less.
I would have to sample it all. They could think what they liked...
When the food arrived, I was truly amazed!
Never had I seen breakfast on such a scale!
Before me was spread a mountain of food… an all day breakfast!
Fried pies, stewed apples, biscuits, sausage gravy, muffins,
cheesy scrambled eggs, country fried potatoes, pancakes, two kinds of ham,
red eye gravy, three kinds of sausage, fried chicken, every kind of pork
one could imagine…and last, but not least…grits.
It would be hard to even sample everything.
But I know good home cooking when I see it and this was worth the trip.
Welcome to the South!
I knew I had reached my destination...the pinnacle of this day’s experience.
I dined for three hours, slowly savoring each offering…delighting in an experience and place I would never see again.
The casual abundance of a simpler life...
Foods prepared by hand… hands that were not hurried…
hands that took the time to do things right...
I took in a whole new world that day.
I drove slowly back north, changed in so many ways by all the gifts of that brief journey.
Every now and then, no matter where I’m living, I still drive South for breakfast...
February 15, 2015 ... Debra Robinson ... email@example.com