Monday, December 21, 2009


I drove my car on Friday for the first time in 110 days. Zeb and I ran errands that day. It was an odd experince, driving again, especially for the first few minutes. In sitting behind the wheel, traveling down the road, I felt very disconnected. The best way I can describe it is that it was similar to when I have a bad cold; I know what is happening around me, but it doesn't quite seem real. I couldn't feel the bite of the cold; I couldn't feel the air moving at all. The speed of the car had little to do with me, a mere foot on a pedal, not a full-body effort. I barely noticed hills or curves. I--my body, at least--was disconnected from the act of traveling.

After a few miles, the strangness of this disconnect began to wear off. I appreciated the ease and comfort with which Zeb and I were able to travel. We were able to accomplish more errands, and buy more stuff, then I could have on a bike. In fact, I found myself buying things with an abandon that I never felt on the bike. When I got home, I had to explain to Tim that I had spent more money than I intended to. In part this was because we needed a fair amount with the holidays and all, but also in part because with the car, I did not have to carefully think about each purchase the way I do when I am hauling it all home by bike. I realized that the realities of bike transportation had been acting as a first filter for responsible spending.

Overall, I am ambivalent about begining to use the car again. I appreciate being out of the cold and the additional measure of safety on slick roads. I enjoy being able to go to places that I would not take the time to ride to on a bike. But, I don't care for the feeling of disconnection from the world and from my motion. It begins to reduce travel to a video game. I also feel wrong about participating in what automobiles are. I feel guilty about buying gasoline and about adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. I am also ambivalent about the faster pace of life that an automobile brings.

As Zeb and I returned to Poultney on rte 22A from Granville, we passed a sign that said something like, "Right to Farm Life Law." I thought about that as I drove. Somehow, in our culture, we have started moving so fast that we have lost or forgotten our roots and what sustains us today. We get in such a hurry in our cars that we get angry if a farmer is driving his tractor down the road, forcing us to slow down for a few minutes. This issue is prevelant enough that a law had to be passed to protect farmers. Somehow, in our fossil fuel-powered haste, we have forgotten that farmers provide us with food and that without food, we would die. We have forgotten that we rely on trees and plants and bees and microorganisms. We have forgotten that we need functioning ecosystems more than we need a bigger house or better cell phone coverage. In the end, at the most fundemental level, we need our planet to be healthy more than anything else. We need to slow down enough to remember our connections to the air, the rain, the soil, and to this specific spot on earth wher we live. I think that forgoing my car and riding my bike for the past three months has helped me to do that.


kristin said...

Please continue :)

WeaZel said...

Very enjoyable blog. Interesting that you and I took similar career paths, especially considering that you and your family turned me into a "fish geek" at a very young age.