We are chasing the sunset tonight. It’s not even 5PM, but the sun is already sneaking below the bluffs. The early hour signifies that winter is coming and that we need to watch for deer. The orange and pink sky still gives enough light for us to see for miles as we cruise down Highway 18. The only sound is from the local radio station I am playing, my newborn quiet for the drive. There are no other cars on the highway, so I take a moment to look out over the fields draped in the fleeting rays of the sun. These cornfields do little to hide a farm truck cruising down one of the gravel roads that divide fields by farms. I let my eyes follow the dust plume covering the half a mile the truck just drove, an intimate kiss between the earth and the sky.

Suddenly, I am transported back to college, back to Atlanta, Georgia, where I sit still, observing, stuck in traffic. It is hard to feel peace when horns are honking, only two cars make it through the light at a time, and one mile takes half an hour to drive. I look over towards the bus lane, jealous, as a bus cruises by leaving a diesel exhaust plume for a whole city block in its wake.

Photo Sourced from Stephanie Campbell

I take a deep breath and tell myself that even amidst the chaos, I can enjoy the kaleidoscopic view of the sunset reflected in every direction by the surrounding skyscrapers, car windshields, and mirrors. As I exhale, the bus turns back into that farm truck and the skyscrapers into cornfields. My heart is truly calm once more. No need to ask the sun for peace. We continue our drive.

We descend the bluffs and see the river approaching in the distance. The sun is hugging the Mississippi good night, its light mirroring off of each ripple of water. From this angle, the river seems uncrossable: a mile wide and scattered with islands blocking our view of the other side. A barge blows its horn in the distance, and again I am brought back to the honking horns of Atlanta. I am crawling down the ten lane interstate with cars all around me. I hate driving in traffic; the unpredictability of other drivers impedes my ability to know my next move perfectly. Can I merge now or will they speed up, slow down, change lanes? For a split second, I register the face of the person in the car next to me––their eyebrows are pulled down over their eyes and their lips drawn up touching their nose––at least in my anxiety I am not alone. I blink and the face shifts––their eyebrows are relaxed, back where they belong, and their lips now touch their cheeks in a smile––I realize I am looking at my own reflection in the rearview mirror. The mile-wide interstate transforms to the mighty Mississippi and cars become islands. We are back. There is no unpredictability here, the river can be crossed and my fears alleviated.

I pull up to my humble house and breathe a sigh of relief. I am home. Before getting out of my car and braving the cold, I take a second to appreciate all I have: a yard large enough for my dog, and eventually my children, to run around in; neighbors who bring gifts and food when we are in need, like after I was recovering from childbirth; and the overall feeling of safety, security, trust, knowing this is a wonderful place to live. From my car, I only have a few steps to take before entering the warmth of my home. As I take the first step, the hair on my arms stands on end. I have to walk through a parking deck, alone, at night, to get to my apartment in Atlanta.

Shadows turn to monsters. I all but sprint towards the apartment that I share with three other women. I appreciate having a roof over my head, but it is hard to call it mine. I don’t even have my own bathroom! The closest grass is the park in Midtown, and I have never met my neighbors––life in the city lends itself towards anonymity. As I hurry through the parking structure, I do not feel safe. But I’m almost to the door. One more step. I open the door and the soulless apartment is given life and I see my little house again with a welcoming fire burning in the pellet stove. I am safe.

Every time I go for a drive, the quiet of the country is juxtaposed against the noise of the city in my memory. The ability to see for miles versus being blocked by buildings in all directions. The Mississippi River versus the ten-lane interstate. Apartments against houses. Both have been good to me, in their own way, and both have their perks and reasons to live there. But for me, here in the Driftless, I feel at home.


By Brady Bove

About the author
Brady Bove is a true believer in the beauty of humanity with an innate desire to understand the world. Her engineering background combined with her passion for poetry allows her to meld the mechanics and the emotions of life.