Sometimes it catches me off guard. I'll be driving along, minding my own business, and I'll see something, a glimpse, something ordinary, and a feeling lifts through the present day distractions and sets me in a place I only vaguely recall.
This morning it was a row of tent caterpillar webs hanging off the trees on a country road. The maple leaves inside their filmy nests were brown, the branches dead, the black baby pillars eating trees already hit by summer drought. I thought, maybe tonight I'll get out with our tree trimmer and cut down the webs, give the trees a fighting chance, but then that feeling came out of nowhere and I forgot about the trimmer and the caterpillars and tried to pin down where that feeling was coming from.
I get the same feeling when I see sandy shoulders on winding back roads, the sand rich with iron the colour of bricks and hardy sumac growing wild in the febrile soil just beyond the sand.
I get it when I'm traveling secondary highways on the hottest summer days, when glass-like mirages shimmer in the heat coming off paling asphalt.
The feeling is a memory of 50 summers come and gone, hazy recollections of road trips with my parents in their land yacht Chevys, of overheated radiators, of picnics starring Tupperware containers filled with egg salad sandwiches, and stops at long extinct gas stations to buy glass bottles of Orange Crush from refrigerated water coolers, the bottles dripping with water as the caps were snapped open.
One day we stopped at a gas station where a black bear was held captive in a galvanized pen. My father in his vacation-only plaid short-sleeved dress shirt and white shorts held a bottle of Pepsi steady while the bear grasped it in his front paws and guzzled it down thirstily.
It was mid-summer. Mirages danced in the road ahead and tent caterpillar webs hung from trees.