The Hidden Joys of Being Stuck Behind a Truck

We were forced to poke along the old turnpike between our town and the county seat 10 miles away, and my husband's annoyance mounted. There was no chance of passing a yellow highway truck on the winding road, which was winter-rutted and puddled from intermittent rains.

Seated comfortably in the passenger seat, I was privileged to observe and take note of distractions he couldn't afford to notice. A group of Black Angus cattle milling about a small water hole was a sudden blessing, since I hadn't seen any in years. Horses in a field appeared slick and contented as they cropped the tall grasses. The state of the countryside was truly attractive.

Giant shade trees along the way had suddenly become fully green. The raw wounds of last year's violent storms were healing over, and new life rioted around fallen forest Titans. Such luxurious sightings couldn't be shared by a cautious driver, I realized. Yet in spontaneous reaction to one particular yard we passed, aflame with crimson rhododendrons and pink azaleas, I suggested he ''slow down and see more.''

He had no choice. At that exact moment, another huge red truck emerged from a side road, cutting in front of us. Feeling like Pollyanna, but determined to keep my cool, I added: ''I know it's frustrating, but let's consider it an escort -- a sort of honor guard into the county seat.''

To my surprise he laughed. ''If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'' With that break in the tension we leaned back and enjoyed the remaining small blessings along our route.

We breathed in the nostalgic aroma of wet, recently mown fields. Some of the hay lay in sodden swaths -- the reapers' work interrupted by yet another shower. What was not yet cut would still grow to be salvaged. The resulting pattern was neatly designed.

Another field was white with summer daisies. A black cat stalked among the flowers, ignoring traffic along the fence. He hunted whatever might provide his next meal-away-from-home, we surmised.

Old-fashioned rambling roses sprawled along the stone wall, pink to white. Their fragrance hung in the moist air. Woodbine was there, ready for autumn peaking to scarlet, and poison ivy was scrambling up trees and shrubs. Bad news, we murmured, then amended that judgment: Many small creatures would depend on those berries during the approaching winter.

Beside the entrance to a popular nursery, we noted a Greyhound bus. Its passengers fanned out amid rows of flowering plants. Tall delphiniums and foxgloves spiked up, and a great variety of other perennials drew avid gardeners.

Colorful umbrellas raised against the mist, embellishing the Impressionist scene. We drove on slowly, identifying greenery in small home plots -- lettuce, chard, pole beans, staked peas, and other later-bearing plants.

We discovered a couple of small ponds we'd never noticed before. How long had we missed them, clipping by at a faster pace? Several Canada geese floated on the surface, while others preened on the banks. A family group was gliding along serenely, with alert parents fore and aft of the flotilla of five puffball young.

Blessings indeed, and why should we be anxious to hurry past? In the rain everything seemed clear, washed of dulling dust. We had shared much beauty in half an hour. ''The blessings that never were bought nor sold/ That each may share, are better than gold,'' I recalled from a poem memorized as a child.

And when had we lost our escort? Or the burdening, yet unimportant worries of the day? We almost began to miss those trucks that had delayed us as we paused at the stoplight opposite the county's historic green.

We had slowed down and seen.

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