matt pond PA

May 17, 2019

Highway Forests.

There are small forests burgeoning between the north- and southbound lanes of Interstate 87. Rock cliffs jut out from overgrown tufts of grass, small meadows hide behind thin tree walls — red maple, white spruce. Drainage culverts feed fake waterfalls, thickets thrive, paths twist, secluded dens under the overgrowth filled with a community of creatures. All seemingly nought from a speeding car.

If you choose to live in the highway forest, you can only go in two directions. This binary, black-and-white existence distills thought and necessity into its simple truth: It’s the highway forest way or the highway. This, while the rest of the world waltzes to a false of sense of individual infinity.

Some animals can’t handle the limitation. Nevermore, to race in frenzied nested circles, to stare at the sky whilst mindlessly stumbling. Some animals see this as the way of love — the open movement supposedly leads to the center of the soul. Dion and The Wanderer for some, Roam for the rest.

But there are loads of ways to love and countless crows, chickadees, possums and chipmunks who worship the lines. Living in the rugged loop of Bob Dylan’s Shelter From The Storm, intentionally lost in the middle of it all. The passing cars tell stories of different states, different seasons occurring simultaneously. From Quebec, frozen snow crowning luggage racks through April. From Florida, dusty, bug-stained windshields speak in husky, humid drawls, the people inside laughing, crying, singing along. All their flashing, zoetropic stories of smuggling drugs, surprise mid-drive divorces over chintzy blueteeth, the sincere devotion in the simple passenger-to-captain neck massage.

It’s a fifty-fifty chance to make it out. Or to make it back in. Teenage groundhogs often struggle with the narrow borders and head for the wider world, only to realize that there are always limits. Fences, sidewalks, swimming pools, abandoned mega malls. Mostly, man.

In the highway forest, there are no predators or prey. Even when those cigarette-smoking coyote cross the lines, they know the rules. Hidden pools are for everyone and each acorn is symbolically split in two. Wispily whiskered mice are revered for their elderly wisdom, their field study stories, the softness of their dreams, until death’s sweet embrace.

Did you know that half of the animals lying dead on the pavement were not struck by a car? Tossed into the street by their feathered and furry friends — a carrion tribute to the maligned yet noble vultures, the humble red tailed hawks. Bloody pancakes completing the true circle of life.

An argument about the competing beauty of deciduous and coniferous trees cannot escalate into madness because there is no way to survive the ultimate self-destruction of ego-driven madness. All disputes are settled over fermented apples and wild honey from unselfish bees, waggling their light-weight yellow and black behinds to an ungulated beat. In the earliest corners of the morning, when almost all the cars sleep, the highway forest serenade echoes against asphalt. An epic ode to an uncomplicated life.

If we can make it to other side — climb the shoulder, avoid the tires, bumpers and grills, cross the yellow divider into the passing lane and past the final white border line onto the highway forest median — then we might be able to see. (Nothing follows the last line. This is the last line.)