Last Friday school was cancelled. It snowed, rained, froze, all sorts of nasty stuff that makes commuting difficult. Today we have a two-hour delay - in the words of my principal, it's "wicked icy." I waited about 20 minutes past my usual leaving time and headed out. I never know how long it will take me to get to work. I drive forty-one miles (one way) on one of the worst roads in Maine. In summer that can be a forty-five minute drive; in winter, it can take nearly two hours. Even in perfect weather, the road is dangerous - in bad weather it becomes downright deadly.
When I finally get to work, I always get the same questions from the other teachers: "How was the Brownville Road today?" "See any moose?" "I bet your commute was bad today, huh?" I shrug my shoulders, nod an agreement, and drop it.
Because really? I love my drive to work.
I will be the first to admit that I curse the logging trucks and plow trucks that make the drive dangerous for small passenger cars. The road itself isn't paved well, so I have to straddle the center line so I don't go off the road into the ditch. There is a twenty mile stretch where there is no cell phone reception, so if I do go off the road, I have a long walk ahead of me. There are no businesses, only a few year round homes... 95% of my drive is straight through the uninhabited North Maine Woods.
I love it.
Because although there are several difficulties, this road is one of the most beautiful, most interesting, most breathtaking roads I've ever driven on. Each day I see wildlife. Moose, deer, fox, coyote, owls, hawks, eagles, crows, ravens, fishers, otters, ermine, weasels, partridge, quail, turkeys, and more. Just this morning there were two partridge in the road, busily pecking at the salt and sand in the road. They didn't look up as I approached. I pointed my car in between them and drove by. As I looked in my rearview to assure myself that I hadn't hit them, I saw them looking at me, necks outstretched as though trying to figure out what had just gone by.
I drive past three mountains, two rivers, a bog, a flowage, more than one lake, mile after mile of forest. Some of the views I pass every day are stunning regardless of the weather. Mt. Katahdin, the last mountain in the Appalachian chain stands stalwart at the end of my commute. Each fall I wait for the day when the mountain gets its snowy cap. I anticipate the spring moose migration each year - some moose I see often enough to learn a little of his or her personality.
With the world's burgeoning population and global warming affecting the entire planet, I find myself incredibly thankful that I drive the road I do. Nowhere else, maybe anywhere, is the natural world on more perfect display. So when people shake their heads in sympathy for my horrible commute, I let them - it means one less person on my road.