On a past summer day, I set out solo on a road trip across the country. Among my destinations were Portland, Ore.; Phoenix; and my hometown, Cincinnati. I wasn’t sure what this adventure would bring, but as with my winter adventures due south, I anticipated learning something new about myself and the world.

The color green first caught my eye in the “Pennsylvania wilds.” Really! There is a sign announcing this area, which includes Promised Land, a state park. The color there seemed to just wash over me; it was green in the mountains and at eye level. I reveled in it, and noted it in a blog to friends.

Of course, what preceded this adventure directly (seemingly unrelated) was new carpeting for my home. My dear handyman, a patient and kind soul, who asks no questions but completes the tasks before him (however eccentric they may seem!), fetched me a requested leaf from a tree outside my window.

I took it to the carpeting store. They, thinking I had dragged in something from the outside, tried to dispose of it for me. “No,” I protested, “don’t throw that away; I’d like that color carpeting, exactly!”

For some years, I have looked outside my home’s favorite window, celebrating the trees I see as they bloom in spring, grow lush in summer and move through chromatic changes in the fall. In the winter, I long to see them bloom. Now, I delight in a permanent statement beneath my feet.

So, on this cross-country adventure, I made my way from Pennsylvania through Ohio, to the richer pastures of Iowa, Nebraska and beyond.

In Wyoming, the road took a unexpected turn: nothing green! Shades of beige and brown in dirt and twigs did not appeal to me and I was glad for the spectacular palette of Utah and the astounding beauty of the Columbia River Gorge as I meandered toward Oregon.

And it was there, in the “other” Portland that I began to understand where I was: in a “rebirth” occasioned by the color green, shoots and leaves of new faith and wonder. The tree-lined downtown felt like home, and I could not help but see how the greening became me.

The adventure continued to Phoenix, where the only green seemed to be painted dooryards, with nearly everything — roads, buildings, and more — in muted pink. It was hot, and I longed for home and the tender breezes of Windham’s summer trees. Eastward I headed, through New Mexico, to Oklahoma, Texas. In Missouri, I fell head-over-heels in love with the trees of the Ozarks. It wouldn’t be long, now.

Tears flowed down my cheeks as I passed through the Maine toll plaza, 25 days after I’d left, with 8,000 miles under my car’s belt; I was home, with trees and grass greener than anywhere I’d seen in the country.

The measure of comfort I felt in those first few miles back here was extraordinary: safety, nurture and unlimited possibility.

The adventure on the highways has ended, but the journey inward continues. The verdure of Maine offers undeniable food for my soul.

 


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