It’s a little weird, but as a kid I did this thing while staring out the car window. I’d imagine myself gliding along the power lines on the side of the road like a train on a high wire balancing act. Pole to pole and tower to tower, my eyes tracked the cables as they stitched together suburban streets and interstate highways. All the while I’d picture myself hovering above them like a skier poised for a perfect run of transformer box slalom. There were no headrest TV screens or DVD players to distract kids back then, so this was my way to entertain myself from the backseat of our family minivan.
With time, my game grew in complexity. I’d become the electricity flowing through the wires and into people’s houses. For a brief second I’d see inside their homes through a window of their electrical outlets. Food on the table, TV in the living room, kids doing homework upstairs. As quickly as my dad continued driving, I was out of the house, along the wires, and into the next one.
The world became impossibly large this way. To imagine that each house, each car on the highway, every building I passed had people with stories as unique as my own was then and is now a staggering thought. The worlds I dreamt up in those fleeting glimpses were both incredibly complex and futilely incomplete.
We took a number of roadtrips out west in those days. Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Badlands, and miles and miles of prairie. All the while, my eyes kept busy tracking the wires. In those vast expanses the power lines stretch to the horizon, off behind hills and into lands beyond my view.
I can’t say for sure what brought this memory back to me. I suppose somewhere along the buses and trains and tuk-tuk rides, this trip has reminded me of a lesson I learned when I was a child. No matter how far I travel there are always new places just out of sight, people waiting to be met, and stories waiting to be told.