Many of us in mid-life find ourselves seeking answers that soothe, enlighten and heal. As as we wake up with quicksand in our bones and our brains feel mushier every day, we ask ourselves: How much play-time do we have left? Has it all been worth it so far? And, what do we do now?
For me, it's time to renew my love of play and pleasure, knowing Life is not forever, and that this really does apply to me. Voilá - the mid-life crisis! Sometimes, it's OK to live a cliché...take up flamenco dancing, and fall in love with a car.
In Spanish, the word for convertible is "Descapotable" (Des-cap-oh-tah-blay) such a sexy word, conjuring Hemingway, bullfights and love in the afternoon. As I downshift into the tight curves of our American Riviera in Big Sur, coiffure-protecting scarf in place, I remember Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (and try not to think about her demise). With Kipling riding shotgun, my needs are wonderfully clear: the car I've waited 30 years to drive, with my dog as my co-pilot. There is therapy in the simple pleasures, after all.
My philandering uncles drove sporty cars. So, my psyche has that imprint of fast cars = danger = sexy. As advertising firms know well, there is something sexy about a driving experience that demands your full attention, and fills you with that delicious feeling of youthful foolishness.
Yet sportscar driving is also an awareness practice. You are not going from A - B in some quiet behemoth that feels more like your living room than a car, playing a video game with your life. Rather you are driving with intention and therefore a higher level of consciousness. With all the traveling I do in Big Sur and out into world, it's good to be just inches above the pavement, paying close attention.
I've no desire to talk on the phone (can't hear) eat (doesn't really work) or apply makeup (can't shift gears with a mascara wand in my hand). I'm hyper-aware of my speed, other drivers, and the natural world around me (especially with the top down!) This lovely Miata has a Momo steering wheel, causing the mechanic at Jiffy Lube to express awe. "It's a performance steering wheel," he said reverently.
Last weekend I drove through the highway corridor of eucalyptus trees near San Juan Bautista, made famous by Hitchcock in Vertigo -- shadows of these tall trees falling across the lanes in the late afternoon sunshine. When I entered the Big Sur Valley sometime later, I imagined the bird's eye view of myself from the tops of the redwoods, hawk or crow's vision captured by a flash of red.
The sound of the engine, the feel of the wind, the smile on my face. It's funny how life is more beautiful when you're awake. Like Cinderella at the end of the ball, soon I may need to return this scarlet carriage to the fairy godfather who so kindly loaned it to us. But I have been reborn in my new faith, the Church of the Convertible, and will worship as often as I can!
Dog is my co-pilot, photo by Toby Rowland-Jones