Call me weird, but I really like to sit in my car – it’s my quiet place. Alone.
It has nothing to do with driving-I like that, too, especially when it’s on the open highway. What I’m talking about are those rare moments when I’m completely locked in my glass bubble. The engine isn’t running, the radio is silent, and if I’m lucky, the rain is gently falling on the roof.
When I was a kid, I used to love going in our garage when it was raining just to listen to the soft, rhythmic sound of rain hitting the shake shingles. It felt safe, quiet, and I guess meditative, although I had no idea what that was at the time.
Today, I spend my days in an endless gurgle of people wanting, needing, and questioning. My continuous ‘response with a smile’ feels exhausting by 4p.m. and I find myself craving quiet. That is where the car comes in.
I don’t slip out to the garage and leave my family inside the house wondering what’s up with Mom. I don’t drive around the block searching for a place to park. Sometimes I do linger after I’ve arrived home, savoring the last of the NPR story, or taking a few deep breaths to center myself.
My car sitting time is often while I’m waiting for my son or daughter to finish a class, an activity, or some sport that doesn’t require spectating. It’s best when I park in a quiet neighborhood without many pedestrians peering in the windows. I prefer daylight quiet in my car, although I do keep a Halloween style skull lantern in my glove box to shed a little light as needed.
What do I do in the car? I sit. I write. I think. I grade the endless papers that my students provide me every day. I don’t like to talk on the phone, but I do occasionally check my email, play Words with Friends, or send a text or two. I write lots of blog posts, I do lesson plans, and once in awhile I’ll read a book or catch up on the newspaper. I even keep a blanket handy.
Once I did fall asleep – it was dark and after dinner – that felt a bit embarrassing and disorienting. As my teenage daughter would say, it was ‘sup-awk’ to wake up to the chatter of kids leaving their class knowing I had been snoring with the windows open!
Mostly I find that I breathe, sink into the seat, and just slow it down. I let my heartbeat match the rain, and concentrate on me. Most of the time people don’t notice me there, and I like that.
Now that I’m an adult, I don’t get to hear the rain on the roof of our house. The sound of rain hitting skylights just isn’t the same-it’s more of a ping than a satisfying thud. But when I’m alone inside my car I hear it all-rain, the wind, birds, dogs, and passers-by all create a meditative backdrop to my thoughts.
As a turtle needs to retreat into its shell to protect its soft body, as a chipmunk scurries into its hole, and as a rabbit retreats to its den, I need a place to go and shut out the world. The demands of a job and a family can, just for a moment, stay outside the bubble. Safe, dry, and protected, I can breathe in and out, and find my center again.
Call me weird, but I really like to sit in my car. Alone. Quietly. What about you? Where’s your quite place?