Ghost is a Verb

by Soul Places | Diane Ludeking

The Ever-Faithful Guide, the Wisconsin River

Traveling through the Driftless Region of South Western Wisconsin several times over the last three weeks reminded me of how much I love this terrain.  Leaving my Iowan home well before sunrise in my little blue car, I travel carefully with the limiting headlights illuminating my way.  Once I cross the boarder into, the great Wisconsin River greets me, reflecting streetlights in its oily, still surface.  Comforted by its presence, I let it guide me to my destination.

I imagine the river is still asleep, unmoving, like resting bodies behind the dark-windowed homes I pass.  Winter has stripped the trees of their leaves to reveal their stark naked forms in my headlights creeping up on me until they go whizzing past.

As I drive into daylight, I am reminded that this is the only way out of darkness – stay awake and keep going.

Silhouetted trees, now darker than their brightening surroundings, stand alert as though waiting to cross the street or wave at me as I pass.  The river is becoming more visible, the color of the barrel of a rifle.  The grays and browns of winter before snow become more visible.

Paying homage to my racecar driver DNA, I accelerate through the winding, tree lined road, fully aware that I could drive right into the river, should my eyes linger there too long.  The road becomes less claustrophobic now as the river and trees retreat, revealing wide-open farmland, illuminated farmhouse windows and barns, fog in the now distant hills.  I still feel the presence of the river to my south even though I can’t see it.

I wonder if Batman knows about this place...

I pass through the not-so-mythical city of Gotham, WI, now ten miles from my destination:  sunrise and a morning of writing with friends.

My return trip home is in daylight, back down the same road that brought me here, still guided by the river, yet a completely different experience.  It’s now fully daytime, cloudy and the muted lighting is enough to illuminate things that the night hid.

Two more hours of meditation by the hum of my engine and the passing landscape reveal marshy vistas along the river, a horse farm in town and a yard covered in plastic Santas (in hindsight, I wish I’d stopped to get a picture of that!).  Feeling pleased with my day, I suddenly remember the black dog that ghosted into my headlights on the drive here and hope that I do not see him on my return trip.