Somewhere along I-80 in Illinois, an extensive line of retired satellite dishes painted in whimsical colors and patterns march along the roadside fence. They caught my eye as my daughter Michaela and I drove past on our way to Michigan in late September. Our ensuing discussion about their purpose (they’re just for fun, according to info we found on a local tourism website) stirred us out of the monotony of the highway and white lines.
It had been quite awhile since I went on a road trip, and taking one during the pandemic required much more planning than usual. Our efforts paid off, we stayed healthy and safe, and Michaela settled into her new place in Ann Arbor to begin her career as an art history professor. In a world not overtaken by COVID-19, we would’ve visited the art museum and enjoyed discovering restaurants, but instead we took short walks around the neighborhood and ordered take-out via apps on our phones. (I must say, it was quite convenient to order ice cream from Blank Slate Creamery and receive a text when it was ready to pick up!)
When I traveled home to Wyoming I made sure to keep an eye out for the satellite dishes, and I smiled when I caught sight of them. I welcomed the change in my mood after the madness of driving through the Chicago metro area and snarled traffic. The dishes reminded me of how much I love whimsy, which I’d forgotten with all the seriousness of world events in 2020 and my health issues of the past several years. (Enjoying whimsy seems to be an indulgence, but living fully and maintaining sanity requires finding enjoyment!)
Driving the long stretches of highway across Iowa and Nebraska in my red Subaru wagon, I experienced a refreshing much-needed return to familiar pre-pandemic emotions. I sang loudly along with Cindy Lauper, INXS, U2, The English Beat, and some of my other favorite ’80s bands. I rapped loudly (and poorly!) with the cast of Hamilton. I occasionally rolled down the windows to let the wind blow through. For hours at a time I existed in each moment, forgetting about the reality outside my wagon and the landscape I was passing through. The whimsical satellite dishes and the miles of highway driving gave me joy, a renewed sense of life, and a reminder that indulging in my love of whimsy is okay.