Not far from where I live is a two-lane road that used to connect one small town to the next smaller town.
Most of the other streets around here have been turned into four-lane roads lined with stoplights, Starbucks and subdivisions with fancy sounding names. But not this one. It has no curbs or sidewalks — it is a lane, it is a breath of country in a burgeoning suburb.
For a half a mile or so, you can drive along under a canopy of Live Oaks and past long stretches of Kentucky white fences that hold back horses and a few small stone houses which care not for progress or the new millennium or subdivisions with precisely trimmed boxwoods and pansies all in a row.
Along this lane, there is a mysterious old house that hides back behind a thicket of brambles. The only time you can catch a glimpse of it is in the winter, after all the leaves have fallen from the trees, and then only if you are driving slowly and know to look for it. Perhaps the brambles grew up around the house to protect it from the world that had grown up around it.
As I was driving past the house just the other day, there were no cars behind me, so I slowed to get a better look at the old house. It is mid-January now and all the trees have given up their leaves to winter except for the Texas Live Oaks which are quirky and stubborn and won’t shed their tiny leaves until spring.
I stopped and rolled down the passenger side window to peer into the tangle of gray vines and briers. The mostly naked undergrowth would yield nothing more than a puzzle-piece size view. But it was enough. It was more than I had ever seen before. Through a tiny peep hole of brambles, I could see a once grand two-story home with white columns which shelter a big porch.
At the street, there are two crumbling columns of bricks that flank a rotting wooden gate held up only by the thick and woody trumpet vines that have overtaken them. At one time, the gate lead visitors right up to the big porch. But not anymore. No one had passed through that gate for years.
I saw in my rearview mirror that another car was approaching behind me. Disappointed, I pushed on the gas and moved on. I left with mixed feelings. One the one hand I felt as though I had won something, some bit of information. On the other hand, I didn’t really know anything more than before I took the time to stop and peer into the underbrush like a Peeping Tom.
I drove away thinking about how it is in winter, when all the abundance and jewelry of life falls away, that hidden things are revealed. It is then that we tend to slow down and peer into the underbrush for that glimpse of something special.
When life is green and good, we just drive on past.