The traffic is moderately heavy as I take the 20-minute drive down Highway 101 from Santa Rosa to the New Dimensions recording studio in Petaluma. I am looking forward to meeting Ralph White, the cofounder of New York’s Open Center and one who has been “on the path of awakening” for over three decades. I’m listening to a book on my iPhone. My most favorite genre is historical fiction, and today I’m nearing the end of Ken Follette’s Edge of Eternity. It is a masterful telling of the 20th century up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I’ve made this routine drive many times, and I’m doing what is called “continuous partial attention.” I’m immersed in the story but I’m also watching the traffic. My attention is momentarily grabbed by the bright red pickup truck that is coming up fast from behind as the driver weaves in and out on the narrow road. I know enough to give such aggression a lot of space so I move over to the right and give him room to speed by.
I move back into the left lane, going steadily along and soon I’m passing an older semi. It’s faded blue and might be a Peterbilt but I’m not sure. The sign on the door says it is from Riverside, and it’s hauling a flatbed trailer that I estimate to be at least 40 feet long. The trailer is empty. Empty except for one little precious load. Right in the middle of the trailer a bright red strap secures its treasured parcel. Sitting proudly, in the place of honor on the long bed, is a pristine, bright yellow Tonka toy dump truck. You would think this little truck would be dwarfed by the size of the trailer in as much as it takes up less than one square foot of space. Not so. The pride with which it travels beams off it like the sun as it sits in this most honored position. I suspect it is smiling. I regret not snapping a picture of it as I laugh out loud. The driver and I briefly lock eyes as I pass and we nod and smile.
I’m happy for the rest of the day and for days afterwards as I describe this sweet, unexpected scene to my friends. We are all smiling with this little yellow dump truck.
—Justine Willis Toms