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Head Wound
Head Wound, 1970, oil


On our last trip to Mexico, in 1989, we started late, maybe one or two in the afternoon, a Friday afternoon, and we were due in Fredericton for supper, a six-hour drive, and it was raining, and darkness fell, and the traffic was heavy, with lots of trucks, and there was some kind of film on the windshield so that oncoming headlights were blinding, and at one point the centre line on the road vanished (because of repairs under way), and there was simply this black surface, like water, and I gave up—said I couldn’t go on, it was too dangerous (which it was—I’m not a good night driver now at the best of times, and I didn’t want to get us killed).

Whereupon she took over and drove us through all that awfulness, and a good deal of the way to Fredericton.

She was a fearless driver in Mexico. My quasi-vertigo is so strong now that when there’s a steep drop-off to my right, I feel every time the road curves to the left as if I’m going to be unable to follow it and will simply go forwards and off into space. (The void, I suppose.) When we left Guanajato, we took a road that had terrified me the first time we were in Mexico, though I was able to cope with it then. (I had a fever, we found out.) This time she drove, and did so quite fast (a bit too fast at times, thought I, as we approached blind corners) and was simply not bothered by the heights.

She also on our first sabbatical, drove us into New Orleans in the evening in heavy traffic, and subsequently into Monterrey, ditto ditto.

And she was good at overtaking—had good judgment, I mean, and didn’t hang back needlessly long. And could drive for longer than I could. And in the spring of 1990, while suffering from a near-prostrating attack of food allergy, she took the wheel when I could no longer go on after six hours, and drove us confidently the rest of the way, at night, into the unfamiliar city of Vera Cruz.

If I mention these things, it’s partly because prior to 1969 when she got her licence (after about forty lessons) the thought of driving terrified her. She had been in two accidents with her father, in one of which the car rolled over. And she spoke of an earlier attempt at driving in which she found herself driving up someone’s lawn towards the porch where people were sitting and watching the car approach.


Switchback, ca 1968–69, oil


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