Interstate 695 is a fifty- two mile long highway that encircles the city of Baltimore.
From Monday through Friday, I shuttle to work along the northwestern arc of this circle, between the city and the suburbs. From my perspective, there is beauty on the beltway: ivy decorates the barrier walls of my morning commute, and the tree line dips and rises along the contours of the highway.
According to a recent study, the traffic of the Baltimore beltway is the 19th worst in America. I am not sure if I am offended or relieved by that news, but either way, the beltway commute is one of my most consistent experiences of home. Before I was old enough to drive, or have a job, my parents drove me along this same road. The beltway transported us everywhere we needed to be. Even as I write this sentence, I can hear the collective vibrations of this road, which is only a few hundred yards away.
My experience of home, then, is leveled with the anxiety of rush hour. The traffic has seemed increasingly erratic over the years. During my morning drive, there is one interchange that I approach in radio silence, so I can focus on the recklessness that section inspires.
A few years ago, after years of tolerating the beltway, I learned to accept and appreciate it for what it was. My wife and I were expecting a child. Suddenly, I wanted to be grateful for the unknown. Oddly, the beltway then became an ally- a playing field of duty and expectation. Perhaps I have a minor form of Stockholm syndrome, but there is clear channel of sky over 695, and the ivy is beautiful.