I was twelve years old when I read The Old Man and the Sea for the first time. I was terribly moved by it, by its stark beauty and by the old man, who reminded me of my father, blundering and noble.
At the time, my family lived in a dilapidated farmhouse on a dirt road that meandered past neglected farms and rickety barns. The road was pot-holed, and dust spewed from the car as we drove the four miles home each afternoon. I can recall each turn and how, at one point, from a dark, wooded underpass, the road emerged into a light-filled field. Sometimes, snow made the unplowed road treacherous and the car tires spun and dug for solid ground. Or rain came down, muddying the way, making the car slip and splash around bends. On days like these, even though we were passengers, we paid strict attention to the road. But mostly, this drive provided stretches of the day devoted only to quiet observation.
Hemmingway said of the old man in his skiff, since there was nothing to read and he did not have a radio, he thought much...
If ancient tree boughs arching over a dirt road can console or offer meaning, well, that's what they did. Those were the days when kids would look out of the car window, watch the landscape, and dream.