I started thinking about all the places in America that I've been or lived. The mountains in Vermont with their uniquely shaped peaks and the closed-in, yet comforting, feel of the rolling hills. The whole of New England something like that--Maine's strange wild coast, the cold beaches in Rhode Island and Connecticut and the slate-blue and iron-blue out on the Atlantic coastal shelf out of sight of land. New York City's urban skyscape and the ability of people to live more or less on top of each other and still maintain personal space. The Adirondack Parkway in NYS a long straight shot across the treeline of the mountain range.
The Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is, for some reason, my favorite bridge in the mid-Atlantic states. Something to do with the sharp up-slope into the high suspension poles. The part of the Garden State Parkway through the Oranges in New Jersey, with their working class row houses.
The view down from the roads through Shenandoah National Park, the big, breathless drop to the famous valley below. Iron-red soil in Virginia and parts of Maryland. West Virginia with its claustrophobic hills and hollows. Route 81 down the backbone of Virginia toward North Carolina and Tennessee: the forests around Asheville much like the flora and fauna at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.
Energy in Memphis where the rivers meet. Kentucky and its blue grass and geodes. Eastern Tennessee and the deep hills and valleys. Eastern Kansas and the flats riddled with river erosion that yield to the long, flat prairie.
The drive from Palm Springs, California through the mesas in Arizona and New Mexico and into the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma, where I first saw high piles of cumulus clouds after three days of driving through the desert and they looked so alien.
The beaches north of San Diego with their sharp cliffs down, and my first sight of the Pacific Ocean on another trip, after driving through the Central Valley in California toward Highway One as the ocean lifted up over the flat-top hills and stretched out into forever. The mountains at Big Bear piled like giant talus on the way out of LA. Big Sur, of course, and the California northern coast.
Colorado and Wyoming and Montana where you don't really know what Big Sky means until you're there. The Rockies and the Tetons that spring up off the plains so suddenly, seemingly, that you are taken by surprise. The grasslands of central Montana giving way to those oddly distant, snow-streaked peaks with their alien and almost frightening blue shades--blues you see on the open ocean.
I love this f*cking country, fiercely, and with eyes wide open to its flaws and schisms. As things have gotten more difficult for my family over the last few years, and I've started to give up on the idea that a life was possible in a land and landscape in which I thought I had belonged, felt I belonged, was rooted in through love and family and ancestry and old wars and their sacrifices and beliefs, as things got more difficult, I would think sometimes of leaving, of Canada, of Switzerland, of Sweden, of some place that might actually place some value on compassion--I would always stop and think, no, I would never belong there. I would always be a stranger in a strange land.
And maybe now there's some chance for something better. Maybe.