With a plan in place by fall of 2012, we begin to dream about what we might see. This next preview post to our cross-country blog shares a few thoughts on finding what you did not even think you’d see.
When I was 10, this amounted to a complete charter for an adventure. Of course there’s no answer to the obvious follow-up question: clues to what? Mom knew boys quite well, and was in the middle of raising three of them, so she did not ask. Accompanied by my big brother, who patiently indulged my small quest, I continued out the door to explore the desert near a vacation home we had rented near Palm Springs, in search of, well, clues.
This is perfect reasoning when you’re 10. Actually, when on the verge of adventure it’s not bad thinking at any age. This is the sweet art of having some intention to absorb widely and enthusiastically but not to limit what you see. This also shows childlike anticipation that there simply MUST be clues out there, and by golly, they will be seen and then we’ll know … something.
Without over-thinking it, we want a similar kind of open-ended charter to discover something on our cross-country trip. We are, truly, looking for clues. And even now it is fun to think of what we might find.
We might see clues to what long-haul truckers see when they talk about knowing the lay of the land. I don’t know what that means exactly, though I suppose it is how the land raises and flattens, turns dry or verdant, catches weather or exposes a huge sky.
Or there may be clues to the flow of history. These all can show history going further back as we travel east: The Donner party, the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark, settling the Ohio River Valley, the Erie Canal and then the American Revolution. And we may also see the years reverse as we trace west again, from Appomattox and Chattanooga to Dodge City and on.
There will be clues to the natural sciences, to flora and fauna: Bears, peaks, prairies, caves, falls; how the Prairie grows greener than the plains; how the pines grip the Rockies, but the peaks grow more barren to the southwest.
The cultures—they will provide some of the most interesting clues. Colin Woodard in his book American Nations describes 11 different regional cultures in North America. These, he says, have characteristics established whehn first settled and that these traits endure. You can still detect the different ways of New England Yankee culture and how that compares to Midlands, Deep South and Far West. You can still feel the original Dutch biz-focus of Wall Street, or the originally Scots-Irish clannish wariness of Appalachia. Without being rude or obvious about analyzing anyone we meet, we may reflect later how these were seen even in the small conversations along the way.
The trick will be to leave it as loose and innocent as would a 10-year-old. Who knows what we will see? Maybe we won’t even see any of these things, but something else, in a category not now known to us. Maybe what we will really discover are clues about ourselves. If we can rest, look, be still and wonder there’s no telling what clues we’ll see.