From Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune.
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
Today, Sioux and I set out for the first week of our travels. It hasn’t started off the way I had dreamed it would – packing was way more challenging than anticipated (hours of rain didn’t help!), my cat disappeared (she was later found) and the $15 dollar TINY bottle of champagne I’d purchased to celebrate with Sioux upon arrival at our first destination tasted worse than dish water. But then Sioux reminded me (while we both grimaced and laughed) of the wise saying, “never expecting, always accepting.” And the truth is that beyond the to-do list and the expectations that have gone into all of the planning for this project and trip, I’m utterly content. The good fortune is that God is with us and has brought us safely here so far; my sister is with me – the perfect companion; and the open road is before us with all of its mysteries and wisdom to share. Afoot and light-hearted, I do indeed take to the open road. Tomorrow, onward to Shenandoah National Park!
Song of the Open Road, written by Walt Whitman seems at first the perfect way to begin this journey. It was published in 1956 edition of Leaves of Grass and it celebrates the out-of-doors, particularly the road where space and humanity come together in a purposeful and meaningful way. It reflects the interest in preserving the natural wonders of our country. And here, what Whitman is emphasizing is that things that separate us come together on the road – it’s something everyone uses, no matter who you are.
The sabbatically-free part of me rejoices with this reflection. Attempting to leave the stresses and strains of ministry behind for a just little while, I hope to seek renewal on this cross-country adventure. But knowing the purpose of my trip – to explore the complexity of our treasured parks and how we came by them at the great expense of the indigenous peoples – also comes to mind. As I travel by road to Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains, I think of the five primary tribes that lived in this area: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and more southernly, the Seminole. These peoples were known by the Anglo-European settlers of the Colonial and Federal periods of our history as the “Five Civilized Tribes,” so perceived by the colonists’ world-view because these tribes attempted to adapt to their more “civilized” culture. But it wasn’t long before treaties were breached and the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. These tribes were made to cede millions of acres of land to the expansion of the United States and to forcibly abide by this relocation policy, “exchanging” lands west of the Mississippi for lands within existing state borders. The forced march became the “Trail of Tears,” a road paved not with the things that unite us, but with the many cruel things that separate us – racism, violence, cruelty, death and genocide.
May I travel today’s road with my eyes and heart set on truth-seeking and ears ready to listen.