Over the past four days my sister and I drove from our hometown of Gilford, New Hampshire to my college in Beloit Wisconsin. The journey totalled more than 1000 miles and the little red Subaru named Leo proved himself a loyal and sturdy vessel for our travels. My favorite state was Pennsylvania. It was a balmy fifty degrees there and the pale blue sky contrasted the rolling brown and green hills. We took the charming but horrifically slow route six through the west of the state which resulted in views of agricultural fields and an-ever winding river.
I’m still processing that fact that we actually made it here in one piece. I don’t think the trip had any deep spiritual meaning like so many writers have written about, but maybe you have to go all the way across the states to get that.
Here’s one of my favorite poetic interpretations of the journey west presented to you by John Daniel who grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC, and now lives in Oregon. He has been a railroad inspector, a logger, a rock climbing instructor and likes writing about nature in his poetry and nonfiction.
One Place to Begin
by John Daniel
You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies,
the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you’re bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
Forget where you thought you were going.
Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there’s a fence, try your luck—they don’t stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
trips you, take a good look before you get up.
The desert gets by without government.
Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you’re here, yell as loud
as you can and don’t look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.
Admit you’re afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn’t talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars—you knew it once,
before you were born.
Tell a story about why the sun comes back.
Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
scattered white bones.