The beauty of the road is so much more than views. It is the elevation loss and gain that sneaks up on you as quickly as the road snakes its way along the Snake River.
It is the surprise of the desert that has made its rural-America mark in southeastern Oregon.
It is the spontaneity of stopping at state parks for a peek at history and scenery so breathtaking you feel you’ve stepped into a mini Grand Canyon.
It is the trail our ancestors walked upon that you place your weary soles on now, however twisted and stolen it may be. It is still a silent beauty resting behind a sleepy Americana town, waiting for rediscovery and firsthand learning for three young women.
It is the creek sparkling in the hotter-than-expected northwestern sun, and the quick dip that makes an afternoon sparkle just as brightly.
It is the curve that moves from summit to limitless landscapes, to the expansive end of the Oregon Trail, played out in a quilt of farm fields, and the hope they held for a better life.
The road brings beauty, and within this beauty lies everything you’d expect and wouldn’t expect: children bickering, bits and pieces of trash and clothing piled up in the backseats, state lines that bear no stoppable signs, audiobooks and downloaded movies, snapshots taken from a moving vehicle, trucks that hog both lanes, treeless mountains and endless vineyards, poverty and wealth found behind fences and up on winery hilltops.
The road brings more than views of tall pines, sagebrush-only molehills, and sleepy rivers. It brings us all a new world view where we search for ourselves and find ourselves in each other. Where children find joy in only their siblings’ company, where the road promises a pool at the end of the day and a reality check about small city poverty to remind us of what we have.
Can you see it from an airplane, from a train ride, from a walk down the block?
Never quite like the views you’ll find when you hit the open road. The views of nature, of civilization… of yourself.
You just need one set of keys, a whole lot of gumption, and a pair of soul-searching eyes, and you can find yourself a whole new world view.
i cry for the card, for his loss,
for his Iraqi-Syrian past,
for all the burning hours of summer school
where he committed himself
to finishing high school in three years.
i cry for his words, for his loss,
his inescapable self that has hidden
a kind face in a chaotic classroom,
his sly smile catching my every
snuck-in witty remark
(even when no one else could).
i cry for the system, for his loss,
shuffled by our government’s wars
between homelands that stole his home,
for his pride in Iraqi architecture
that he may never see again.
i cry for his future, for his loss,
for how unequivocally kind his soul remains
after all he has witnessed in twenty-one years,
for his brothers who wait under his watchful shadow,
for our country to give him a chance.
i cry for his words, for my loss,
to not have his presence in my classroom,
to have the nicest thing anyone’s
ever written to me
disappear with a graduation ceremony.
i cry for the world, for their loss,
for robbing refugees of their rights,
for keeping the beauty that is him,
that is within all of them,
from sharing their strength
with all of us, inshallah,
for a brighter tomorrow.
In the middle class houses all being scraped
to build mansions no one can afford?
In the stagnant salaries that ask us to
work harder for less money?
In the moms working two jobs,
the dads unable to keep up?
Where is my Italian grandmother’s dream
of a better tomorrow, a house she and her
Irish husband built and paid for
before they retired?
It is not my dream.
It is not our dream.
I am the working mother,
the disappearing middle class,
I am the two-incomes-barely-making it generation,
the trapped in social media comparison
of who has the best selfie, the best vacation,
the best life?
Where is my grandparents’ America,
who came back from the war and
built from the ground up those tiny homes
that we can’t wait to tear down?
Where are the housewives who can sew clothes
and cook duck a’l’orange for a Wednesday evening?
Who are there when their children come home?
Whose husbands could buy pay for this house
on just one salary?
I am Generation X, torn between Baby Boomers
who raised us to be independent
and Millennials who can’t do anything for themselves.
I am the white woman who can never decide
between what is fair for her and fair for everyone.
Where is my grandparents’ America?
In the broken corporate ladder,
in the endless need for greed,
in the generations lost between yesterday and tomorrow.
In the hope lost between King’s improvised speech
and Trump’s rampant ignorance,
in a land I barely recognize,
in the rubble of torn-down houses,
torn-down American dreams.
(NOTE: Inspired by “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes)