#22: Open road song.

***This is the twenty-second of a series of posts based on a book I’m reading for a class called Connections in Religious and Ecological Education entitled Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation. The chapter is “The Ripple Effect,” by Tri Robinson.

When I was 17, the summer a year after my mom left, my dad packed my younger brothers and myself into our Chevy Suburban for the family trip of a lifetime, across what ended up being sixteen states and twenty-five days, a myriad of biospheres and an uncountable number of Motel 6’s.  It was the four of us, two Steve Miller Band and The Doors cds, and open road.  We were “bonding,” trying to piece together some version of family after the violent tilt-a-whirl we’d ridden through that year of separation and dislocation.  Dad’s hope, I think, was that in that liminal traveling space, somewhere between the home that wasn’t really ours anymore and the one we were hoping to make in the future, we’d find out that we could do this thing, this being family again, together.  So, we hiked in the national parks, fighting lots of the time but also learning to share water and chocolate bars and incredible views, driving for days on end and learning to laugh at the indignities of riding in a disgusting truck together listening to one another whine and think and sing.  We rode horses on the beach of the Pacific, suffered across interminable Montana, walked the streets of Seattle, survived Death Valley, laughing at the other cars broken down in the sand, our own heat full-blast to save the engine from itself.  We looked for wildlife and flowers and encountered some, good and bad.  There was a rattlesnake we still tell stories about.  Throughout it all, our hearts were healed.  The traveling did that, through time and space.  But the wonder and awe we felt at this nation’s natural beauty, enormous spaces and oversized creatures and flora, at the colors and the weather… at the way in which we, so wrapped up in our own distress for so long, had forgotten how to view ourselves with humble perspective in the vastness of the universe… this healed us a bit, and brought us together, just enough to survive the harder year to come.




  1. Lex Nielsen Said:

    I’ve often thought of this trip as an attempt to save ourselves from ourselves – I could never really word it better than that. You always were more the philosopher than I could ever be. I’m guessing this must have been a much stranger experience as a seventeen year-old traveling with her little brothers than as a thirteen year-old traveling with his older siblings.

    That trip changed so much about what I know and feel today, and I’d slowly forgotten more and more of it. Thank you for helping me remember.

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