“I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine. And the moon rose over an open field...They’ve all gone to look for America.” -Simon and Garfunkel, “America”
I’m back from a two-week long road trip through the American West. Having been born in Beijing, schooled in Houston, and now going to college in New York City , it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been raised a city girl and prefer it that way. When my parents proposed a road trip up to
Yellowstone and some other national parks, I was initially a little worried that I’d be bored out of my mind (2 weeks in the mountains?!). Hiking and bird-watching wasn’t my exact idea of fun.
Of course curiosity got the best of me, and I looked forward to traveling to a part of America that I’ve never been before. We trekked through a total of ten states. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. That’s 1/5 of the
US in one road trip! Most of the time, I couldn’t get cell phone reception, and I only got internet at the random motels we stayed in late at night. I was pretty much cut off from society for half a month.
As I gave up on calling and texting my friends during the trip, vacation mode sank in as I watched for hours the rolling landscapes of America pass by my car window. The bucolic beauty and abandoned wilderness stretched before me from horizon the horizon. All the states we passed
through had its own distinct terrain. Nebraska’s corn fields, Wyoming’s forests, Utah’s canyons, Arizona’s cactus hills, the silent beauty of a land less-dominated by human creations and instead hummed and swayed to Nature’s own gentle winds.
It was an older, a wilder America, the America the explorers found, the sacred forests and mountains the Native Americans lived and worshipped. It was, what I felt, a mysterious place of music without words, beauty without explanation.
I sound like Pocahantas right about now---don’t worry, I won’t challenge anyone to paint with all the colors of the wind. But seriously, this part of the country, the awe-inspiring natural landscapes somehow makes one transcend the self and causes a kind of sense synesthesia.
Driving through the dark dense forest mountains, walking inside the canyons at a brilliant dusk, hearing the scratch of a chipmunk scrambling up a tree trunk or the lonesome cry of a circling eagle, the colors and sounds and smells of nature all swirl together to create, in me, a sensation of
awe, and belonging.
Every time I walk to the edge of a mountain peak or canyon ledge to take a look down below, at the trees whose roots twist and turn in the sand, the sunlight dancing shadows across the rocks, the rolling terraces of grass and shrubs and roots and the smell of fresh pine and dirt,
every time, I get a knot in my throat and have the urge to stay breathless and still or run down the steep decline to immerse myself in something so much bigger than me, and more perfect yet untamed at the same time. It was a feeling that transcended time, that made me feel humbled to be so
small yet intrinsically and vitally connected with the earth before me.
The land and all its expansive beauty-maybe I’m not a complete city girl after all.