Thursday, November 17, 2016

Give Thanks, America!

A week ago I climbed a dune in Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  Looking at the blue sky, the mountains that rise to the north blocking the sand for the past two hundred thousand years or so, the trees on the mountainside where a herd of deer had been grazing on my drive in, an old song came to mind: 

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
The verb "shed" here is ambivalent.  I wondered if this is an imprecation (in which "shed" parallels "crown" in the next line -- "Please do this, God!"), or a thanksgiving for what God has done .  (God shed his grace on America already.)
Looking around me at the sky, the mountains, the dunes, and the blue forests, it looked like the latter, and I thought how sad it is how obsessed I have let myself become with petty politics.  I also thought about the 28 states I had traveled through on this trip, and the many beautiful sights I had encountered.  Whatever you fear or hope from Donald Trump, whatever ruckus and shouting we hear in our streets, we have so much to be thankful for!  And among those blessings are the skies -- which are beautiful, and clear, compared to Chinese skies -- the grain (already harvested in most fields I passed through, though there was some cotton in Texas, see below), the majestic mountains (so good to see after taking a fairly flat southern route from South Carolina through hundreds of miles of Texas -- but the plains were beautiful, too) -- and the seas.  
In Michigan, it may have been, I picked up a single maple leaf, and stared at its vermillions, purples, dark lines, translucent reds, glowing in uneven shades in a late-afternoon beam of sunshine.  Yet like the lilies of the field, these beauties wither after falling like colored snowflakes from the trees by the trillion across the northern hemisphere.  How much beauty there is on this Garden of Eden, even its present state!  
So here's my Thanksgiving post, with one or more photographs from many of the states I passed through over the last two months, reflecting that grandeur.  

I'll also add a word of thanks to God for something about each state mentioned.   
Washington: Mount Rainier National Park  (You should see it when the clouds clear -- they do, sometimes.)  Also Yiwen at Whitman.  

Thanks: For such a beautiful home. 

Idaho: Just a random lake heading toward Highway 2.  
Thanks:  For time with John and James at Bruneau Dunes State Park.  

Montana can't be limited to one measly photo, not when it's dressed up like this (the last three are of Glacier National Park): 

Thanks: For aspen and dinosaur fossils.  
North Dakota (God's grace through the churches as well, including First Lutheran in Minot, where I spoke): 

Thanks: for all that fracking oil, helping us travel, and keeping cruel nations in check.  

Wisconsin, I think: 

Thanks: For Paul Ryan, an honest man who loves his country.  
Minnesota: The Mississippi River as a child -- see, you can dock on the left, and swim across the "Mighty Mississippi" in thirty seconds.

Thanks: For this great river, which flows from your many lakes.  
Michigan (The northern shore of Lake Michigan, which I swam in despite the brisk, cool breeze and the dead waterfowl): 

Thanks: For a land of such beautiful trees and magnificent lakes.  And for a football team that gave Washington a couple great Rose Bowl wins!

Ohio (downtown Columbus, seeing the sights with Carrot, another of my students): 

Thanks: For Thomas Edison, and light.  (I visited his house in an attractive small town in northern Ohio, last time through.)  

Pennsylvania: a foggy morning.  

Thanks: William Penn and the Quakers who helped abolish slavery, ultimately around the world.  For Ben Franklin.  
New York (City): 

Thanks: For Liberty.  
Delaware (just a random estate along the border with Pennsylvania, heh)

New Jersey: 

Thanks: For Princeton University and its first grad student, James Madison.  
Connecticut (Yale, founded to bring God's grace to America by educating young men to preach His Word):
Thanks: For Eli Whitney, Bill Buckley, Francis Collins, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson
Rhode Island (Brown, originally a Baptist institution):

South Carolina (I loved putting my hand in the smooth water as we swept over the undulating liquid clouds; the Wallace Marshall family, including brother Calvin in North Carolina, were among the many gracious hosts on this trip):

Georgia (Emory)

Mississippi (General Grant won this one)

Oklahoma (not fair -- I only drove a few hundred yards into this state, then walked a few more hundred yards -- and I did see a light-red fox close to this spot): 

New Mexico:


Oregon (Snake River)
Washington again (Yakima): 

So whatever you think about the political climate, the National Debt, your personal finances or health or even your favorite football team: we do have a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.  Whatever verb tense he intended, the song-writer was not being sentimentally pious, he was simply responding in a healthy way to the beauty that we sometimes foolishly ignore: 

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

No comments: