Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Trip West: Day 1

Somewhere in Oklahoma

We headed west yesterday morning. After staying up until nearly 1 a.m. and not being able to sleep until at least 2 a.m., I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to pack up the ice chests and pile into the minivan with the other six members of my family.  

The day started with the radio threatening to give out, but it pulled itself together enough to fill the morning with several hours of ‘70s tunes. Once again, I have found it true that the best memories are made to the sound of James Taylor.

Yesterday’s route took us through Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and across New Mexico. As I watched the Ozark Hills fade into rolling plains, level into prairies and then rise into rugged desert mesas, I kept thinking of my great-grandmother. Lavola Jean Mills was raised in the Petty Jean Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, a couple hours south of where I live now. She left the hills as a young woman when she ran away with my great-grandfather to California where they worked in the shipyards during WWII.

Though I have lived in three different states and traveled quite a bit, the drastic change in climate and terrain repeatedly took my breath away. What must my grammy have thought? She, who had spent her whole life in one place, who would have had very little access to photographs of the west?

Thinking of my great-grandmother, I felt as if I was viewing my country through the perspective of physical as well as temporal distance. I watched the same earth roll past my window, but I was driving much faster than grammy would have been in a Model A. And the country farmsteads she surely would have seen are now falling into ruin, a silent testament to another time. The pastoral beauty of the 1940s is passing away, marred my progress and industry. Today, miles of giant windmills stand far above the once giant barns and oaks, their constant motion reminding me of time which never slows. 

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