A year ago, I was at a dinner in Amsterdam when the question came up of whether each of us loved his or her country. The German shuddered, the Dutch were equivocal, the Brit said he was "comfortable" with Britain, the expatriate American said no. And I said yes. Driving across the arid lands, the red lands,
I wondered what it was I loved. The places, the sagebrush basins, the rivers digging themselves deep canyons through arid lands, the incomparable cloud formations of summer monsoons, the way the underside of clouds turns the same blue as the underside of a great blue heron's wings when the storm is about to break.
Beyond that, for anything you can say about the United States, you can also say the opposite: we're rootless except we're also the Hopi, who haven't moved in several centuries; we're violent except we're also the Franciscans nonviolently resisting nuclear weapons out here; we're consumers except the West is studded with visionary environmentalists...and the landscape of the West seems like the stage on which such dramas are played out, a space without boundaries, in which anything can be realized, a moral ground, out here where your shadow can stretch hundreds of feet just before sunset, where you loom large, and lonely.
Storming the Gates of Paradise