These last few weeks since we returned from our trip have had us immersed again in our domestic/business lives: sales calls, laundry, marketing, reorganizing, socializing with friends and family, weddings, budgeting, and so on. We have easily allowed the time to go by without collecting or writing any closing thoughts about our epic Northwestern tour this July.
Did we actually just do that? Did we really drive for 7414 miles in our tiny car, with our fairly large dog, and a few spare belongings?
Yes, we did. And though it seems but a blip in the grand journey of life, its importance to our creativity, emotional and physical health, and lives is paramount. We will never feel the same sense of freedom we did on that trip - no children, no major liabilities or responsibilities (aside from a small business) waiting for us at home. We may never feel the same sense of patriotism we did when traversing the vast expanses of our country's geography. We will not as easily feel the spirit of the road in our bones, even if we write about it and try to capture it in photographs. "I don't want to lose this sense of spirit we've been reminded of on this trip!" I exclaimed while on a beach in Idaho overlooking one of the deepest river canyons in the Northern hemisphere. I haven't lost it, but I find it harder and harder to really grasp now that I'm back in the East, amidst my tasks and responsibilities. And it may get harder unless we seek it out in new ways, again and again.
When we wrote a summary of our Creative Highways Project on our website prior to our trip, we described our purpose as "searching for the last bastions of Americana." What does this mean, and is Americana really disappearing? I believe our search uncovered more than a yes or no answer to this question.
In essence, Americana is reinvented every day in this country through greasy diner culture, RVs crawling along precarious precipices, 5 cent coffee in Wall Drug, SD, being recommended a live reggae event by a Japanese sushi chef in Boulder, Colorado, and streaming indie rock via satellite radio in the middle of the Utah desert. Americana is a clash of tradition and contemporary artifacts and associations. It is at the same time disappearing as it is being recreated.
What does Americana mean for each of us? Where is that sacred space of nostalgic national identity we each hold in our hearts? For us, we searched for the "last bastions" of Americana but found, in many ways we did not expect, that Americana is alive and well. We found it exists for the collective as well as within our own individual experiences. So, it is what you see outside your car window, or from a high mountain trail, and how you see it in your heart and mind simultaneously.
Americana is the essence of all great traditions, fads, oddities, rituals, songs, poems, vistas, highways, and ideas that make up this great country, all rolled into one word. Americana is what we make it, and it's always there to experience whenever we want.
For now, we see it every morning when we look out our farmhouse windows at the mist shrouded hills of Pennsylvania. We find it around a table at an Irish pub, passing the guitar, and swapping stories and songs. We hear it in the strains of church bells floating up the road, and taste it at our favorite Mexican taco joint, with all the 'fixins.
We found it on the road, and we discover it again and again right here at home.
Thanks to all our friends that greeted us along our route this July - you are our Americana, and our true inspirations!