“You are travelling. Your future is frozen. Rapidly, you are jettisoned from the blank unknown to the bright clear world.” — Sam Shepard
It’s an American instinct to head out for some other place when home becomes too much, or to take the road away from Here to points west or north when tempted by the far side of the horizon. After all, in the vast, desolate frontier of the Americas, we are all descendants of people who have come from somewhere else. And both rootlessness and restlessness are born out of exile.
This is a vision of the West, mythic and real, and of a generation that is disappearing but whose ideas and dreams have been passed on to some of us.
Has the western landscape been vanquished by shopping malls and freeways or is it still a lyric and loping symbol of freedom and possibility?
Tom Wolfe said that you can’t ever go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.
Maybe both stories are true. What’s real anyway?
I imagine like Sam, the “loner who doesn’t want to be alone” and whose autobiographical reveries, poetry and iconography have helped fuel this imaginative landscape of the American West, we all feel a little bit like castaways, adrift in the 21st century, ever less sure of rescue.
In the old atlas maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue—that mysterious cast of sky blue in those brief moments just before dawn and a little after dusk. Those hours entre chien et loup is when the pull of the open road, the thin blue ones that drift like smoke, strangely beckons us through gates where one can lose themself.
These pages are daydreams from and to those of us on a new path towards wherever it turns out to lead.
Oh for this one rare occurrence
Gladly would I give ten thousand pieces of gold!
A hat is on my head, a bundle on my back,
And my staff, the refreshing breeze and the full moon.
— Dwight Goddard