Monday, February 20, 2012


One of the assignments I give most of my U.S. history survey students is a basic map quiz covering the 50 states. Most of them ace it, but it's worth it to me to throw a few points their way in exchange for the guarantee -- one I have learned the hard way not to take for granted -- that when I talk about the Illinois Central RR taking rural African Americans north to Chicago during the Great Migration, the "Deep South" states of Alabama and Georgia, the Lewis and Clark Expedition's trail through Montana and so on that they actually know where I'm talking about. As Americans we take the diversity of our geography for granted, and on the whole we've been remarkably successful in creating an identity as "American" despite the incredibly different lives we lead based upon the physical geography and climactic conditions of our many landscapes.

I was struck by this as my little family snowshoed with good friends into the Mount Hood National Forest this weekend to stay in a hut on the side of the mountain. This would not be an experience we would have been having, were we still residents of Los Angeles... unless, of course, we made our way into the mountains east of the Los Angeles Basin, where we might experience similar snowy conditions and hills in a somewhat different landscape. In Minnesota, we could have had the snow and even colder temperatures, but we certainly wouldn't have had the mountains or the same type of forest. In Texas, of course, we'd have had neither, and in Florida not only would we have been overdressed, but we wouldn't have been chuckling at the fact that my husband's first-aid kit included tools for dealing with snake bites.

Characteristics of unity (even in our fractious times) within diversity. The story of our nation, expressed with varying degrees of success... and also, perhaps, a good mantra for this blog. I'm tiring of the categories I created for postings several months ago, and in the spirit of remaining active I'm planning to take a more free-form approach in the future. Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read!

1 comment:

Lena said...

I think the grand and vastly different areas of the U.S. is what fascinates. One has a totally different perspective of America depending on where one lives/visits.

Your post hit spot on something I've just recently been pondering, thank you.