Over the last five weeks, our family has trekked across the country, driving from North Dakota down to the Carolinas, over to Alabama, up through Pennsylvania, to New York (staying both in the city and upstate), and then back across Canada back to the prairie lands. This annual trip has always been more about people than sight-seeing. It’s normally much shorter and doesn’t include New England, but we plan our trips around people we know and love, spending nights on couches and guest beds, enjoying conversation, experiencing our friends’ worlds, and refueling our hope for and love of humanity.
Making this trek reconnects our little family with our extended south-eastern branches – all our beloved grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles who we don’t get to see very often. But it also puts us in the company of our vastly creative and kind friends, who live in middle-class midwestern homes, expansive suburban residences, amazing 4-story bungalows, rural farm houses, and big city studio apartments. These folks are doctors and lawyers, peace-makers and psychologists, home educators and engineers. This alone provides an education. Our travels are an exploration of the wide variety of life that comprises the American experience: different outlooks, different lifestyles, different rhythms and priorities. It helps remind us all that there are many ways to interact with the world. Ours is not the only nor the best perspective.
Though there are many wonderful opportunities for the kids in North Dakota, we also make the most of our time away from it. This year, we met four families in person whom we had previously known only online: young writers and poets and artists scattered along our long and winding route. One of these kids is a fellow author who writes the charmingly hilarious Stanley and Katrina books. She goes by “Neighbor Girl,” and had a Twitter chat scheduled with a group of librarians that conflicted with our short visit. Instead of letting this be a problem, Eva opened up her laptop and joined in. We had never participated in a Twitter chat before, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. All the adults joined in, watching the conversation happening, making sure that each comment was seen and responded to. Two young authors taking on the literary world. It was something else, I’ll tell you.
Ian has continued his music work on this trip as well, recording two more songs in Asheville, NC for his forthcoming album, “Quietly Making Noise.” Some amazing talent joined him in the studio, including David LaMotte, Sarah Moor, Matt Chmielecki, and BJ Leiderman. Robert George at Sound Temple was the recording engineer, and he and Ian quickly entered lively conversations about the album’s production. Ian was in his element, and we got some good stuff laid down.
While we were in Black Mountain, Ian opened for one of David LaMotte’s lovely shows, which featured several wonderful guest musicians including drummer Bill Berg. Berg, who played drums on Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” album, was kind and generous, and even handed his sticks off to Ian in the middle of a song, choreographing a little drum kit switch-off.
The next day, Ian and his dad went to a concert of BJ’s, and just before the second set, BJ invited him to share one of his songs with that audience too. All of these experiences are so wonderful; we are floored by everyone’s generosity and eagerness to mentor, and are grateful for so many different perspectives. Each of these musicians comes with unique strengths, personalities, experiences, and music styles, and it is a gift to learn from them.
We have seen some incredible sights too, of course. Hiking in the Appalachians, cruising the Pennsylvania Turnpike, exploring NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. There is so much to be troubled by in our world. But there is so much beauty too.
We return home tired and ready to reconnect with our own North Dakota lives. But we also return refreshed with connection and inspired by the amazing creativity and brilliance of the people we are so lucky to know. This is part of our education too: building understanding of the world’s grand potential, along with our place in it. We have replenished our toolbox. Now it’s time to get to work!
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