Westward ho! Adding Context to Travel
We are preparing for the WHO conference in Washington state and GHC in Ontario, California and as I always do when going westward, I start thinking of classic poetry, western songs, and big beautiful western sky. For me, it is a way of making a simple trip an adventure in literary travel.
Just as I added history, art, and music to my Excellence in Literature curriculum to illuminate each of the great books studied, I add literature, art, and music to travel in order to enrich it. Everything that is beautiful and good becomes more so when placed in appropriate context. So — next time you’re planning a trip, remember to add a bit of history, art, and literary context to make the journey even more interesting than it might have been! Here are some examples of things I’ve gathered to contemplate in preparation for this Western journey.
Art: Lander’s Peak 1863 by Albert Bierstadt
A Western Poem: O Pioneers by Walt Whitman
Music: Ghost Riders in the Sky, performed by Sons of the Pioneers
Sons of the Pioneers were my grandfather’s favorite western music group, and this, along with Tumbling Tumbleweeds, was his favorite song of the American West. I still have one of their old records in the attic, but nothing to play it on.
Music: I’m An Old Cowhand, performed by Bing Crosby
This old Western song was one that my grandparents knew. It’s more humorous than authentic, I think.
Stories of the American West
During my time on the road and in the West, I enjoy re-reading old western novels, including those by Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and others. They may not be great literature, but they evoke the history and mood of this great region in a family-friendly way. I have also enjoyed nonfiction such as John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierras — his enthusiasm for this beautiful mountain range is contagious. I won’t provide a long list, but these few suggestions might lead you to a new favorite author.
And the really, truly Western sky (photo taken as I was traveling)
Psalm 8 (KJV)
And the grandeur of the western sky makes me think of Psalm 8, my Memory Project chapter for January.
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!