America, the Beautiful

 

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On Veteran’s Day we walked several miles to a ledge where we could see Las Vegas spread out in the distance over the desert floor. As we started hiking I was irritated about the multitude of others journeying along with us. I could always see someone ahead or behind me scrambling over or around the boulders on the way to Calico Tanks. Simply put, I was caught in the plodding line of humanity.

The entrance fee to Red Rock National Conservation Area had been waived on this historic day and many had turned out under the exquisitely celestial-blue sky. With paper poppy pinned to Penny’s pocket in memory of my Papa, I walked and began to sink into the happy, almost giddy mob around me. At least I was away from the pavement and opulence of Sin City where I could always see Trump Hotel jutting up the strip from our condo.

At some point on the trail I changed my mind about my company of fellows and began greeting them along the way and listening. I even found myself forgiving the nearby giggling teenagers who blasted rap music into the wilderness. Here around me was a joyous crowd skewed to the younger set as there were few older than Rob and me.  An even number of men and women plus some children jostled along. Every skin shade was represented with less than half being what we would call white, more having darker hair and skin than me. I heard many different English accents around me, some Spanish and a sprinkling of other languages. One couple we met was overweight and struggling and sported grins with missing teeth.

Gradually I recognized that likely, about half of us on the trail voted for Hillary, the other half of us for Trump – excluding those citizens of other countries, the youngsters and ex-prisoners, that is. And yet, in all the conversations I overheard not one person spoke of the election even though this week’s top news story still pounded in my own head.

No, this cheerful swath of Americans was diverse and unbothered, glad to be bumbling along together, offering a hand to the one behind. We exchanged phones – or our old camera – across family lines for photos. There wasn’t an unhappy person in the bunch. Instead we all seemed thrilled to be free from work for the day enjoying this fascinating track of land set aside for just this reason – a spot on earth for a mix of us to enjoy nature’s bounty together forever. Here I could be outdoors and active, a place where my ruminating mind and seared heart could begin to heal.

We will continue to experiment with what we call democracy, hopefully continuing to preserve land and welcome immigrants. Regardless, we will rise to whatever the next day brings – sometimes, like today, together and light-hearted.

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