“Mountains everywhere sing the same song. They might differ in shades of tone or pitch, but like good folk songs that circle round and back again, everyone, everywhere thinks them their own.”
From My Pilgrim’s Heart
On Thursday I fly.
Then I catch the train.
The train they call the City of New Orleans.
From Los Angeles, City of Angels – whose original settlement was known as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula or The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion. Although not named for the beautiful river that flows from the north-west, the beautiful river was named for . . . actually, it’s a long Spanish Catholic story. Much like the name.
Except hopefully I won’t. I’ll be jumping on and off that train – deboarding as the Americans call it – all the way to New Orleans and then on up to New York City, meeting folks, meeting the land, meeting myself as the United States of America.
Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City.
Three Americas, staring back at me.
I pull into New Orleans on the weekend of the jazz festival – I’ll be hard pressed attending my own book event with all that smoky music pressing up against the door!
I might be leavin’ Lousiana in the broad daylight but not before I head down in the swampland, where anything goes, it’s alligator bait and the bars don’t close, it’s the real thing down in Louisiana.
New Orleans, the moist city whose shadows woo the elegant and the wicked. As a daughter of the hottest driest continent on Earth, I am eyes wide, watching.
But before that Texas! Dust bowl country. Wing and a wheel and Nanci Griffiths, whose two friends remind her ‘in the most glorious way there is no need for any human being to be complacent’.
Whose voice was our gift and our glory, a reminder that ‘freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose’.
And Townes – so walk these hills lightly, and watch who you’re lovin’, by mother the mountain I swear that it’s true – Wrecks Bell and his crew are still waitin’ for Townes to show up for his final gig at The Old Quarters, home of the annual Townes van Zandt wake.
And after that New York City, our collective Great Love, but before that Emmylou and the red dirt girls just across the line and a little south-west of Meridien.
Many years ago, I worked as the editor on an Australian country music magazine. I might have known it beforehand, in a hazy background kinda way, but that year my lights went on in appreciation for American country music – those songs are a prayer to our home the Earth and a celebration of appreciation for what it is to be livin’, lovin’, strugglin’ human.
In America, that ol’ highway goes on forever.
And all the world is a song.