As we were flying back from Seattle, Joe kept trying to get me to read passages from Jim Harrison’s The Raw and The Cooked. A great read, but I was much more interested in looking out the window of the airplane.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! ~ America, The Beautiful
I’ve always thought that America, The Beautiful should be our National Anthem. One, because it’s much easier to sing. But primarily because it focuses on the beauty of the country, rather than the ugliness of war. Sure, it talks about freedom, and patriotism, and heroes; but the main focus is on the magnificence of its lands and the innate goodness of its people. Penned by Katherine Lee Bates, a professor at Wellesley, inspired by a trip to the top of Pike’s Peak in 1893, the poem was combined with the melody of Materna.
If you look at the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, it’s almost entirely about battle, rockets, and killing the other guy. All put to the tune of To Anacreon in Heaven, sung, no doubt by drunken fools after they consumed copious amounts of wine. (Seriously, click this link, and you can hear the song.) Francis Scott Key used this same tune for an earlier poem he wrote called When the Warrior Returns From Battle.
Now compare the words of Francis Scott Key to those of the melody he borrowed from The Anocreontic Song, written by Ralph Tomlison, Esq.
The news through OLYMPUS immediately flew;
When OLD THUNDER pretended to give himself Airs_
If these Mortals are suffer’d their Scheme to pursue,
The Devil a Goddess will stay above Stairs.
“Hark! already they cry,
“In Transports of Joy
“Away to the Sons of ANACREON we’ll fly,
“And there, with good Fellows, we’ll learn to intwine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.
— The Anacreontic Song (Verse 2)
Now those are great lyrics, even if, at the time, women probably weren’t allowed to sing them.
We traveled to and from Walla Walla via bus, courtesy of winning a spot on the WBC-or-BUST tour, with a post about Washington wines. The bus trip was not without its drawbacks. On the way over I was the victim of not one but two beer bottles. The first hit me in the head when it fell out of the overhead compartment. The second broke at my feet, giving them a beer bath. After the second incident The Beer Wench moved her six now 4-bottle pack to the floor! And even sans Wench, the return trip was not without calamities. Some bozo decided to take a curve too fast while hauling a boat. His overturned truck backed up traffic for miles, and we sat a hour on the mountain while they cleared the roads. No less than three of our compadres missed flights home.
But had we rented a car, or flown into Pasco, we would have missed the incredible scenery from Seattle to Walla Walla. There is something about gorgeous blue skies, snow-capped mountains, golden fields and shimmering lakes that calms the mind, warms the heart and stirs the soul. That, to me, is one of the best things left in America. So on this, the most celebrated of our nation’s history:
– Appreciate America’s beauty.
– Be kind to your fellow man.
– Use your freedom for only good.
– And stay safe this Fourth of July.
With liberty and justice for all,
1. Wenatchee National Forest, from I-90 Rest Stop in Washington
2. Little Kachess Lake, Washington (Taken from a moving bus)
3. Cave B Estate Winery, just outside the Tasting Room.