America and Gratitude

The only way to come to America is with nothing. When I ran all I had was a backpack on my back and my guitar and my kids, with their backpack full of a few loved teddy bears and some clothing. I almost didn’t bring the guitar. I had to throw it in with other people’s suitcases and pray. The only way to come here is with possibilities and hopes and dreams and wishes, and carve yourself a niche, make yourself a home, find a way to stay and be and melt into the country and the landscape and it’s collective can do, will do atmosphere of teeming thriving survival and loss at every corner. I think this is how it has always been – America is always a gamble, a bet, a kissed coin into the wishing well. America is never the safe option, but it was safer than any other option I had open to me.

California, somewhere, last year. c. The Paltry Sum

When I wavered, I would look out to the cemetery down the road to our little blue house that we spent those lost months in after the stroke, I would look out to the burnt out shack next door, and the pioneer graveyard, and I would think, let me live or die, survive or thrive, but God, let me die here, where my feet fall. Bury me in the valley or burn me in the haze, but God, let us stay here where we are safe.

I only ever wanted a chance, the barest gossamer thread of possibility that I might weave into something better, something stronger, something safer and more solid. I used to lay in the back of the camper, my face towards the shelf and the wall, curled up in the Grandma patchwork blanket with the swirl of pink and white calico, and talk quietly to a sleeping form next to me. “Billy,” I said, though I knew he was sleeping, “I’m lost.” Yet lost didn’t feel like lost when I was with him. Lost didn’t feel like damned. Lost didn’t feel overwhelming, lost just felt like a mote on a sunbeam or a note in a song, or a river, a road, a stream, a railway track to carry us along to wherever we wanted, wherever the flow took us, but lost did not feel alone in our fear. Lost started to feel like home.

I came to America with nothing, bit like how any life is entered. I came with nothing, and the country opened up before me, immense vast plains of land and water, life and death, grandstanding politicians and celebrity impositions on the greater consciousness. It showed me it’s dark underbelly, and it showed me its humanity, and every single day it amazes me with both. I turn on my telephone and it blinks into life warning me that Walgreens has been ripped off yet again, and a man has been shot in the foot somewhere not too far away, fist fights and protests, robberies and carjackings. Yet for every crime, every violent act, there are people here, working quietly, for little pay and even less thanks, holding up their brothers and sisters, and occasionally one lost white girl and her kid, with gently open arms and not a small amount of teasing. An official person told me today that they knew how hard it was to fit into a community not my own. They were right, it is hard, it’s hard because I don’t want to impose, I don’t want to hurt, I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. It is hard because I am so grateful every single day for them caring for us, and I have no idea how to thank those helping me and the Boy and the others in the shelter. I just don’t know what to say, other than a giant simpatico heartfelt thank you. Thank you, and I see you and heaven knows I wish I could do more. I like to think in my own tiny way, I am simply not an asshole, and that, for now, might be enough.

Leave a Reply