I cannot escape my Americanism. I’ve got that flat, American accent. American pragmatism and optimism inform how I approach the world. Though here I’m, “So, Where are you from? Certainly not from here.” Abroad, I was always gringo. Any disavowal of the nation that took in my immigrant ancestors from Scotland centuries ago, even though it then forced the children those ancestors had with southeastern tribes to uproot to Oklahoma, would be disingenuous. And even though, as the story goes, my father’s great-grandfather walked off the reservation as a teenager to become a West Texas cotton farmer, this was not a story we were told. Not, at least, until I was fifteen. Where you are from, West Texas, the Nation West, Puerto Rico, Scotland, southeastern Virginia, these places never really mattered.
What mattered was if you were on that train, heaven bound.
Despite my discomfort with the U.S., like a good American, something at the core of our national experiment attracts me. At the end of the 18th century, Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan land-owner and intellectual, traveled the original 13 states. How courts followed the rule of law, how the nation was structured around the small family farm, rather than the large plantation, amazed him. Neither rule of law nor small family farms existed in Spanish Colonial America, where large plantations were the norm and money and power bought you rights and privileges and placed you beyond the law. I think of de Miranda’s travels and think if only the cultivation of one’s garden were the national virtue, if rule of law was not a privilege principally afforded to the powerful, if all races, all creeds, all nations were always welcomed and given home.
After a life spent wandering from place to place in service of the church, my wife, kids, and I now live an hour from Cane Ridge, the very spot where our movement began. For four years we’ve called Kentucky home. I’ll always long for the Caribbean, always feel like moving after a year or two, always think the only real mountains in this world are the Sangre de Cristos.
But I’m happy to be here and know people who still cultivate the land for sustenance rather than profit.
I’m happy to eat vegetables grown here in this soil, on these rolling hills.
I pledge allegiance to the small country, to this earth that feeds me and to which I will return as dust.
Two years ago we planted asparagus root in our backyard. For two years, we’ve weeded and watered the plot, waiting for the root stock to establish itself. Anticipating that spring when we can harvest them.
Next year, when those first shoots appear and grow tall, we’ll have a feast.