Greatest guitar slogan ever. Click to hear a version lacking the verse on hunger.
When most of our everyday words — lectures, readings, the stuff on meeting agendas — fail to move us, it may be song lyrics that bring us most quickly back to understanding the magical power words possess. There’s probably no better song to sum up what “Words Are Roads: Yellowstone” is all about than Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
It may be, as the Boss himself has said, “about the greatest song ever written about America.” Springsteen, in this moving 1985 tribute to the song, knew the simple and elegant lyrics transport us to the plains and seashores and mountains, but also that they address some of the contradictions that keep us from enjoying what should belong, by all rights, to everybody.
A short stretch of the original Yellowstone Trail, shot during spring break 2015
During a presentation I recently gave about the Yellowstone Trail to the UW-Stevens Point LIFE group (Learning is Forever), which I admit rambled too slowly toward its goal, one of the bolder students pointed out that I had yet to inform the group where the Yellowstone Trail actually is.
I’ll just do the spoiler here: to see exactly where the trail goes — sort of — look at the wonderful links on the Yellowstone Trail Association website. Visitors to the YTA site will need to click on the state links on the left-hand side of the page see available state-by-state maps and written descriptions of existing or obscured trail locations.
But back to my rambling: the comment from the LIFE participant was, as one would expect the words of mostly retired, highly intelligent and no-nonsense folks to be, a bullseye. Being too enamored with the things I was talking about, I was having too much fun on the journey of my talk. At least some of the audience eventually wanted to get to the destination.
A road is simply an idea … a way we think we can use to get where we want to go.
My answer probably didn’t help some listeners, because it has two critical foundations: (1) where the trail still is kind of depends, but (2) it really doesn’t matter. Or at least it doesn’t matter to me. I hope a good number of my students will feel the same way.