Anyone from the Midwest will marvel at this lyrical and insightful description of the region and how it shapes our souls: "I was born into the long cold flatness of the Midwestern North, where justice speaks in the voice of thunder, forgiveness falls like a mantle of snow, and the endless turning of the season weaves humility and caution into the very fabric of our lives." Despite this affinity for the land of his birth, at midpoint in his life, Nerburn (Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, Calm Surrender) hears a siren call to go West and retrace a journey he took years ago down the coastal roads of Washington, Oregon, and California. And so he leaves his somewhat befuddled wife and young son in the northeastern corner of Minnesota and heads out to Washington for the first leg of the journey.
Nerburn, who has been called by some friends "a guerrilla theologian," exerts his will, memory, and imagination during this pilgrimage, which is at once a private quest and a soul-searching commentary on America as defined by consumer culture. As a child of El Dorado, the author meets some "road angels" who help him clarify his ideas and ideals in regard to the American dream of success and perfectibility, the mean-spiritedness of modern urban life, the waning of community life and civic participation, the dreadful monotony of strip malls and parking lots, the battle between the loggers and the environmentalists, and the way nature plays second fiddle to history in the ongoing drama of the United States.
Nerburn's trip out West serves as a spur to reinvigorate his deep connection with the landscape of Minnesota and his ongoing work with Native Americans there. All travel, and most especially a spiritual pilgrimage like this one, tutors our souls by clarifying what is essential. Nerburn, as usual, writes beautifully with a keep appreciation for the dynamics of place and the lovable idiosyncrasies of the human spirit.