In my reading of the past few days, I came across the somewhat trite, almost empty phrase, "I love my country." So, having little else to occupy itself at the moment, my mind began thinking about what that meant. The way the writer said it, it had little to do with politics or with country oneupmanship. It had everything to do with a combination of people and history and landscape. And I started wondering about when and how love of country started. Which country? What precise plot of land? And what does love have to do with it?
Don't expect any answers from me. I don't have them. All I have is a set of images. Images of people traveling through their own landscape. Walking rutted roads, driving paved highways, noticing how the snow lies on the fields, how the fog settles in the branches, where the bridge washed out, how the road laps over the horizon, how it disappears behind a hill, how the rain never stops, how the sun burns at midday. Remembering when your ex-husband almost got that one job, how you would have had to learn to love another landscape. How your son walked the stone walls looking for wild grapes. How your daughter said that time in the restaurant, "I want this, I want that."
Reading about the time when your house and garden was a forest with a deer track running through it. About the time when your grandmother's mother came here in steerage and met your grandmother's father, and how your grandfather's people traveled the same path and then your grandparents met. About the wars that made all of this possible. About the suffering of other people that made this possible for your own suffering ancestors. Wondering who can ever, if anyone can ever, forgive all the suffering.
About the country my ancestors left, and the loves they left behind. And the snow on the fields over there and the fog in the branches, and the same rain, the same sun.
About 10,000 years of history made by humans, countries contrived by them, boundaries set, wars fought, laws established. And how we love our countries. But not because of the boundaries or the wars or the laws.
But because of the stories our grandparents tell us and the way the snow lies on the fields.