At sunrise, the Great Smoky Mountains are so majestic their beauty could kill you. So are the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevadas at sundown.
The same goes for the Tetons, the Blue Ridge, the Bighorns, the Elks, the Adirondacks, and the Appalachians, which were carved by the pocketknife of God.
Oh, and the Missouri River, when seen from 34,000 feet above, it will break your heart with its glory. The Missouri moves like liquid silver across a green patchwork of American farmland. So does the Mississippi, the Rio Grande, the meandering Columbia, the Ohio, the Arkansas, the Tennessee, the Colorado, the Youghiogheny, the Chattahoochee, and the boisterous Potomac.
But then, you can also feel this wonder in other places. Like when the Gulf of Mexico reflects the colors of dusk.
Or when you gaze across the Chesapeake Bay. Past the river reeds and gray water. When you listen to the geese overhead, honking their chipper hellos.
You get this same feeling when standing on Ellis Island. You begin to
visualize the hundreds of thousands of congregated Germans, Norwegians, Chinese, Dutch, Sicilians, Hungarians, Polish, Jewish, Danish, and Swedish, all dressed in drab rags, holding tight to their entire lives, crammed into duffle bags. And it all makes sense, why your old man was such a tightwad when it came to buying your Little League uniform.
I visited Ellis Island once, I could swear I almost saw my Scots-Irish ancestors waiting in line. I could practically feel their breath on my neck.
You experience this same feeling in Savannah, within Trustee’s Garden, when an expensive tour guide reminds you that this was where the first seeds of American cotton, apples, coffee, and wheat were experimentally grown.
And when you walk Savannah’s streets to Oglethorpe Avenue, you feel a similar awe inside the home of Juliette Gordon Low; a girl who was deaf in both ears, who founded a humble youth organization in…