I have always felt a particular affection for the Land of the Free—not just for the people and their purported ideals but to the actual land itself: the bedrock, the topsoil, and everything in between that generates the health of your local watershed. In my new book, I take a humorous, inspiring, and elucidating trip to America’s trails, farms, and frontier to examine the people who inhabit the land, what that has meant to them and us, and to the land itself, both historically and currently.
In 2018, Wendell Berry posed a question to me, a query that planted the seed of this book, sending me on two memorable journeys with pals—a hiking trip to Glacier National Park with my friends Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders, as well as an extended visit to my friend James Rebanks, the author of The Shepherd’s Life and English Pastoral. I followed that up with an excursion that could only have come about in 2020—my wife, Megan Mullally, and I bought an Airstream trailer to drive across (several of) the United States. These three quests inspired some “deep-ish” thinking about the history and philosophy of our relationship with nature in our national parks, in our farming, and in our backyards; what we mean when we talk about conservation; and the importance of outdoor recreation, all subjects very close to my heart.
I do hope you will enjoy this ramble through and celebration of the land we all love.