Since I have already crossed the country from New Jersey to California by Greyhound bus, I will choose the Armtrak train on returning trip to New Jersey to enjoy the beautiful scenery across the country without being crammed into a flying compartment on air, not being able to move around for hours at a high price. And forget about driving a car, which may sound adventurous but is dangerous.
Dangerous because what if I happen to encounter some vile group of people who have pledged allegiance to their secret creed of violent belief hell-bent on harming fellow human beings as in the movie “End of the Road,” in which the Queen Latifah character and his family on the road to Texas future from California past encounter series of manacing racist strangers. On the contrary, traveling in the company of people, although strangers, provides me some sense of security and relaxation, freed from maneuvering navigation and driving, which sometimes will prevent me from appreciating the pleasure of watching scenery listening to music, the moody sweets of my spirit.
It was in the same manner that emigrants -not necessarily foreigners but those from the east coast- crossed the continent on oxen-driven wagons as accounted in Horace Greeley’s An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859 in which the renowned editor of the New York Tribune and once a president hopeful opposite Ulysses Grant. This book inspired me to come to California by bus, which I considered a modern-day equivalent of a wagon. What used to take a good 6 or 8 months for the easterners to arrive at West overland by wagon took me a week to reach California by bus. Notwithstanding any inconvenience in the road trip, it was my version of reenactment of the Oregon Trail in the spirit of frontierwoman to start anew in the Wild West.
To tell a story within you is an expression of yourself, an affirmation of your identity, in an expanse of will wielded by the spirit of freedom. Storytelling is, in fact, a way of logotherapy that helps you find meaning in life from your daily tasks to your traumatic experiences by sublimating the pains of the heart to the blessings of the spirit, in the realization of Amore Feti. In this book, Anita Sethi shoehorns her experience of racism in England into a rivetingly ingenious travel memoir in the spectacle of a beautiful natural landscape where she belongs.
Her narrative has a lyrical quality with a poet’s rhythm that reminds me of a Portuguese Fado song. Her words sing her story of an uneasy love relationship with her own country into a continuous fugue of love, betrayal, loneliness, and friendship vested with her experiences with people and nature. It is at once dolorous and enchanting as if to listen to a mysteriously elusive melody hummed by a ghost of a sad maiden who died in brokenheartedness. Yet, this doesn’t mean Sethi is a ghost damsel in distress bemoaning her betrayed love. She is a warrior who chose the pen to vindicate her attacker and other minor offenders of her South Asian ethnicity as a way to overcome her fear and anxiousness, arising from her ashes like Nietzsche’s noble phoenix.
Sethi’s narrative then becomes a eulogy to the natural landscape of Great Britain; she finds an elbow room, a niche, her library of wonder. As Shakespeare pointed out, nature is exempt from public haunt, finds good in everything. It is a grand luxurious spa free of charge to all, although that is not always tainted by the malice of incivility on the part of humans. However, Sethi, in her story, asserts that no one can take away her right to belong in the beauty of nature and the country she regards as a home and proclaims her self-identity by telling her personal story incorporating the words into the images of British mountains and forests, exempting her from a malady of social ills and elevating her to the citizens of the Universe.
The book is an excellent bedtime fellow when you want something thoughtful but not burdened with elements associated with scholarly apparatuses. The narrative is flowing melodiously, and the author’s spirit is within the texts, full of emotions but nuanced in her infatuation with the beauty of British landscapes that provide her with holistic healing power. They say you don’t protect what you don’t care about, and you don’t care what you have not experienced. To appreciate the value of this book doesn’t mean you have to be of a particular ethnicity, gender, or race. As long as you have taste and judgment universal in all humans, especially with a strong sense of empathy and a lover of nature, you will find her story alluringly gripping and feel her pains and loves as if they were your own.
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