“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie
I just spent 11 days driving across country with my 81-year-old mother. She grew up in the Bronx and has spent her whole life in New York City, squelching her more artistic desires to cater to our family—but, for a brief time in the early ’60s, she considered herself a folkie.
With my dad recently dead and without any offspring to offer as distraction, it seemed that the best thing I could do was drive my mom around the entire country instead. I had my iPod on shuffle and one of the first questions she asked me was what I liked about dissonance. I couldn’t answer very well, so I referred her to Matt Hart’s amazing essay on Noise and I downloaded the 24 episode Smithsonian Folkways Collection (free on iTunes U).
I had not actually listened to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” since nursery school, but for eleven days, we listened again and again. Forget the rockets’ red glare; forget Donald Trump’s presidential bid; forget, for a moment, everything fucked about our country and all the ways we’re forced to live on the fringes of it. As we went driving that ribbon of highway there was nothing so real, plain, and true as Guthrie’s anthem to all the small, beautiful creatures moving—just momentarily—through an astonishing vastness that’s also ever in motion.
Merrill Feitell‘s first book, Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes, won the Iowa Prize for Short Fiction. She is Fiction Editor for Forklift, Ohio and lives in southern California, where she is currently at work on a novel and a series of essays about driving x-country with her dog. Visit www.merrillfeitell.com for more info.