America Essay Contest: Grandeur From Sea to Shining Sea

America Essay Contest: Grandeur From Sea to Shining Sea
Tourists beside the North Window Arch at sunset in the Arches National Park near Moab, Utah on April 22, 2018. The park has over 2000 arches that were formed over 100 million years by a combination of water, ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Landau

Why do I love America? The answer is simple: the place is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It is indeed a land of enchantment. We live in a country that offers natural wonders and variety like no other place on earth.

Consider just one example: where on this whole planet can we find the magnificent canyon country that we have in the Southwest? Where, for example, will you find a place like Arches National Park in Utah with its magnificent rock formations? It is unique to America. Add to that the great forests of the Northwest, the prairies, the Great Lakes, the beaches of the coasts, the Everglades, the Low Country of the Carolinas, the, rugged Rocky mountains, the Appalachians, the rocky coast of Maine—the list goes on and on, from “sea to shining sea,” as the song says and, indeed, in this respect, “America the Beautiful” is, alongside the “Star Spangled Banner,” a true national anthem.

In terms of its natural beauty, the United States of America is truly a blessed land. And the other blessing we have, as Americans, thanks to our founding fathers, is the freedom to enjoy this at our leisure. That is the other reason why I love America. The Declaration of Independence does not guarantee us happiness, but rather gives us, along with liberty, the right to pursue happiness. And what more wholesome and fulfilling pursuit is there than to avail ourselves of the manifold natural wonders, too numerous to list, that this country has to offer?

Not all Americans in their workaday routines have the opportunity to step into the American landscape so easily. But back in the eighties, I had a sabbatical from my job as a teacher, and I decided this was the opportunity to see and experience the America of which I'd only seen in pictures or in movies, so I planned a camping trip for the month of June—tent camping, not RV camping, keeping it simple and close to the earth. My target was the four corners area of the Southwest, always aware that I could only experience a small slice of America in thirty days. I would camp out, avoiding the cities and commercial establishments and try to discover God's country.

I flew from New York to Denver, rented a car and drove straight out of town and up to Rocky Mountain National Park, a place of wild beauty. Colorado, with its many peaks is called the “rooftop" of the United States. I drove to Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon, which had only existed as a calendar picture for me, and which Theodore Roosevelt called "the one great sight...every American should see.” The great majority of Americans peek out over the rim of the Canyon and then climb back into their cars. I had made prior arrangements to take the mule trip down the canyon, an unforgettable experience.

I went for a couple of rafting trips on the Colorado and Arkansas rivers. I went to a cattle auction filled with cowboys, I witnessed a small town rodeo where Native Americans were the contestants. I visited the place of their ancestors, the cliff dwellings of the ancient Anazasi, whose pueblos I only knew from pictures in my elementary school history books. I visited the ancient pueblos and danced with Native Americans in Taos, New Mexico. I camped out in the Painted Desert and fell asleep to the howling of unseen coyotes.

The month went swiftly and when it came time to fly home, I had the feeling that I had been in closer contact with America than I had ever been before. I felt blessed and privileged, and so very impressed with our beautiful land. What a gift to live in this land and have the liberty and opportunity to experience the astonishing beauty of the Southwest!

A great part of that opportunity was afforded by the creation of the National Parks. Theodore Roosevelt's accomplishments as a politician are well known, but probably his greatest gift to the American people was his pioneering efforts in the creation of five of our National Parks. Since then the list has grown to some fifty-eight, each one with its own particular appeal, and each guaranteeing that all these magnificent wilderness areas would be protected for all future generations of Americans.

Again, the unmatched, superb grandeur of this country and the freedom to enjoy it. That is why I love America.

Michael Landau is a retired high school English teacher and local artist living in Rome, New York.
This essay was entered in the Epoch Times "Why I Love America" contest.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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