I celebrated my third birthday at my aunt and uncle’s home in Southern California. My parents had loaded five kids into the family station wagon and embarked on a trans-continental quest to see America and many of its natural wonders. From Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico to the Redwood Forest in California and on to the Badlands of South Dakota, that trip still resonates among my first memories of childhood.

Two weeks ago, Jessica and I packed our three children for a similar, if more modest, journey. After flying to Las Vegas,
we drove to Lake Mead and on to the Grand Canyon. After a stay at the historic El Tovar Lodge on the South Rim, we trekked north and east through the Arizona desert. Moving on to Utah, we laced our way down the spectacular descent into Zion Canyon. The great southwest reminds us of the expansiveness of space and the long, unyielding march of time. Forty-three years have done nothing to diminish the spectacular majesty of these natural wonders.

If you are like me, you are still prone to get a lump in your throat when you sing or hear Katharine Lee Bates’ poem that serves as the lyric for America, the Beautiful:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Whether skiing in Northern Michigan or vacationing on a Florida beach, be sure to soak in the spectacular creation that surrounds you. Shed a tear of joy, say a prayer of thanksgiving, and do your best to preserve, protect and share it with the next generation.

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