Two Dot: american history

I read Stegner all day yesterday… his elementary history of American in the essay The Twilight of Self Reliance. It is suited for me as I don't think I never got a good American History education, or perhaps I was just not paying attention. I do remember being assigned to read a thin book on the civil war in 7th grade when my Mom took me out of school for a six-week European tour. Reading was not easy for me, but more than that I struggled to find relevance. I have a lasting impression of standing in a room in a medieval castle. The dark wood beams and heavy stonework overwhelmed me with their longevity. There was history written on the ceiling in accumulated smoke, and in stains from the upstairs privy running down the exterior wall.  This was centuries old, unlike the civil war…

Was it the uninspired writing or my difficulty with reading the tiny volume, that made American history pale in comparison to castles in Europe? Or, more likely, was it the power of a first encounter with the magnitude of physical history? What was a century or two documented in a book compared to hundreds and hundreds of years scribed into a building? Mercifully for me, a young person who already could read spaces better than words, the castle was not littered with explanatory wall text or auditory guides shouting from headphones. I was reading the real signs written in stones and beams and the air they held. It is true that I had not yet caught the bug of my own history, the story of Western expansion that my family took part in. That was another 40 or 50 years in coming and also inspired by place, living here in Two Dot surrounded by the terrain of my grandparent’s early marraige.