West By Northwest; North by Northwest

In chapter 6 and 7 of Blue Highways, there are a few themes that stuck out, but one that sort of overshadowed the rest. The theme of human error and how that error, or potential to live in error, guides one’s life. Least Heat Moon seems to use segued stories and historical anecdotes about man’s inconsequence regarding the natural world around him, to mirror perhaps his own inconsequence within that world. When that world fights back, in earnestness of being acknowledged, it is inevitably the human subject who suffers, due to their own self-absorption.

In 6-2, Heat Moon uses a quote from a Native American man to illustrate a bit of this. He says, “Blue road is the road of one who is distracted; who is ruled by his senses and lives for himself rather than for his people.” This man’s statement seemed to show Heat Moon his own preoccupation with self and his own, “skewed vision,” or “the vision of a man looking at himself by looking at what he looks at.” The entirety of this reading has been one of a man who, in willful escape, leaves behind everything to go on a path of self-discovery and to wander the blue highways (a term he even admitted he believed to have thought up on his own). But almost in spite of himself, he is finding himself through the lens of how others view him, as well as through the lens of his own heritage.

Another important passage, which also served as a mirror for Heat Moon’s own journey, was when he was speaking to the two hang-gliders. When inquiring into the logistics behind the sport, he was met with an interesting response.

You feel like a wounded goose before you take off but once the sail fills and you’re stable, it’s like you’ve grown wings… You’v got to be a little nervous or you get cocky and careless, then it’s stuff-it time. Gotta risk a little more to improve -to go beyond- but if we take up too much, it could be our last lesson. The problem is we don’t always know when we get in over our heads. Gotta trust our gut reactions without giving into them. That’s what’s hard.”

This interaction demonstrates, I think, the journey that Heat Moon himself has set upon. A slow and steady step into a furtive glide to a world that is different from the past one, with a present freedom to guide himself to a more weightless future that is cautioned by life’s inevitable error.

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