Maybe it’s because I’m at the beach this 4th of July, and I’ve been sitting on the sand, watching the ships head out to sea. There is something about ships at sea that always brings to mind “The Man Without a Country,” that classic short story by Edward Everett Hale. I think of Phillip Nolan, the young officer sentenced to sail forever, never hearing a word about his family, his home, his country.
Few stories have had such an impact on me. I read it years ago, in elementary school, and though I know the story well, I still get emotional when I get to certain passages…where Nolan is reading aloud from Walter Drake’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, when Nolan joyfully mans the cannon and is given a sword for his courage in battle, a sword which he wears on formal occasions. And of course, the end, when an officer enters Nolan’s stateroom to find a shrine of sorts, and at long last, Plain Buttons hears news of his beloved United States of America, a country he has prayed for night and day, nigh on fifty years.
Maybe it’s the sea that puts Phillip Nolan in mind. Or maybe it’s the American flag that my father hangs outside his home every morning and takes in every evening at dusk. And maybe it’s the 4th of July celebrations, the fireworks I hear even now, at 11:00 this morning.
But mostly, I think it’s because I’m so very thankful for this country I’m blessed to call home.