“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
—Jack Kerouac, On the Road
In September I set off on a road trip starting in Tampa and reaching as far west as Saratoga, Wyoming. I was on the road for over two months, staying on friends’ couches or cheap hotels, listening to this 10,000-song playlist that seemed to privilege tunes by Lady Gaga and Journey. During the day, I drove and stopped in nature-y places to hike and take photos. I ate almonds and popcorn and sampled BBQ in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. I made sure to vary my days, never rushing, never waking up at the same time, never knowing where I was headed or where I would lay my head for the night. If I saw something on the interstate—say, an antique mall in Nebraska—I stopped. On the nights of sleeplessness, I’d climb into the car and take late night strolls. This freedom felt like shedding skin. I had been, for a long time, stuck in routine. I had been teaching non-stop for the last fifteen or so years, and I could feel myself falling into a complacent state of mind. I didn’t realize how much of a ritualistic doldrum I was in until I took to the road. I understand how blessed I am to have a job that allowed me to take a few months off to…well…take off. And I did, in the physical and spiritual sense.
As I drove the landscape changed. This change was spectacular to witness—from the lush green of the south to the wide-open flatness that spanned the middle of the country to the slate grey mountains of the Rockies. The longer I was on the road, the season changed. It was late summer when I left, and as I entered early autumn, the trees transformed, became palettes of color, bright and brilliant, as those on the hills of Tennessee. In Illinois and Missouri, the green stalks of corn withered into yellow. In Colorado and Wyoming, the aspens and cottonwoods were like clusters of bright yellow lights. Then the weather changed, too. Soon I abandoned my shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops and adopted the light jacket and sweaters, and at the tail end of my trip, when I spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, the heavy jackets and knitted hat and gloves because the temperature dipped into the teens.
Change is the inspiration for the Sweet makeover. Over the last two months, members of the Sweet staff have talked about giving our website a facelift, and this issue is a celebration of that change. We also say goodbye to our webmaster, Bob Varghese, who has been with us for the past three years, and welcome Andy Braithwaite to our staff. I hope you like the changes to our site. Though the look is different, Sweet still aims to publish poetry and creative nonfiction to tantalize, challenge, and satisfy the mind’s palate. So keep reading. Keep loving. Keep thinking Sweet.