The Ties That Bind -An Introduction

You sit and wonder just who’s gonna stop the rain
Who’ll ease the sadness, who’s gonna quiet the pain
It’s a long dark highway and a thin white line
Connecting baby your heart to mine
We’re runnin’ now but darlin’ we will stand in time
To face the ties that bind
The ties that bind
Now you can’t break the ties that bind
You can’t forsake the ties that bind        Bruce Springsteen


If you have been following this project for a while, a reminder; if you’re new to this work, a brief explanation:  I am Michael Kearns, a writer and photographer currently living in Milford Ohio- a smallish river town about 25 miles north of Cincinnati.


Tennessee River.
Tennessee River.

 I have two web sites,the first being this site, fftvmedia. com.  

This site serves, essentially, as my creative portfolio. It’s meant to showcase my writing,  as well as my photography. This site covers a lot of ground over many years.

My second site is searching for the soul of america (sftsoa). The intent of this site is to document a collection of journeys taken over the last year. The intent of this travel, as well as the intent of the work arising from these trips, has changed over time. 

All told; I’ve been traveling, on my own, for nearly forty years. Much of that travel, especially in my younger years, was driven by wild impulse and uniformed desire.

It is only recently, however,  that I’ve gained any real insight or appreciation for the value contained within these ceaseless wanderings.  It is only recently that I have come to understand how my travels might be put to use.

In the broadest sense, sftsoa is a series of  stories about my journeys across, under, atop and through America.

Matt digs Cannolli.
Matt digs Cannolli.

This first trip, sftsoa, was six weeks long.  I traveled throughout the United States, with my primary means of transport being by train- Amtrak to be exact.

In those six weeks, I traveled  fifteen thousand miles taking the pulse of country, attempting to understand why we have become such chaotic and combustible collective of clans. Or said another way- I wanted to know why can’t we all just get along?


MR Saltbox

My second journey, by car, took me through what I considered to be America’s empty spaces.  Accordingly, I called this journey and the stories which I wrote during this time, The Open Skies Project.

That trip- just short of a month, and about 4000 miles,  took me through the mid-west, the plain states, over and through the vast mountainous emptiness of Colorado and into the high desert of New Mexico, before heading back through Texas and eventually north and home again.

During this second trip, I stayed every night with a different family and/or host, having arranged same through Airbnb. In doing so I wanted to know, could one find community through the net?

Both of the above trips were taken largely alone.  I did meet some friends along the way, and traveled briefly with others.

Coastal Georgia.
Coastal Georgia.

This third trip, however,  is different in every way.

On this trip, for instance, I’ll be traveling with Matt, who is my 21 year old son  This trip is as much about Matt’s observations as much as my own. This is wonderful because it’s always been my intent that this project be a chorus of voices.

Additionally, Matt has recently, after a long struggle with psychological difficulties, been recently diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.

Matt ‘s problems recently obligated him to spend several weeks in an excellent psychiatric hospital in Cincinnati and to also participate in an extended outpatient program. He is also now undergoing therapy with a number of professionals and for the first time in his life, is regularly medicated.

This  treatment has literally made the world a new place for Matt. Thus a large part of this trip serves to introduce Matt with this world- my world- while he attempts to learn/ investigate our world.  

Jung, many years ago, defined schizophrenia most succinctly as, “a condition in which the dream takes the place of reality.” 

Thus in some ways, Matt and I look at the world very differently these days. Sometimes,we we’re on the same page. But more on that later.


San Luis Valley Co.
San Luis Valley Co.

Matt has, obviously, given me his permission to share these adventures, his thoughts and insights.  It’s my hope they will help him, and possibly others.

Schizophrenia is a disease of loneliness and exclusion- or so I am learning. In my layman’s way. widening the circle seems necessary- if not essential.

Note please, that I am not a mental health professional and that you should not take anything I say as medical insight or advice.  Any insight I possess into this matter is one of a caring father and friend who is working overtime to educate himself regarding this mysterious condition.

With that being said, let’s get back on the road with this new collection of stories I’m calling: the ties that bind.



How long we’ll be out, where we will go and what we’ll do will be dictated largely by Matt’s tolerance of travel.  In some ways he’s fragile right now and concern for his condition, obviously, must take priority.

For now, we’re headed South.

In fact, I write now from a beautiful home in Sheffield Al., it’s 5 am and I sit high on a bluff above the Tennessee River, just across the river from Florence Alabama.

Muscle Shoals Al.
Muscle Shoals Al.

Also, while the past two trips have concentrated on identifying those topics, those realities, which define and sometimes divide us as a nation, as a people; this time, Matt and I, are taking this trip in search of those subjects with bring us together as a nation.

Thus we’re’re looking for the ties that bind.

Those things, those subjects, those entities which bring us closer together on both a personal, regional and national level. Specifically, on this journey we’ll explore our common love of food (esp barbecue), music and rivers.

I choose these topics simply because they have always been at the heart of American culture and they’ve always been at the core of my being.

Enough preamble, on with the show……