Spaceships, Time Machines, Bicycles

Photo: One for the RoadWhen I think about it, I’m amazed at how many modes of transport exist. Contrary to the fantasies popular in the middle of the past century, we’re not all traveling in levitating cars and being atomized and reassembled on opposite sides of the world. But it’s still fiction-worthy stuff that emerges when I realize we’re within reach of fully self-driven cars and can already travel at light speed, drive under the sea, and fly to the moon and, yes—more importantly—back again.

Fiction, however, has always outstripped real-world progress, as well it should. If we don’t imagine it first, how can we build it? If we didn’t travel thus in dreams, what chance would there be of our ever doing so in life?

I have invented an item or two in my time, but my ingenious machinations have never yet been realized in concrete form, at least those unrelated to my art. Still, I hold dear the idea that ideation is the necessary precedent of exciting discoveries and meaningful inventions. As silly as they may seem, then, I’m unlikely to quit developing my odd creations of the imaginary sort.

Who knows what journeys might someday spring from them?Digital illustration from photos: Time Machines

A [Mostly] Black & White Photoessay from the Road

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Farm Frames.
I loved the sweet repetition of gorgeous farms of all sorts, in parts of every state.

Some of the images yielded by five weeks and six thousand miles’ worth of rambling cross-country seemed to want expression in my old favorite black and white imagery. And, not coincidentally, this set particularly showcases my obsessions with seeing patterns, repetition and commonalities.

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Towers
Monolithic bare trees and sculptural bridges seemingly imitate each other.

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Twisted Trees
Driftwood. A helical trunk amid Douglas-fir and vine maple companions.

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AmeriCars the Beautiful
Car culture in the US may have long grown old, but it hasn’t stopped being a classic.

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Boarded Up
Fruit growers’ packing crates. A burned house.

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Shake Your Tailfeathers
Hawk? Maybe. Mallard, definitely.

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Sunday School
The old shed behind the parsonage, the inner workings of a portative organ, and a vintage church.

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God is in the Details
Small stuff, large impact.

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Radii
Spokes that speak for themselves.

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Elephants
An older model pachyderm and an older model Packard? (Nah, I think it was a Rolls.)

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Strange Geometries
The wonder of a weird homemade aerial and the magic of a zebra.

 

Going Places without Getting Anywhere

Summer holidays allows some of us lucky folk to indulge our inner travel junkie. This summer was pretty much the lottery winner for the Sparks household in that regard, and it helped to scratch my perpetual go-somewhere itch more than a little. We went on a Road Trip. By that I mean a 6000+ mile loop from Texas to the west coast, north to Canada, and back again, over five weeks.

I won extra, since I got to make that trip with my favorite partner-in-crime, my husband. And he likes driving and I don’t much, so he did nearly all of it. I just got to watch the world go by, cities, states, countries, plains, hills, mountains, rivers, forests, and much more. I sat there mesmerized, my camera propped on my lap or–more often–shooting away virtually aimlessly as we buzzed by at 85 mph/137 kph (yes, there are some places where that’s the speed limit in the US) in hopes of catching some of the amazing, beautiful, weird, wonderful stuff we passed along the way. Thank goodness I didn’t have to try this kind of photography on the Autobahn.

Being dyslexic in so many helpful ways, I am the last person who should be navigator on any trip, but I was reminded that maps of any sort have their limitations anyway, and GPS only adds new layers of complexity and adventure, as when our perky GPS announcer lady (affectionately known as Peggy Sue) calmly informs us from time to time that we are in Undiscovered Country, or as she likes to put it, Not in a Recognized Area. The fun part of it is that the map on our GPS just goes blank at that point except for the little red arrow that is us, which thereupon floats through the air with the greatest of ease. That’s when I really call on my fantastic piloting skills, of course.

Mostly what I learn from maps of any sort is how far we are from where we intended to be and how many complications lie in the space between. But that, too, is part of the thrill and amusement of road-tripping or, for that matter, travel of any sort. The planned and well-known aspects are seldom as exciting and interesting as the things found by accident, the experiences had in passing and the ‘scenic route’ that is a fixable mistake. If we never made any U-turns or wrong guesses or took any side roads instead of the Main Drag, life and travel would be ever so much duller. And this trip was anything but dull. I’ll share some of the adventures with you when the dust settles!digital illustration

Signs of a Good Trip Ahead

That wonderful invention the GPS is generally a generous gift to a diva of disorientation like me. With my myriad forms of dyslexia all interlocking magically to make it virtually impossible for me to find my way practically anywhere past my own mailbox, it’s nice to have a personal assistant, albeit a computerized one, telling me how to get from Point A to Point B and beyond. And I do love a good road trip, when the opportunity arises.

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You are Here, but There’s No Here Here

But even our GPS (sometimes fondly called Peggy Sue after the lady who first helped us find our way around our new home, town and state) in all her digital wisdom can’t find everything. Sometimes, as on the above-pictured occasion, she has no more clue where her driver and passengers are than they do. And you know, it’s kind of amusing to me. Not only does it amuse me to look at the GPS screen and see it telling me that I am a little red arrow flying through the air in the vastness of uncharted space, but it’s weirdly reassuring to me that my lack of omniscience is far from unique in this world. All the same, I do appreciate Peggy Sue’s selfless assistance when it’s needed and available.photoOn the other hand, there’s plenty to be said for going forward without knowing what comes next. In life, it’s just plain inevitable–prescience of any sort is in mighty short supply. On holiday, going with the flow is often the perfect way to have a rich and full adventure, and even the occasional mishaps stand a chance of being fodder for both present delight and reminiscent hilarity. On the pictured ‘flight’ across uncharted Texas territory, my spouse and I were so happily absorbed in relishing the sights along the unknown way that we both failed to notice one of our other digital auto-assistants signaling us that the supply of petrol was diminishing, until it was seriously questionable whether we’d make it to a gas station before the tank ran dry. We knew we were in the vicinity of Seguin (a place we’d been through a few weeks ago) and crossed our fingers that following the intermittent signs to town would get us to a refilled tank in time. Not only did we make it in time, we had a trip in a time machine on the strength of that refueling. The little bit we’ve seen of Seguin has a remarkably somnolent sense of being stuck in time, and not even strictly one single point in time but rather as though everyone in the whole town has dragged his or her weathered boots every step of the way through its history, and everyone in turn has stopped off at a different spot in the past before picking up speed and rejoining the flow of time. Past and present meander in and out of each other and the buildings and land around Seguin and beckon us, in our turn, to slow down and enjoy the oddity of being off the map and off the tow rope of time simultaneously.

photoWe didn’t stop quite long enough to buy wrestling tickets, mind you, but the lure of the unique and the mystery of moving ahead without any inkling of what might lie ahead kept us rolling along all the happier when we were securely back on a full tank (once we found one of those vintage petrol pumps that was fully functional and deciphered the toothless ramblings of the guy sitting in his lawn chair ‘instructing’ us through our transaction from across the lot). If we hadn’t been to Seguin, we’d never have experienced its time-capsule marvels, potted around wondering how on earth a town that size could survive with so few gas stations, or gotten to see the World’s Largest Pecan, a sculpture on the lawn of City Hall that is probably really about the second or third largest representation of said nut in the US and possibly about the second or third least decorative sculpture (sorry, Seguin!) upon which any town proudly bases a promotional motto. Strange? A tad. Stuff I could easily have lived a long and healthy life without seeing or experiencing? Perhaps. But I’ve no regrets that our particular turns in the road took us there and led us to all of that fun, plenty entertaining even without wrestling tickets.

Auto Motives

What with the hours of car time necessary to get us home from our holiday outing, our little corps-of-four will be loading up and heading north first thing (though admittedly, only early by my standards). We drive a nice, if fairly ordinary, car. We’re a car = transportation couple, my spouse and I. Not the sort who would be willing to spend the kind of money, let alone take the risk of caring for and protecting it, that such a vehicle would require. We are hardly 100% practical, but fancy wheels are just not in our wheelhouse.

Still, a girl can dream. Even if I have no inclination to have the expense and responsibility of owning a snazzy car, I’ve been known to develop a crush on the occasional automobile. Truth be told, it’s highly likely that my loves of this celebrity-heartthrob variety are mostly influenced by remembrances of happy times and circumstances in my own life. Silly of me, but I’m kind of a sucker for late 60s and early 70s muscle cars.

So you’ll understand that, while we’re tooling up the freeway in our luggage-laden, comfy and serviceable and even moderately cute Honda Fit, I may possibly in my mind be riding in a certain other sort of car. Fantasy can carry me a long way, you know.photo

 

Mirage sur la Mer

P&I drawingSummer Phantasy

One day in my car when I was a-glide

and watching the highway (mostly),

I stopped for a fellow who thumbed a ride

to go farther west, more coast-ly–

After all, the sun was high in the sky

and the temperature creeping northward,

so it seemed a mercy to take the guy

and deliver him farther forth-ward–

He was pleasant, and smiled, and tipped his hat,

but I’d hardly call him talkative,

which I took as caused by the reason that

in the heat he’d been too walk-ative–

So we rode along, Silent Sam and I,

toward the coast and the broad blue sea,

’til I blinked in the glare of the sun to spy

his hat lying next to me–

No sign of the smiling, silent bloke;

what a startled twitch I made!

My sunglasses flew right off and broke

as if put to shame by a shade–

Well, I got to the shore soon after that,

keeping watch on the highway (mostly),

and was glad for the shade of the shade’s broad hat,

if a shadowy gift, and ghostly.P&I drawing