Signs & Portents

Every trip tends to have its unique interests, but they all share certain qualities, too. One, for me, is the abundance of intriguing, useful, surprising, puzzling, inviting and sometimes downright amazing signs of all sorts that mark the way. Our summer road trip was chock full of them, too; many whizzed by too quickly at highway speed to be commemorated by me with my trusty little camera, but some served well to mark a few of the highlights and oddities of our pilgrimage west and back.

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Some signs made me wonder if we’d suddenly gone far astray from our intended route, to another state, country or (occasionally) planet. [Remember to click on the images if you want to see them in greater detail.]

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A few signs were rather provocative, and many simply amused me greatly for one reason or another.

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Vintage signs often outlive their original purposes by being moved–or read–out of context. Unless, perhaps, the message has a more cosmic meaning…

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Some of the most welcome signs are those very familiar ones not seen in a very long time. It doesn’t matter so much that I’ve frequented the place or embraced the item as that the sentimental landmark each represents of other persons and places is called to mind.

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I’m especially fond, though, of those signs that seem to have lives of their own, through age and adventures unknown. I like to imagine what they denote beyond their mere artful decorations and texts.

On this particular escapade of ours, all signs pointed to a grand tour and many colorful memories. And led me, of course, to think ahead to all of the travels and signs yet to come in my life.

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.

 

The More Things Change, the Less We Stay the Same

photo montageIn the dark on an airplane, I heard a click and it was accompanied by a quick flash of blue-white light. What followed was far more startling, though: first, a softly chattery rasping sound, repeated twice, rapidly. Then, the realization that I was hearing film being wound. It really wasn’t all that long ago that I’d’ve seen and heard these things without even taking note of them. But the world has changed dramatically, and all the more so have we within it.

It’s been a long time now since any flash of blinding light from an unseen source or any sound, however soft, of indeterminate mechanical movement has become the instant focus of suspicious thought.

Longer still, I realize, since I’ve been in the presence of anyone using a disposable film camera. That, of course, is what it was. It’s remarkable enough to have one appear like that and be struck by how long it’s been since I started expecting to only be around people taking photos that never need developing, shooting them with no sound, or with a distinctly artificial click, with their phones and digital tablets and pens and eyeglasses. Weirder still to realize how few years ago it was in reality that those disposable film cameras were on the cutting edge.photo montageThat is precisely, though, the way of the world. New ideas, inventions and technologies arise and supplant the ones we knew. The pace is ever more relentless and extreme. We fear the new in the instant of its inception, and seemingly minutes later, have forgotten even the existence of the old. One day’s science fiction is the ancient history of the next.

As always, I’m left in the wake of these little cataclysms wondering: what of today is soon to be obsolete? What strange marvels that are yet undreamed lie waiting in tomorrow’s dark? And where, in the midst of them, is the place I’ll occupy?photo montageI know that eventually I’ll lie forgotten in the jumbled janitor’s closet of history, as virtually all things and people once useful or known or loved eventually do. But like most animate beings, I do still harbor a whisper of hope that at least one person will remain for at least some little time after I’ve gone, still able and willing to remember me, if not as significant or laudable, at least as well loved during the short while that I lasted. With that, I think I can go off and return to dust happily.

Joy in the Morning

digital painting from a photoMorning, Waking

Starting anew with a fresh clean slate

I feel a sense of freedom, youth

A breathing moment where the truth

Is not unlikely, not too late

I have arisen and begun

Not just by law but for desire

Alit with unaccustomed fire

From some oft-hidden ray of sun

These days when age most often stings

The simple joys right out of me

I slake my thirst with ecstasy

When a rare morning-welcome singsphoto montage