Beyond the Commonplace, Week #19, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you look closely, you can hear the slow plod of the gentle hooves, feel the wind lift briskly, rustling the arid branches, smell the redolent aroma of a campfire whisper around you in the circling wind. Emerging from the sparsely treed land, the cantor of these gentle giants blend in a symphony of solitude.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When the wheat bends in servitude to the wind, it does so as waves billow into the seashore. The wheat's flaxen hue against this iridescent sky renders it an even more oceanic experience, tropical even. Standing atop the gradually ascending slope gives one the feeling of standing on the bridge or bow of a ship as it gently cuts the waters under the weight of the sails. (If you choose to embark on this journey, let John Barry accompany you).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I see the light cascade off haystacks like these, my mind moves to Monet and Van Gogh. Van Gogh for the indelible yellows imbued in many of his works and Monet, for his Haystacks series exhibited first in 1891, an exhibit I was fortunate to see over one hundred years later. Monet painted twenty-five different paintings of the same subject of haystacks but the subject wasn't the haystack, it was the lambent light in its radiate glow, the various shadows of turning. Monet called this moment-to-moment effect instantaneity and ultimately distrusted 'easy things that come in a flash'. Gustave Geffroy wrote that Monet understood 'the possibility of embodying the poetry of the universe in the small space of a field'. I try to remember this and pause my running to watch for the transitional, subtle beauty moving in barely perceptible undulate waves across the sky. I listen with my eyes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was running with my back to this sunset. I paused for a moment (probably changing playlists) and I, luckily, glanced behind me. The light changes so dramatically, often in seconds. If I had waited a moment more, this lavender tincture of royalty would have whispered its last regal command and retired for the evening. The loss would have been mine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Melodramatic-sunset-duck-shot? No words.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This windmill is just yards from my house, lonely in aspect, a stolid figure against the desolate dry land. It's a redemptive reminder of promise, something that can summon power from the air amid a seemingly powerless existence. The complex simplicity of it all baffles me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I'm not much of micro photographer, I'm terrible actually. I prefer my compositions far enough away so that I don't screw them up. Heading out for a run one day, this stark contrast leaped out at me, the emerald and tawny yellow union cutting a singular figure against the tranquil blue skyline and fogpatched clouds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Empty barns and grain elevators. Ghosts. Specters of a bygone era, a crossover from the time when the industrial age burgeoned from a largely agricultural era leaving these relics as ruins of temples. I am glad so many still stand, visible remainders of what we once were, a people lifted from the soil. This barn and the one in the photo below, are nestled amongst each other in the deserted downtown of the small community in which I live. The community was once largely farming and ranching, now a bedroom community to the bustling urban sprawl just beyond its reach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

‘No one, I discover, begins to know the real geographic, democratic, indissoluble American Union in the present, or suspect it in the future, until he explores these Central States, and dwells a while on their prairies or amid their busy towns.’ - Walt Whitman, Speciman Days

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I cite Brigadoon often, a practically unforgivable offense, almost as egregious as admitting you liked Xanadu (which I most certainly did not .... seriously ... did ... not). This shot reminds me of a scene when Gene Kelly and Van Johnson sighted the twinkling promise of Brigadoon off in the distance. Why did this particular movie make such an impression on me? So many images I see now remind me of that crazy, campy film. If I were to probe deeper into the why, I'm sure it would have something to do with a mystical, uncomplicated land, adrift in ease, the antithesis of the frenzied pace which most of us live. Or, perhaps the simple hope that something wondrous exists just over that horizon (complete with showtunes) the endless speculation of what ifs and just maybes. ‘Geography blended with time equals destiny’ - Joseph Brodsky

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I deplore highways. Nothing elevates my blood pressure more than the frenetic pace of a frenzied highway, particularly one I've traveled many a mile over. I have sworn off highway travel (if I can help it). Other than the turnpikes that aid in my errand-running, when I travel, I prefer to drive instead of fly and, when driving, I prefer two lanes of uninhabited blacktop, the type of uninhabitedness that makes silence deafening. The sunset that drifts behind this abandoned railroad burst into our sight as we cornered the bend. There wasn't a sound for miles. I stopped the vehicle on the bridge and shut of the engine. I wanted to hear the faint timbre of the sun in its deepening eve. Had I taken my traditional road route (I-35) I would have missed this. I would have missed this because I would have been traveling at 85 MPH with only my windshield in sight, the steady roar of highway noise grating against the whine of rubber on blacktop. Instead, my indolent disposition found this sunset. A grand escape, rewarded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just before that regal sun dropped behind the antiquary bridge, this unassuming and desolate roadware rests ignoble, a nondescript historical marker with the vast prairie stretching behind it into a fitting, panoramic frame.  There were no dramatic, historical state signs proclaiming in brown effigy the noble happening here, no synthetic alcoves for frequent visitors, no laconic brochures printed by the tourism department. This simple designation retains its solitary dignity, shapen from rough hewn stone, an appropriate tribute for a job whose workers braved forked lightning, baptisms of rain, and catabolic winds while hauling life-messages across cauldrons of furnaced land.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The grandest redwood cannot strike my imagination as much as a desolate, wintered tree. If it were a song, it would likely be a Tom Waits tune, perhaps A Little Rain; or Bottom of the World; or Cold, Cold Ground; maybe The Earth Died Screaming or Dead and Lovely. (I’m a bit obsessed with Mr. Waits, even created an abecedarian playlist for fans and neophytes entitled Oh, Wait). Dead trees and Tom Waits. Would sound like an ideal concept album except that the entire Waits discography is a concept album, perhaps the world's first concept discography.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All of the photos above were taken over a few months. I normally try to post weekly but the days submerged my willpower to post and I'm just getting around to publishing some of the highlights. You can read more about my photo+running excursions at: Beyond the Commonplace.