Here’s a long list of numbers to contemplate: 4925 (miles), 182 (gallons of gas), 21 (states), 6 (liters of Iced Tea), 4 (lemons), 1 (world’s largest cross…of this I am dubious), 1,000,000 (pictures seen and not taken).
A couple of posts ago I commented on the journey I was about to undertake and my feeling of sadness for the images I wouldn’t be able to make. The experience was far more frustrating than I imagined. So instead of simply looking for images I couldn’t make, I started to try to feel the culture and the state of mind for each state I was passing through.
Reading the billboards proclaiming “The Land of Enchantment”, “Find Yourself Here”, and “It’s Like a Whole Other Country”, gave me the first impression of uncharted territory. Then I began to notice the structures, new and old, the way we have imprinted our values on the land by erecting modest farmsteads or garish strip malls. I noticed what the states were most proud of….”Home of Garth Brooks”….”Home of Tyler Hicks”…and then I began to see evidence of history and warnings of the future. The dust bowl of the 1930’s was not hard to imagine in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and all down I-5 South in California there were proclamations of a current dust bowl, created by Congress and Diane Feinstein apparently. The sign for The Chisolm Trail created images of calling cattle and weathered cowhands with dust-encrusted faces, but I was met with asphalt, a decrepit gas station, and a deep-fried menu.
Yet underlying all of these images was an eternal dynamic landscape. Altitude changes brought different vegetation and geology. The wind and water have created patterns in the land as well as patterns of habitation. The stark surreal beauty of hoodoos gave way to gently sloping hills and meadows with aging cottonwoods in the washes. Wide rivers with flood plains are still flanked by cotton fields….so many spindly dry stalks with puffy white marshmallow tops. Red clay roads are cloaked in kudzu and draping moss, the stars in the night sky and the moonlight through the pines (Thank you Ray Charles) the only relief from growing claustrophobia.
Our interaction with this earth, our home, reveals so much about us. Rolling across 21 states in four days has left my mind spinning….and working to find ways to return to each of them and discover the Enchantment, the Smiling Faces, and The South’s Warmest Welcome. I can’t wait to photograph as I am in these places.