March 21, 2008

Beauty Lurks

Lately I find myself seeking out photographs of industrial objects or objects deliberately taken out of context (See photos below). Some objects if framed/cropped correctly appear to not be what they are and conversely may appear to be what they are not. With the proper (improper?) perspective different shapes/forms/colors/textures/visions emerge. Many times the beauty, the separateness lurks in the everydayness. Sometimes it is simply that I/we see things that I/we have seen innumerable times before but never really acknowledged. It is that initial moment of confusion, that epiphany that I seek. Objects that are somewhat familiar to the eye and things that never get even a second glance get their moment of exposure. The beauty is there, I simply seek to bring it into sharper focus. This narrowing of my/our vision allows me/us to expand my/our horizons.

Railroads, rail cars and rail yards are rich with targets of opportunity for these out of context and industrial encounters. In the midst of a railroad yard, in this chaotic place full of rusting trains and rusting equipment there are patterns, repetition, beauty. Fortunately there is a short line railroad in our county that once served the local paper mill and still serves the submarine base. When the mill finally closed (that’s a whole different story) the railroad began its long slow slide toward oblivion/obsolescence. Much of the mill’s paper making equipment, infrastructure and much of the railroad’s rolling stock are being dismantled and sold as scrap. Ironically it is the railroad that carries out the bulk of the scrap iron.

At the railroad office was an old flatbed rail car laid over on its side with the wheels and undercarriage removed. The first photos I took were of the railcar when it was for the most part still intact. Lame and stranded but still intact. Like a pack animal it offered its underbelly, demonstrated its submissiveness, acknowledged its defeat. It has no place in the development to come.

The next photos were after about half of the ribs had been removed. At my last visit most of the car had been cut into pieces and carried away. The dismemberment was over. But the train will have the last laugh. Through the smelter it will go on to be resurrected and enjoy life after death, perhaps as another train, or its track, or an I-beam, or a set of pots and pans. The metal made anew will once again take on a beauty of its own.

Click on photos for additional detail.

March 17, 2008

To Eat You I Must Kill You

No arrow of enlightenment fletched with the feathers of truth,
No ruthless predator preying on the slow, pruning the herd
No metaphorical eternal struggle
And nothing like a simile.

No mustachioed Marlin Perkins,
No battered Range Rover,
No tawny lions of the Serengeti,
No howling hyena bitches.
No circle of life.

Just one hawk,
One dove,
In my front yard.
The dove lost.

March 5, 2008

Winter Of Discontent

Now/This/Mine is a melancholy time. Days repeat themselves. Up, then out we go. Back in, then down we go. One bland day blending into the next, each like a precious stone dropped forever into the well of time.

I do not miss the barren trees, the frozen toes, the steady stoking for warmth, the slush and the mush, the deep cold shadows as old Sol skates across the western sky. But the breath visible, the scarlet cardinal caught in a sea of white, wood smoke still clinging in the frigid air, fields of untrodden snow, hot chocolate and cold noses, children and mittens, these I miss.

Eventually winter wanes into Earth’s verdant eruption. But here winter is only a name , a pretense, a mockery with palm trees draped in twinkling light coats, St. Nicholas on water skis, mowing in January and February. More like a brown lull between the flaming days of autumn and the voracious green of spring.

Never feeling winter’s bitter bite leaves me longing. The rhythm is broken, the cycle of the seasons comes unchained. Memories of cold days so long ago, butchering hogs after the first hard frost, outdoor plumbing, frozen creeks, pneumonia, even death.

Time rubs smooth the jagged edges of memory.

March 3, 2008

Riding Lightning

Last night and tonight my eight-year-old daughter (I’ll refer to her as “J”) and I took our dogs (a greyhound and a terrier mix) for a long leisurely walk around our neighborhood (check out the socks). What makes this mundane fact remarkable is that on these walks J was riding her horse named Lightning. While Lightning is an imaginary steed she is very, very real to us. As we walked we talked about why horses have to wear shoes. Indian horses didn’t need shoes because they never had to walk on the road. We decided that wooden shoes would be better than metal or plastic and they should be glued on and not nailed. We learned that a person who makes horseshoes can be called a blacksmith or a Ferrier.

I learned that Lightning likes to sleep standing up and she likes to eat apples. Lightning is gold/yellow/orange colored and began her life as a wild horse. She was tamed enough to ride by slowly increasing the load on her back until she was comfortable carrying a person.

As we walked J pointed out Orion standing his long cold vigil in the southern sky. We saw a cluster of stars that might have been the Little Dipper or the Seven Sisters. The Big Dipper was still hidden by the trees/horizon. We learned that the North Star (which you can follow north!) is also called Polaris. I told J that there were many more stars than we could see because of the street light glare. We also learned that another name for the Big Dipper is ursa major or Big Bear.

As we walked tonight the ride on Lightning was often interrupted by J’s dance. She would spontaneously twirl and skip, happy to be out with Daddy on a nice cool evening. We let Lightning graze while we talked and followed the sidewalk around the field to meet her on the other side. I found out that Lightning has a bridle with her name on it.

These are magical walks, time to suspend disbelief and treat imagination as fact. A time to dance and to laugh, a time to share a made up game that does us both a great deal of good. She is eight now and I know that all too soon she’ll think taking a walk with her boring old Dad won’t be cool. But for now, while she is still a child and before the innocence fades we’ll be out riding Lightning and dancing in the street. And I’ll be pretending it will last forever.