mindscapes   8 comments

Posted at 2:32 pm in Uncategorized

As mentioned in the previous post’s comments, I’ve reached my winter destination in southeast Arizona. However, there are a few things left to write about the journey, and several photos that I would like to share, so I’ll continue on with the account that leads to my doorstep.

Writing about this trip has been more difficult than expected. Driving long distances alone and dealing with the van’s mechanical problems often left me too fatigued to write, let alone think. However, I believe that’s because my trip followed so closely in the footsteps of a year spent dealing with Don’s illness and his eventual death less than three months ago. Add to that the overwhelming landslide of forms that must be filed, phone calls that must be made, and struggles with the bureaucratic red tape that ensues when someone dies, and it’s little wonder that my energy levels have struck a new low. However, I’m here and feeling that I would like to fill in some gaps on this journey.

The top image was taken alongside the TransCanada highway somewhere in Saskatchewan. I pulled off the roadway to photograph a derelict house surrounded by broken trees and brush. Inside, strips of plastic sheeting flapped and twisted, incessantly tugged by the eerily moaning prairie winds. As I shot several photos, I found myself slipping into sadness and stopped to analyze why that might be so.

Since setting out on this journey, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that, when someone very close to you dies, the world is seen through different eyes — maybe best described as “old eyes”. This isn’t a recent epiphany. About ten years ago, I cared for my father through end stage kidney cancer, so I was well aware of how my world changed on the night that he died. It was as though the earth shifted, moved by a quake registering only on my personal seismograph. Caring for Don through end stage lung cancer reified what I had already felt. The world I inhabit has shifted once more. Pressure cracks have appeared in a landscape where underlying tectonic plates tilt and grind. The path I once followed ends at a cliff’s edge. My world is now filled with metaphors of birth, life, love, loss, and death. A derelict house becomes a reminder of how fleeting are our lives and our creations. Smashed out windows, gaping doors, or a fallen roof are signs of irreparable destruction and termination. Of course, most photographers are aware of the existence and use of metaphor in objects and landscapes. It is our stock in trade. But there is a difference between making use of, and living within, a world filled with metaphors.

On this journey, landscapes have become mindscapes. On the rolling, golden wheatfields of Washington and Oregon, the division between earth and sky seems blurred and vague as a softly sculpted knoll conceals all but the edge of the next cloud bank drifting beyond. Driving through the mountains, one ascends from sunny valleys to mist-shrouded peaks and passes. Am I still in the mountains, or am I now traveling through air? Life and death seem not far removed from such questions. Well, one thing is for certain — metaphorical or not, I am in a different place now than I have ever been before.

Written by bev on November 27th, 2008

8 Responses to 'mindscapes'

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  1. […] is a new post up at my travel blog Journey to the […]

  2. […] Journey to the Center On this journey, landscapes have become mindscapes. On the rolling, golden wheatfields of Washington and Oregon, the division between earth and sky seems blurred and vague as a softly sculpted knoll conceals all but the edge of the next cloud bank drifting beyond. —- This entry was posted Thursday, November 27th, 2008 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Smorgasblog. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “”, url: “http://www.vianegativa.us/2008/11/27/3337/” });via e-mail or social bookmarking.  Print Welcome […]

    Via Negativa

    27 Nov 08 at 9:48 pm

  3. Bev – I have to admit that with the clouds in the background and your recent announcement of rain in Arizona I at first thought that top photo might be your home away from home.

    The wheatfield photo is spectacular. It’s beautiful but it’s also nirvanalike and a bit disturbing for that. A very effective visual to accompany your writing.


    28 Nov 08 at 5:45 am

  4. Poignant and so compellingly introspective, bev. Landscapes like that wheatfield seem so lonely and yet we know that somewhere in there something wild and unseen rests.

    robin andrea

    28 Nov 08 at 1:47 pm

  5. Wayne – “nirvanalike” – that’s a good word for describing how those rolling wheatfields feel to me. Although I traveled through those areas several years ago, the memory of them stays with me. That’s one reason why I went somewhat out of my way to travel through them even though it was a day when I intended to reach a certain destination that required a lot of hours of driving.

    robin – they do seem lonely, especially as there always seems to be a strong wind that whistles and makes eerie moaning sounds.


    29 Nov 08 at 1:06 pm

  6. I understand something of what you say about the world changing when a loved one dies. I felt that way when my father died about eight years ago. Shortly after his death I had lunch with several work friends and we talked about that. It was like those of us who had had a parent die belonged to a club (for lack of a better word) whose members saw the world differently.

    To me the empty, decaying house is a perfect metaphor for the end of life. Everything a person was or did is left behind, and those things waste away waiting for someone who will never return.


    2 Dec 08 at 6:09 pm

  7. Mark – I’ve sort of found the same thing too. Losing the person that I’ve spent the last 34 years with – since I was 18, has entirely changed my view of the world. It seems like many people don’t really “get” how that impacts your life and changes things – especially your future. Some people have suggested that it must be like getting divorced — but I find that comparison pretty bizarre. It isn’t anything like that at all because there is that finality and all plans for the future are forever changed.


    2 Dec 08 at 6:29 pm

  8. Bev,

    I’ve waited to visit here until I was free to drift with your thoughts.

    If I say it is poetry . . .

    If I say poignant, lovely, haunting – yes, all that.

    Landscapes and vacant houses as metaphor.

    Years and years ago I wrote a few lines about a house I passed on my way to my parents:

    Pressed around its leaning walls
    the flowers bow their heads.
    Peony blush and lily white
    give way to bramble reds.

    This alone, the quiet house
    knows with aching need:
    its rooms submit to spider webs
    as flowers yield to weeds.

    The pictures of Sabrina melt my heart.

    The accounts of your cooking alone at night –
    broke it.

    Cathy Wilson

    21 Jan 09 at 8:27 pm

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