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