Road Trip

Five sandy-colored cranes saunter through
a front yard in Manchester, Michigan
A dead coyote stretches across a lane
on a highway in the Montana sun
A white shape – a giant plastic bag maybe? –
sits in lily pads on a pond – and then
it fluffs its wings and it’s a swan!
In front of us, something tawny skips across the road
and into a root beer forest – a white-tailed fawn!
“RESIST HATE” reads a bumper sticker in Wisconsin
“THERE WILL BE A WALL” reads a tee shirt in S. Dak
“CA DRMN” reads a license plate in Michigan
“WALL DRUGS” reads a billboard in Idaho’s outback
A rangy motorcycling tourist in leather, his skin
weathered by rain and wind, sleet, sun and snow,
speaks with a Dutch accent or maybe German,
in the Crazy Horse exhibit, and does he know
that an American tourist is watching him and
he’s part of the exhibit for her, and does she know
that she’s part of the exhibit for the folks from France?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

With The Eyes of a Tourist…

“Having eyes, see ye not?” – Mark 8: 18

***

It feels like there’s something reawakening inside of me –  something that had been  asleep for a long time.  I find myself looking at the world around me in the same way I did as a child – like everything I see is new to me, and the world is full of new things to explore and discover.  I like it.

Several years ago I made a new friend through the internet – how I met her and how we became friends is a whole book in itself – and maybe someday I’ll write it.  But what I want to talk about today is how that new friendship affected the way I see things.

My friend, Kathi, lives on the other side of the continent in Nova Scotia.  For reasons I don’t need to explain here, early in our friendship I realized that Kathi would probably never be able to visit me in my part of the world, and I had an overwhelming desire to share the beauty of what I see here with her somehow.  And because Kathi is an artist, I felt a special desire to present her with images an artist would be able to appreciate.

Ever since childhood I’d enjoyed taking photos, but, in my late twenties, I married a gifted professional photographer, and, humbled by his talent, I began limiting my own photography to mostly snapshots of family and friends – capturing birthday parties and anniversaries and family outings for the family photo album.

Now, because of my friendship with Kathi, I started taking a different kind of photo.  I wanted to show off the scenes – the flora and fauna, the mountains and beaches – of the Pacific Northwest to her.  And I wanted to try to present her with photos of images in the way she might see them herself if she were here – as an artist would see them, and as a tourist from Nova Scotia would see them.

This opened up a whole new world for me, and I think this is when my “reawakening” began.  I began noticing line, patterns, textures, small details, colors – all the magic in the world around me – in a way I hadn’t for years.

***

Yesterday was an amazing day. I stepped outside my house for an afternoon “photo walk” and entered an awe-inspiring world. Trumpeter swans flew in the sky to the south of me, and a pair of bald eagles swooped around in the sky to the north of me, and I was just blown away by the magnificence of it.  Totally oblivious to everything but those eagles and those trumpeters, I stood in the middle of the street, mouth open in wonder, focused on capturing what I was seeing in my camera.

I didn’t realize that a car had stopped for me, and the driver was watching me in sort of amused fascination, until I finally took my eyes off the sky. Kind of embarrassed, but still full of the wonder of my world, I laughed and apologized for making him stop. The driver grinned back at me. He said I looked like I was really concentrating. Waving my arm towards the heavens, I said, “We live in a beautiful part of the world! – eagles and swans filling the sky!”

He smiled and kind of shrugged and said, “Nothing new.”

I smiled back at him and said, “It’s all new! I’m looking at the world with new eyes. I’m a tourist here.”

He chuckled. I think he thought I was a little daft. And perhaps I am. But I’m sure enjoying it.