I like road trips. My parents were given to wanderlust through western spaces, so I’ve been engaged in the craft for a lot of years. I enjoy getting to a destination of choice. But what I especially enjoy is the process of traveling, of going eyes ahead through the ordinary parts, only to look up or to the side and see a magic scene that makes weariness dim and the world seem alive again. These scenes then become like the yellow brick road or the “lovely, dark and deep” woods of Robert Frost, inviting me to wonder.
Please join me on a trip. We’re driving home after spending several days photographing in one of my home ranges, California’s Mono Basin. The road follows down a valley surrounded by volcanic ridges and ﬁlled with dry Great Basin sagebrush. Ahead of us is a small ridge and at it’s base, to the left, is a playa, dry and white but stained with earth tones in concentric shapes around the deepest point. Cows are munching the brown fauna in the distance. We are separated from it all by a fence strung between rustic fence poles. It is mystifying to think that the small amount of moisture provided this area can wrest such brilliance out of the otherwise brown earth. We stop in a small pull-out to view the scene, the first invitation.
And then it is time to go, almost. Turning toward my truck, I look at the fence separating the grazing area from the highway and see a rugged two-track road following it up the ridge and then out of sight over the ridge. The second invitation. To those who manage the cattle, it’s just another work path, perhaps leading to a gate, a corral or a bunkhouse. To me it’s an invitation to wonder where the road goes and what I would see, smell and feel if I followed it. But, like Frost, I have “miles to go” so I rejoin the highway and put the road on a list of future ventures.
We’ve all had experiences like this, momentary glimpses into serendipitous paths, ways that would lead us somewhere different if we gave them a chance to lure us. They can open in front, above, to the side or below us. Some have been created by humans. Some we can follow and others only imagine. The images below show some of paths I’ve glimpsed. I’ve followed some of them and others are still waiting for me. I’m sure that you have your own list of paths that have beckoned you.
I’ve seen these paths over time. I’m a photographer so images often come before the words that describe them. Equipment has changed but the constant has been the magic of seeing space and light and recording scenes on media and in words.