There are few things that can make my eyes light up and my fingers twitch for a camera like the skies. The horizon always claims my eyes, but a sky at war with itself is a wondrous thing to me.
I’ve run and chased the light, pulled into closed down water parks just for the chance of an extraordinary glimpse. The heavens have split open and compelled my stillness in the most ordinary of places, a parking lot. And more than once, driving home exhausted from work, i’ve been gifted with a sunset that sparks ideas of nuclear blasts and unforgiving gods with it’s intensity.
I set out on the first day of my 3day roadtrip through Northern California/Oregon from my best friend Watson’s place near San Francisco, towards Mt. Shasta. I was torn between half insane excitement and half erratic nerve-wracking worry as it was the first trip I had ever taken by myself….just me, my rental car and the belief that I wouldn’t get lost like all the times I’d gotten lost just heading to the grocery store. (Don’t blame me for the way Texas roads lure unsuspecting drivers onto highways and always inexplicably towards the outer edges of Ft. Worth)
It was a 4 hour drive, nothing major for someone who has done 16+ hour drives on a whim , but it was a first by myself. I think I can with all honesty say I probably didn’t plan it well (because I never plan anything), but it was magnificent to drive out of San Francisco towards the unexpected.
Lunch was supposed to be at the halfway point, my thoughts fixated on the idea of a juicy burger, but I failed to fully motivate myself to stop for food and instead, while I was driving through some beautifully windy mountain scenery, I caught sight of a small side road just next to what looked like the shadiest gas station/food mart in the existence of ever. Don’t ask me why, I can’t ever explain why I do these things, but I pulled off the road and pointed my car down what now showed to be a rather narrow, winding dirt road that tapered to a point besides a quiet creek at the base of the mountains. A rather rough looking guy leaned against his beat up blue pickup truck while fiddling in his pockets, and off to the other side another older guy in ripped flannel appeared to be doing…..something by the creeks edge. Both looked startled and more than slightly amused to see me and my tiny red rental car with Nevada plates in their woods.
Unbuckling my seat belt and grabbing my camera, I remember the only thought that passed through my head was “…..right…..what now?…..” followed by “…..might as well look around.”
In the end, the quiet rustling of the tree’s surrounding me completly, up and out, combined with the splashing of two little girls playing by the creek (while one of the guys looked on and the other played with a remote controlled mini truck car) ended up being better than a lunch break. The air smelled sweet in my lungs, and the parting smile I got from one of the guys when I thanked him for the way back to the main road made it my favorite memory of the day.
It was a quiet morning, a sleepy Sunday at 6 am. I spilled out of bed eyes half shut in the warm glow of June’s heat, wanting to lie in the shower and cool off…. but I had gone to sleep with a goal in my mind of something, something something. I had just recently figured out how to use my camera (kind of) and there was a town I had passed through months before that I wanted to try my new hobby out on. I had yet to realize I loved taking photographs, had yet to go on a 4 days crazy-insane-wtf roadtrip through bible belt states just to explore behind the lens, had yet to survive a pitch black hells highway through mountains and coastlines just for the chance to catch a sunrise on a rocky glass strewn beach.
I guess you could say this is where that changed, probably. Driving past Dallas skyline scrapers, down the semi-empty freeways past factories and fields, well and truly into unexplored, not-talked about territory, I realized I was slightly giddy with the idea of exploring somewhere I knew nothing about, somewhere more small and intimate than I had ever experienced. I was the kind of person who dreamed of visiting London, Prague, Boston, Seattle. Big cities with easily found gems around every corner. But after this little excursion, a morning spent (literally) running around silent and empty streets, poking my head and camera down narrow alleys and walking on empty railroad tracks beside grain silos, I crashed upon the realization that I wanted more than the already expected, I wanted to be surpirsed, I wanted to not know what was around every corner, to explore towns that didn’t show up in travel campaigns.
I still want London, Prague, Boston and Seattle, but I also want the kind of places I can sit on the sidewalk messing with my camera and just enjoy the still and quiet of a morning still waking up.
When I used to live in California I was about an hours drive outside of San Francisco, in a sleepy little suburb that could only be accessed by side roads, one of which was always continuously blocked by tractors and/or curious wandering cows. To say San Francisco was an escape would be putting it mildly, especially for a girl who was raised in New York City’s never dying lights and had the matching attitude. But as much as I loved the hustle and clamor of being in the city itself, as much as I could adore the uniqueness of the city’s own brand of architecture and beauty, my favorite place was always the piers.
Nevermind the endless stream of tourists, or the wickedly overpriced food, or god, even the insanely suicidal pigeons and outright thuggish seagulls who would harass you for just a teensy bite of that aforementioned expensive food, it all couldn’t lessen my love for the creaking of wooden planks under my feet, the smell of ocean mixed with sweet candy-ice cream- donuts and yumtastic things galore. I started going at first with my mom, when she would have a Saturday off from work (or a memorable time when she let me skip school on a week day) and even though at home it was the kind of battlefield that burns scars for life, we would leave it all behind for a couple of hours, a day spent in truce. Later we started bringing my best friend Watson along, and at the piers we could sit or wander for hours, people watching, munching on fish and chips for lunch.It was where I learned to observe life, to enjoy the tide of strangers rushing past and just enjoy the experience of being surrounded by life. We would talk about life, plans for the future, little things that didn’t matter or things that did, and there we were closer than mother-daughter-friend.
Going back on this recent trip with Watson, it was like stepping into shoes I hadn’t worn in years, finding the grooves unfamiliar, but eventually comforting. Stepping away from the main centers to find the quiet benches by the docks, sipping on cool drinks in the setting sun while popping little sugary donuts into our mouth, it was the kind of bittersweet memory that sounds so cliche in the retelling but in the moment itself could not be more present and genuine , a digging into lovely old memories and little wounds.
Architecture of love, the movement of buildings unmoving and yet fluid in your eyes. Monuments heavy and boisterous , the little corner houses insignificant except for the sparkle of something not-can’t-describe.