Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Jan 18th


This poem by Ursula LeGuin has been knocking around inside my head for several days. Since this morning started with a light snow in my inbreathing and an outbreath of shining ice, it seemed a good time to let it sing:

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

 – Ursula LeGuin


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If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in May time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone.

– T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Erin Rivers photographs places. She didn’t always. She used to be an artist in paint and ceramic, studying at Webster University and the Art Institute of Chicago. But in 2005 she inherited her father’s Hasselblad camera—and that camera took her in a new direction, on a route she likely would not have taken otherwise.

After learning to use the Hasselblad—which requires a far different set of actions and a vastly different timeframe than the simple point-and-shoot digital cameras and cell phones that we all use—Erin set out to retrace her father’s steps and visit some of the small towns and byways that he had once photographed. Along the way she discovered her own rough roads and special places.

Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery – Monroe County, Illinois

The cemetery has quite a history. It has been heavily vandalized over the years, including broken and knocked over headstones, theft and general destruction of property.… At the top of the cliff I spotted the mausoleum that I was looking for. For the first time that day I took the Jeep off-roading and double backed to what I thought was a cleverly hidden path that led to the top of the cliff. Then up a very steep, winding road, that at times, narrowed down to just one lane. After much more back-tracking and off-roading incidents, I looked off to the side of the road and noticed a large wood plank propped up. In reflective letters, the words “Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery” were clearly spelled out. I don’t know why I was still unsure. Maybe the crude “No Trespassing from Dusk till Dawn,” sign. I decided to just get on with it, and after passing the “No Trespassing” sign, found another sign (handwritten) that said “Visitor Parking.”

Burfordville • Bollinger Mill  Baptists

I made my way to the Burfordville Covered Bridge, but I was on the opposite side of Bollinger Mill. Crossing the bridge is an interesting experience; it is dark of course and you can smell the passage of time and many other unidentifiable things. Light passes through the splits and holes in the wood and creates an interesting pattern along the sides and the floor. Known as a Howe Truss, the Burfordville Bridge is the oldest remaining covered bride in the state of Missouri.

The architecture of the mill itself caught my eye, the stone base combined with the brickwork and several windows located on the upper floors. I was able to peek through the windows and see a little bit of the machinery that is on display, but nothing that I could really identify.

After a few more photos of the mill, an old bus and a caravan of cars squealed into the parking lot, honking their horns. I learned later that this was a Baptist church group getting ready for the day’s Easter egg hunt. I never would have guessed this based on their entrance.

For the Mind, Body & Spirit

Toward the end of “Little Gidding,” Eliot wrote:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Erin’s photographs help us get to know some of the small towns and hidden places scattered through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri—Fairmount, Burfordville, Atlanta, Greentown.  Nearly deserted, they often look like temporary backdrops that could be dismantled in a few hours and trucked away.

But you never know what may be about to happen, just outside the frame. There could very well be a passel of Baptists about to tear it up at an Easter egg hunt.

I think that the best part of picking up processed film and finding out what you have created is the moment just before you open the envelope.


Quotations were pulled from Erin’s travel log, and are reprinted here with her kind permission. To view more of her wonderful photographs, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/erinrivers.

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3-D view from the front of Curiosity, courtesy of NASA.

The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said “Here art thou!”

The question and the cry “Oh, where?” melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance “I am!”

— Song XII, Gitanjali, 1913, by Rabindranath Tagore


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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The Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, North Carolina

I have always drawn, painted and written since I can remember. …

I will always draw and paint and write as long as I can remember.

Virginia Wright-Frierson, designer of the Bottle Chapel

Design Made at Airlie Gardens (1967)
Minnie Evans
Born: Long Creek, North Carolina 1892
Died: Wilmington, North Carolina 1987
Oil and mixed media on canvas mounted on paperboard
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the artist

The bright colors and floral motifs that appear in her paintings were most likely inspired by trees and flowers, especially azaleas, at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, where Evans worked as the gatekeeper for many years.

“My whole life has been dreams . . . sometimes day visions . . . they would take advantage of me,” Evans once said. She also recalled that in 1944 a fortune teller informed her that she was “wrapped completely in color….”

–  Regenia A. Perry, Free Within Ourselves: African-American Artists in the Collection of the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art in Association with Pomegranate Art Books, 1992).

Virginia Wright-Frierson on July 26, 2012 making repairs to the chapel in preparation for her son’s wedding.

Please do not climb trees, enter water areas, or step into planted gardens.

= Airlie Gardens photography policy

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Save food and defeat frightfulness

Poster by Herbert Andrew Paus, 1917

Visit the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, and arrive around 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Try to attach yourself to a white-bearded guide named Erik. We spent two hours with Erik; he told us things that weren’t even in the museum, like the story of General Sir John Monash, an Australian officer. Erik choked up a bit when he told us about Monash, whose state funeral in 1931 brought out 250,000 mourners, many of them former soldiers. He pointed out a uniform identical to the one his father had worn upon joining the British Army straight out of college.

With Erik we visited the trenches, celebrated Christmas in No Man’s Land, examined a crater that had once been a farmhouse, watched the sinking of the Lusitania, and read x-rays of injured troops.

Then the tour ended. Erik blithely said good-bye and hurried off without a backward glance. Some of our original number had already wandered away, but the four of us still in his group had become so attached that we suffered brief separation anxiety. For a moment, we lingered in place as if uncertain how to continue on without him. At last the other couple drifted away, and Ernesto and I checked out some of the exhibits that we hadn’t yet seen. It was several minutes, though, before I could shake the feeling of having been in the trenches, knee-deep in mud and gore.

Fortunately, the museum contains a charming collection of propaganda posters, including the one featured above. I found it cheering. According to Learn NC, this poster “shows a Red Cross nurse with wounded and needy people, including a soldier and a mother holding a child, all gesturing toward the quote from Whittier.”

Frankly, these figures look like zombies. And why are they gesturing toward Whittier, when anyone can see that the best quote on the poster is the one at the bottom? 

 Save food and defeat frightfulness.

It sounds like a quote Miss Manners might have contributed to the war effort. Frightfulness seems just one short step up from mild unpleasantness. In fact, frightfulness seems perfectly applicable to the story of some friends of mine who took their 2-year-old out to lunch at a local restaurant. The waitress set Luke up with a fistful of crayons and a placemat to color. Soon one of the crayons hit the floor, and Luke climbed down from his chair to hunt it down and pick it up—just as his mom took a moment to have a quick word with her husband. When she turned back to check on Luke, she found him underneath the table, enjoying a largish chunk of cake that he had found under his chair.

Frightful, perhaps, but a nice example of saving food.

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Written Directions

Take interstate 85 North until you’re in the middle of pretty much nowhere. Drive almost as far as the Virginia state line, but before you’re quite there take exit 223 (Manson Road). You will see signs directing you to some sort of historic site—I can’t imagine what. Turn right at the top of the exit ramp. When the road ends, turn left onto 158 East. Follow 158 through Roanoke Rapids and no matter what time it is stop and eat at Ralph’s Barbecue. After leaving Ralph’s, continue on 158 through Jackson and Murfreesboro. If you are feeling hungry again, you can get more barbecue at Whitley’s in Murfreesboro. It’s a little bit of a detour off the main route, though, and I don’t remember how to get there exactly.

From Murfreesboro you have about another hour of driving ahead of you. You might spot a secondhand furniture store in one of the small towns along the way, where several choice pieces spill out the door and onto the sidewalk to lure you in. One piece will probably have a white piece of cardboard taped to it, reading “Chester Drawers $50.” 

Continue on 158 to Gatesville. Once you’ve followed the road through the center of town you’ll come to a flashing light where you have to turn right to stay on 158. Turn right and cross a bridge with an old grist mill. The next turn will be a left onto Muddy Cross Road. I think this is Highway 37. Or is it Highway 32?  It’s one or the other. If you pass the Planters Peanuts silo you’ve gone too far so turn around immediately and drive slowly until you find Muddy Cross. If you pass a group of barns on your right, including one that is situated so that it will appear as if you are going to drive straight into its open doors, then you’ve gone just a tad too far again and will have to turn around. Muddy Cross is between that group of barns and the Planters Peanuts silo.

Once you’re successfully on Muddy Cross Road, drive until it ends and take a left, then an immediate right onto Sandy Cross Road. Follow Sandy Cross for several miles, taking care not to hit a dog that may decide to amble across the road to find some shade. Once you cross a little bridge overhung by dark trees, begin to drive more slowly until you see a sign for Nicanor. The train used to pass through Nicanor, and one day longtime back someone shot at the train as it passed and killed a man who happened to be standing outside the caboose smoking a cigar. The shooter and his friends turned themselves in to the authorities. The train hasn’t run through here in more than half a century and all that’s left of Nicanor is its sign.

As soon as you can read the Nicanor sign and before you drive past it, turn left onto Turnpike Road. Go past a grove of young pine trees and the Up River Cemetery (it’ll be on your left), then take the next right onto Up River Road. A field of infinite possibilities is on the left; Grandma’s house is on the right.


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Palm trees in front of MOCA, Miami

It is like a great palace with many entrances; all who enter it would soon lose their way. A wise man [Solomon] came and took a rope and fastened it to the entrance, and all would enter and exit by following the rope. – Shir ha-Shir Rabbah 1:8

It would be helpful to have Solomon’s rope in Miami. The city is a labyrinth where roads end without warning at canals, and interstates sweep over and around the places one wishes to reach. Wending your way out of the maze seems impossible. (Dave Barry once said of its airport, “At Miami International, a cramped and dingy labyrinth, the message is: Just Try to Find Our Baggage Claim Area!”)

Ernesto is my rope in Miami, and even he sometimes loses the way. We were there this past weekend to visit his family, and never has the city seemed so much like a palace filled with exotic rooms. Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, South Beach, Hialeah—even their names taste delicious.

We spent much of one afternoon trying to find a restaurant that all of us loved, Sundays by the Bay. Years ago it was on the north end of Miami Beach, on the Intracoastal Waterway in Haulover Park. Later it moved to Key Biscayne. We drove to Key Biscayne and missed it on the way down, so we turned around and headed back. We stopped at a marina where Ernesto thought it should be, and in fact there was a sign pointing to “Restaurant.” But no restaurant appeared, so I got out of the car and asked a lady walking a dog if she could tell us where it was. Closed, she told me, and added that it had been closed for some time. This Ernesto would not believe, and he found a marina employee a little further along who took our picture and assured us that Sundays by the Bay was back toward the bridge to the mainland, near a restaurant called the Rusty Pelican. “No, it’s not,” Ernesto said, but we got back in the car and drove to the Rusty Pelican and found no signs of Sundays by the Bay. It turns out that not only is it truly closed, but the building has been demolished, leaving no sign that it ever existed.

We also had trouble finding the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami, mainly because the road we were on forked subtly and became an utterly different road. As we tried to retrace our path and get back to the right street, the side roads, which should have been numbered in an orderly and chronological fashion, were not. Finally we stopped and went into a Panera long enough to use their free wifi to pull up the directions on our iPad. Then we found that we had driven right past the place earlier, but somehow had missed the gigantic letters M-O-C-A painted on the side of the main building.

In a smaller building on the MOCA campus, we enjoyed an installation by artist Teresita Fernández: A life-sized, empty swimming pool made from plywood and gallons of blue paint with genuine porthole-style pool lights mounted in all the appropriate places. As we walked down some rough wooden steps into the pool, a tape played the sound of rushing water as if the pool were being filled. Large, rectangular windows built into the sides near the bottom of the pool were reflective for those inside and made the pool into an aquarium for observers on the outside. At one point I stood on the outside looking in a window and Ernesto pretended to swim up from the inside. His eyes and cheeks bulged as if he were holding his breath underwater. That’s the sort of thing I love; it brought the exhibit to life for me.

The museum’s main building featured the work of Mark Handforth. Titled “Rolling Stop,” the exhibition is meant to serve as a commentary on modern man’s tendency to rush blindly from one place or activity to the next, so that we don’t even come to a full stop when we’re legally required to do so. (Yep, I’ve gotten a ticket for that.) Handforth’s work is designed to make people stop and take a good, long look at things again. I liked his silver wishbone, roughly the size of a small plane, and a gigantic coat hanger that hung from the ceiling. Proving that he’s not limited to over-sized items, there was also a Vespa with burning candles on it. The machine was covered with wax drippings from previous burnings. It reminded me of a long-ago art project that involved melting candles and dripping the wax over an empty Coke bottle. That sort of thing was hot in the ’70s.

We found more Handforth pieces tucked in a side courtyard and in a fountain in front of MOCA. Two others were installed off-site, making the entire exhibition a sort of scavenger hunt. One was a tree in a public park that had been illuminated (day and night) with neon—the perfect Miami tree. Instead of completing the tour properly and seeking these last two exhibits, we drove to Coral Gables to El Palacio de los Jugos (the Palace of Juices). I had a piña colada blend, Ernesto’s mom chose mango, and Ernesto ordered papaya. Knowing that we would soon be far away from delicious fresh tropical juices, Ernesto and I went back and got refills of mango.

(I had never seen mangoes growing on a tree before Ernesto pointed them out to me in an earlier visit to Miami. The tree grew in the back yard of Ernesto’s uncle’s house. I was captivated by the way that the tree seemed to be lowering the mangoes gently to the ground, because the fruit was suspended from long, ropy stems.)

El Palacio is not simply de los jugos, it also sells produce, sugar cane, and every type of Cuban food imaginable, all in a sort of colorful flea-marketish jumble. It is vastly different from the white towers of the Delano and Beacon Hotels in South Beach, and the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc a little to the north. But it’s all wonderful, and I could get lost there forever.

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