Disconnected in The Windy City

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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For a variety of reasons I’ve not written anything for a few days. That is not good for me, as it is so very easy to get out of the habit. I’ve been feeling that strange disconnect from reality which overwhelms me when I’ve been living out of my back-pack for too long, moving from place to place as necessity dictates. Here I am in Chicago, or nearly so, the grim finger of the Sears tower barely piercing the smoggy horizon. I just finished a pleasant conversation with a dear friend and adviser. As I ran out of words I excused myself by saying that I needed to sit down to write. Sensing my mood, she told me to “write something beautiful.”

Is that possible when darker thoughts prevail and the heart rests low and quiet, hardly venturing to whisper through the noise of confusion? I don’t know. We shall see.

You will note that I’ve visited the farmlands. I’ve seldom needed to imagine so much while searching for images. This part of the world can seem a visual wasteland. As I seek inspiration my eyes must listen very carefully for the tiny voices calling from unexpected places. My job is to try to make the mundane exceptional. I spot a corroding gas grill sitting beside a farm outbuilding. A few incongruous strands of straw hang limply from under the lid. When I see what is there I first laugh and then feel a little choke at the back of my throat as my mind frets over the absurdity:

Birds are not alone among the creatures which build nests in hazardous places. We are only aware of the hazards we can see and understand. We can see the future not at all.

Yet nature itself, which seems designed to kill us, provides that which we require, along with a little work on our part, to nurture us. Though this fallen world appears to favor weeds, the creator gave us wits enough to push them back a little so that we can squeeze out of the land what fills our bellies – most of us, that is:

Flood and drought, pestilence and disease, frost and storm all thwart our efforts, but somehow the farmer stays ahead. It amazes me how easily I forget those who feed me. It is good to get out on the land every few years to remind myself that those who are called to work the land bless us all by their efforts. The farmer leads a risky life, dealing constantly with forces beyond his control. He is an artist of the soil.

The soil itself can be beautiful, especially as it lends itself to be the canvas of the farmer. Here the corn-planting machine has tread, leaving its linear footprint on the land:

It awaits the first rain to fade it. The soil will warm and the days grow longer. The green shoots will rise cobra-like and grow astonishingly tall in a few brief weeks. Some say that the corn can be heard to grow. Maybe this is true. Does the farmer see his planted field as I do? Does he hear the same voice? Maybe he sees the same thorny path to an unknown horizon. Though we see it that way for entirely different reasons. He asks, “Will my crop be bountiful?” I ask, simply, “What lies ahead?”

John, husband of my niece, Pat, operates a grain storage facility. His job is to see that the farmers’ products are safely stored until it is time for them to be sold to those in need. This seems to require a lot of shifting of grain from one giant bin to another, for reasons which I do not completely understand. Here corn spills from one huge cylinder into a pit from whence it will be elevated to a dizzy height and spilled into another:

As I look at this image I cannot but note that all of the grains of corn, regardless of the wildness of their individually random paths, end up in the same place – the pit. The metaphor is inescapable. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But what a ride! I admire the kernels which bounce crazily – the outliers – the mavericks. They too will end up in the pit, but they do not go easily nor without squeezing every last bit of value from the trip.

I do not like to believe that destiny rules us. In the broad sense we cannot escape the notion. Certain things will happen no matter how we wriggle to avoid them. Still, in between birth and death, we like to think that we have some choices. Exactly how much choice we have is debatable. I can never make up my mind about this. My beliefs require that I accept that my creator is involved in my life in substantial ways. Sometimes I am very happy about this and other times I am resentful, even angry. This seems to be the nature of the relationship, if you accept that there is one at all. So, in a sense, I do have a destiny:

As I saw the angled lines of the machinery intersecting at the apex under the high, hazy sun, the image shouted at me. At first I shuffled around to fix the orb directly above the point at which the seemingly random paths joined. And then I realised that this was not the message. I will not intersect perfectly with my destiny. This is the skill of saints, to yield willingly and unerringly to the direction of the Divine GPS. I tend to ramble about.

To get there, the intersection where all paths which lead to the destination finally meet, I must follow one of the prescribed paths. I might have chosen any of these paths and arrived safely. Wolves lurk in the parched bushland between the paths and other paths lead to unknown dangers as they depart from the course to the apex.

And what is it, exactly, which lies where all safe paths meet? Heaven? What is that? We don’t have a lot of information to work with, eh? I can never decide whether I’ll really like it or not. There seems not a lot to do there. Perhaps I’m too attached to this world, to this life. It’s all shiny and sleek. It has a lot of bits and pieces with many knobs to twist and buttons to push. There is fun to be had, things to do, people to meet, plans to be made . . .

Plans to be made . . .

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Miscellaneous Visual Rambling

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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Sometimes I accumulate images that I like, but there’s not enough meat in them to deliver a meal. Today I’ll pile a few of them on your plate like a mixed grill. See if you can find anything tasty.

I always love shooting in lighting situations that are difficult – just to see what happens. This is in the Amtrak station in Chicago. It took some careful fiddling in Photoshop to get anything interesting, but it was worth the effort:
The Amtrak station in Chicago

I love travelling by train. Any time I have the choice, I take a train.

I took this shot in a friend’s back yard in Terre Haute, Indiana. I’m told it’s a Golden Finch and it likes to eat standing on it’s head. I can still stand on my head (okay, okay, I need to use my hands to prop me up). Anybody got a Snickers bar? I’ll give it shot:Golden Finch?

Here’s an interesting snap of Gracie and Eunie tooling down the road in Sedona. They’ve been best friends for sixty-one years. It’s always such a pleasure to be with them:

Eunie and Gracie tooling along

And, these are?  Too easy – cactus flowers:Cactus flowers

Sedona is a place where people are not chicken to speak their minds. I like the sign. It helps me to remember who’s doing the real suffering:

Speaking the mind

It’s off to the Grand Canyon today. It’s still cloudy outside and it’s only supposed to get up to about 18°C. I’m so tired of being cold. Only a return home is going to fix that. This will be my only visit to the Grand Canyon in my life. Just give me some sun and some spare batteries. Is that too much to ask?

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Bye-bye to Brisbane

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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This is my last day in Brisbane. It’s been very enjoyable, but it feels very cold here to me. I don’t know what I’m going to when I get to Canada – buy some warm clothes at the Salvation Army and then give them away before I leave sounds like an option.

Brisbane is a very beautiful city with a lot of different spaces. There are old neighborhoods packed with lovely old-style Queensland houses, waterfronts everywhere, and the city centre sparkles with glassy skyscrapers. At night, it’s a delight.

We’ll start off with lunch. Here was my lunch yesterday – fish and chips – the best I’ve ever had. I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was absolutely perfect. Of course there was far, far too much food on the plate, but that seems to be a symptom a serious eating disorder that is becoming the norm in mst of the western world. I’m talking about the habit of eating until one feels full.  I’ll go into that another day, when I’m not feeling so cheerful.

My lunch.

I ate all of the delicious fish and a few chips, pecked at the salad and left the rest.

Our long-time friend Val Jerram is escorting me around Brisbane. She particularly wanted me to see this remarkable wooden statue of Sister Mary MacKillop located right in the centre of the city at St. Stephen’s Chapel. It’s all carved from one huge tree. It is about three or four metres tall:

Blessed Mary MacKillop
Sister Mary lived from 1842 until 1909. Her vocation was primarily as an educator. Val told me that Sister Mary is the first Australian Saint. One of the hands of the statue is missing because some clown knocked it off. What can one say about that? Some things that people do are simply too dumb for words.

Here’s my last offering of Brisbane for now. I got this shot from one of the little ferry boats. It is actually pretty horrible – it was full of noise:  

A Brisbane waterfront scene at night
I had to turn into a bit of fake watercolour art. Photographically, it stinks, but I like the colours on the water.

My next post will probably not be for a day or so because of the lengthy, boring, thoroughly detestable flight from Brisbane to New York City.

Stay cool.

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On the Road – Chicago – Sleeping Beauty

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 4th, 2008 by MadDog
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Not much to write about today. We’re trudging from Indianapolis to Buffalo via Chicago. Hans will pick us up in Buffalo for the trip to Hamilton, Ontario.

Eunie caught me passed out cold clutching our Toshiba to my body to prevent the dreaded airport notebook snatch (it was also still warm from just being used). I think I look really old. Do you think I look old? Please tell me you don’t think I look old. I’m aging a year a week here. Soon I’ll be dead. I gotta get back to Madang. My life depends on it.

 MadDog Napping

Since I have nothing more amusing to report today, you can watch me snooze. Concentrate on me snoozing. Look into my snoozing eyes. You are feeling very calm and relaxed. Your eyelids are getting heavy . . .

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On the Road – Chicago – The Tunnel of Light

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 2nd, 2008 by MadDog
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Sounds ominous, eh? No worries, I’m not dying . . . yet. The cold might get me, but maybe not today.

I had forgotten that Chicago O’hare has one genuinely cool feature. As you go from check-in at the domestic terminal to Concourse C there is an underground walkway that has a truly wonderful neon light display. Here’s a photo of it that I took at about five in the morning (ugh!):

Chicago O’hare Tunnel of Light

The pattern of lights changes constantly. I tried to catch it at a moment when they were all on. It takes a long exposure, so the camera has to be firmly planted on something solid. You can see that the brave captain getting off the moving walkway looks a little blurry. I hope that is only an artefact of the camera and not his present mental condition.

There is one minor annoying aspect of the beautiful tunnel. A robotic voice (sounds like Hal from 2001 – A Space Odessy) is constantly droning, “You are nearing the end. Please look down.” Taken existentially, I don’t like the sound of that. Wouldn’t it be more comforting if the voice was politely asking one to look up as the end draws near? Of course, in reality, that would probably result in a few sprained ankles a day. It is difficult not to watch the pretty lights and the stumble as you hit the end of the moving walkway can be a little severe if you’re not expecting it.

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On the Road – Chicago – American TV

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 2nd, 2008 by MadDog
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Reclining here in a cheap motel waiting for exhaustion to beat me into submission . . . what can I show you? Well, why not torture you with what I’m presently suffering – American TV.

Not that what we’re watching is so terribly bad – it’s Jay Leno. He’ll never be as funny as Carson (may his name be revered) was, but he has interesting guests and some cute schticks (pardon my poor Yiddish spelling if I got that one wrong). Tonight he had David Beckham and a very funny female black comedian whose name I didn’t catch.

So, since I don’t have the energy left to Photoshop anything more interesting at the moment, here’s what I’m presently staring at while I wait for blissful unconsciousness:

American TV - A funny lady whose name I don’t know.

Hey, it’s not Vegas, but it’s the last stop for a while. We’ll be in Indy tomorrow. I’m going to brave the Arctic blasts to get the Harley out for servicing so that I can crate it up for its long journey to Paradise.

Stay tuned.

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