“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Some don’t want to wait till the end of the road — they don’t see life as a journey until they reach retirement and look behind them.
“Let’s hurry up and get through life ,” they say, ”stick our thumb into the air and see who will carry us till we are hungry and homesick and realize that there is no getting around it — we have to get a job eventually and work for the rest of our lives. Here are our road photos — we know everything now.”
Many people work their entire lives for that day when they can pack all of the time they have left in the world into an RV and leave everything behind. I met a retiree on the road once who had been just about everywhere with her husband and dogs.
“We keep going around in circles,” she said. “At first it was exciting, but after awhile it became boring. I have rolls of film I haven’t even had developed yet and a closet at home overflowing with boxes of slides.”
Some travelers draw up a meticulous plan, map a route, schedule events for each day to keep super busy and fun-filled, with the camera being just another record keeping tool. Some pack to the max and travel heavy, bringing the comforts of home on the road — the armchair traveler who shoots from the armchair. Those who travel lightly with only a small bag with room for camera can give evidence that they have roamed beyond the realm in which they are comfortable.
Vacation can be high art.
The vacation, like life, will always end and I must reassure myself that I am here, I was here and will be leaving some day. Was I here? Let me look in my photo album.
“Ah! Here it is! Joe and I kissed here at Nag’s Head on our honeymoon, Aug. 3, 1942.”
Time is running out — moments few and far between, only photographic memories to carry me through to the end.
What does it mean when we capture a moment or scene that we want to remember and paste it into a scrapbook? Perhaps a wish to stop time in that moment and repeat the most pleasant experiences at times we feel unpleasant.
What is real — the piece of outer landscape we photograph, or the facsimile of its moment created with our camera? Which is more enjoyable — the moment we snapped the shutter or the moment we turn the page in our scrapbook to revisit that chosen moment?
What do we remember most about our travels? Creating little pieces of pseudo realities with our magic box, or breathing, seeing and experiencing a landscape far from home, so different from what we see out our window everyday?
“Time stood still for me June 3, 1968 at the tip of Florida as the sun settled into the sea. So glad I had my Kodak Instamatic.”
Is reality so tenuous that we have to question whether or not we have even experienced it? There is a rainbow — let me confirm it — click. Our experience of the rainbow and the mechanically captured moment are two separate and distinct events, in fact, three or four and many more, since the recollection of the experience and the many moments we revisit our technically generated image are all different points in time.
Before the camera, we sketched, painted, or wrote about our travels. Before the written word, we sang and spoke of it in verse, with pieces of language — like photographs, language stood in for reality and represented what we saw and experienced. In Homer’s Odyssey, a phrase derived from the oral tradition like, “the wine dark sea” was used to help the poet memorize a story and insert his own variations on the theme, but most of all, to illustrate the story.
“In the wine dark sea…” Picture it in the camera inside your head. Yes, your mind is a camera. Back up your images and check your reality — take it along on your next trip.
Happy Trails! ~ Roy Rogers
Title of essay borrowed from 1957 Western television series, Have Gun-Will Travel, created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow and starring Richard Boone.