Friday, December 29, 2006

100,000 CARS, 99 RIVERS and the existential question of the week

Foggy Morning.., originally uploaded by TR.iPod.

Yesterday we spent seven hours driving from Ted's family home in the mountains of Pennsylvania to Cape Cod.

I saw 100,000 cars, and one man walking down the highway.

I wondered what it would be like if we were all walking--or even half of us. How long would it take to travel from Pennsylvania? How many people would I meet along the way? How often would we travel, and what would our lives be like at home?

I saw 9 deer grazing in a field near the highway. I had never seen so many deer in one place at one time. After an hour or two, Ted had to ask me kindly if I would please stop talking about them.

I saw a blinking sign that said YOU'RE ARRESTED

I wondered what I had done, but then the sign blinked again and it said DRINKING AND DRIVING IS A SERIOUS CRIME. I wasn't arrested after all. Phew.

I saw billboards that wanted me to drink Coors Beer and have my eyes checked.

I wondered when doctors started advertising on billboards.

I saw a million winter trees, stripped and broken or standing tall like arrows announcing the clouds.

I wondered when snow would come and cover them with its glitter and light.

I saw 99 rivers, 42 mountains, 36 cities, and 356 towns.

I saw factories where no one's worked for fifty years, and the tenements where the workers used to live.

I wondered who lived in them now and what they do for work.

I saw four cars that had been stopped by the police, two fender benders, and seventeen vehicles broken down on the road.

I saw one man's soft white belly, as he lay on the ground, working on his car.

I wondered at how vulnerable we all are.

I saw one boat on the Hudson River; and I saw the sun parting the water for it.

I opened the window to feel what the boat rider must feel, and wondered why there was only one.

I saw two and a half tons of trash spread along the side of the road, and 50,000 empty pick-up trucks.

I saw 99 McDonald's, 9 Starbucks and 103 Dunkin Donuts. I saw the Hibernian Diner where they have the best lentil soup I've ever had, and Di Mare's Pastry Shop where everything looks so good that choice is almost impossible.

Guess where we stopped?

I saw docked naval ships and tugboats, and Ted says I even saw a submarine, though I didn't much notice it.

I wondered how you can drive past a submarine and fail to see it.

I saw a stack of CDs we used to entertain ourselves on our way home, and I listened to Woody Guthrie singing "This land was made for you and me."

I joined in, wondering what Woody would sing now.

I saw road signs that announced New England and then Cape Cod, then our town, our street, our animals in the window.

I saw my own fatigue in the mirror inside the door. Ted said I shouldn't be tired; I hadn't even driven.

I wondered how anyone could take in 100,000 cars, 99 rivers and a million winter trees without wanting to sleep for a week when they were done.

I went to bed early and dreamed of the highway.

What about you? What did you see? What did you wonder?


Kay Cooke said...

I certainly didn't see all those things in our tiny, empty land! But I certainly loved reading about what you saw.

BTW - how do you get the name of your flickr photographers to show up under their photos? When I 'blog' a flickr photo, it doesn't show the name. I have already been 'told off' for not acknowledging ... of course readers have only to click on the photo - but it would be great if the name showed up automatically. Is there a secret way to make this happen I don't know about?

Patry Francis said...

chiefbiscuit: I would love to see what you DO pass when you travel through your country.

about the flickr photos. When I click "blog this photo" the name automatically appears. Maybe your computer works differently? I've made friends with some terrific photographers this way.

Lorna said...

One day when I was driving, I saw, at 6 a.m., a clown in full regalia buying a bottle of water in a 7/11. I've seen hitchhikers that would break your heart, a tree with hundred of sneakers stapled to it, an empty upside-down car in a snowbank and once, heart-stoppingly, a babyseat by the side of the road. We went back and there was no baby.

Patry Francis said...

And now Lorna, you've made me see those things, too--including that forlorn baby seat.

Anonymous said...

To be so perspicacious and articulate ... I love all the little details you pick up during the mundanest of things, like a long car ride, and how you bring them to life and beyond with just a few poignant words. What I see I cannot put into words like you do, instead I try and let my photography speak for me.

Something I wondered when I drove along the other day and watched the birds in the sky flying south: do they like travelling? Do they care about the scenery along the way? Do they exchange travel tales and tell their kids about all the journeys they've made? Do they prefer the US over Canada? And if they could, would they prefer to have a technical device to help them get there faster?

Happy New Year, Patry!

Zhoen said...

Thank you for that journey. I got flashed from rafters on the Colorado River, when I was on the train from Salt Lake to Boston.

Crossing southern Utah by train makes me shudder to think of walking across it, as some foolish pioneers did. Awesome and terrible.

James Simpson said...

That reminds me of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs. Thanks for paying attention. Have a wonderful new year. -- Jim

"Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

[Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music]

Unknown said...

I love this. I wish I had been thinking along these lines on the drive I took today. Maybe the next trip I take.

Today I saw, deflated Christmas ornaments, a car pulled over by police in front of an antique shop, 5 metal bulls much larger than life, miles of logged forest, mudflats with remnants of old piers, small espresso huts, Mt. Rainier from afar, the Cascades and Olympics likewise.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Oh, I absolutely adore this description: "I saw a million winter trees, stripped and broken or standing tall like arrows announcing the clouds."

Today I saw a pickup filled with discarded Christmas trees to be recycled and watched three strands of tinsel flutter in the wind. I listened for the echo of so many Christmas mornings caught in their green branches.

I also saw Mt. Hood, gloriously clear in the far far distance. I marveled again at its sheer breadth, so often hidden in the clouds from here, and I shivered to think of the men lost there, eternally cold. The loneliness of those white slopes was palpable.
Sometimes I wonder, if we dream of the mountain, what does the mountain dream of?

Anonymous said...

Patry, that's a wonderful list of observations and I was going to add that it reminds me of Bob Dylan's "Hard Rain" but I see someone else got there first! Great minds etc. Sorry I haven't been over here lately, I was down with flu over the whole Christmas period and am only just emerging from solitary confinement (not wanting to infect anyone with my germs). I wish you a brilliant new year, so exciting with your book in the offing, and main blessings rain down on you and yours.

floots said...

loved reading this
a long journey
i never once asked
"are we there yet" :)

didn't want to arrive - just keep reading
(maybe that's my answer and my question)
have a good new year

Avus said...

A lovely journey we have had together from your description. If you do not know it, can I introduce you to the film "The Straight Story" which came to mind as I read your post? To touch people we have to travel slowly and reach out to others on the way.

What did I see? Bicycle handlebars ahead of me. The path from the estate. Sloe berries on bare bushes. Frost on meadows and trees. Sheep in the fields, breath steaming. The panorama of the marshland spread below me as I freewheeled down the escarpment. Huge, blue skies with small clouds. Herons waiting patiently by the dyke streams. Ancient marshland churches, their towers like lighthouses over the flat marsh land. The sea-wall, empty beaches, air so clear that France could be seen 21 miles away. A large mug of tea and a bacon sandwich. A second hand bookshop with "ore" waiting to be mined. Books packed into saddlebag. Wind blowing through reed beds. Small farmers busy about their businesses.
But what did I hear? Wind in my ears from my passage at all of 12 miles an hour on the outward journey. The drone of a piston engined plane far above. Waves breaking on the pebbled shore. Chat and banter in the little cafe. The uncanny quiet as I rode home with the wind behind me.
30 miles of perfect relaxation!

Anonymous said...

what they all said about this description - haunting and lovely. I have houses I watch along my regular trips. They call to me. I want to ask them questions about who lived/lives in them, what their secrets are, but they just call, never answer.

Love your writing. So glad I found you thru AEM this year!

paris parfait said...

Very entertaining observations! And I like the line about what Woody Guthrie might sing now. Wishing you a new year ripe with possibilities and joy, Patry!

rdl said...

Wow you are a good counter. No Geography or Alphabet games, I guess no kids in the car and now they'd be pluggged in to their Ipods. I remember a trip to the Jersey shore a few yrs ago when i looked back and saw the 2 of mine with the cassette players.
'm tired from yr. trip and glad to have you back.
Must go finish what I say, procrastinate til the end.

Patry Francis said...

kerstin: I love the things you allow me to see through your camera, but I wouldn't underestimate your words. They are powerful enough to have knocked me down on many occasions, made me sing on others.

zhoen: Train rides and rivers--I think I need to get over to your blog and read more!

james: One of my favorite songs, too. Thanks for posting the words here. I've already read them over three times.

sarala: How could I have forgotten the deflated Christmas ornaments? There's something so poignant about them. Thank you for reminding me--and for sharing your mudflats and mountains.

sharon: I think you just gave us two poems for free. Oh, that fluttering tinsel. And somehow it opens out to
the glorious, but utterly unforgiving mountain. Maybe it's one poem after all--and a very good one.

natalie: Glad to hear you are emerging from the flu's dark den! I like the idea of blessings falling like a hard rain. Something very jubilant about that. I wish you the same!

floots: Funny you should say that. On the drive, my husband said I asked every question but "Are we there yet?" Can you imagine trying to drive through some of the worst traffic in the US, with someone in the background asking questions like, "How many cars do you think we've seen so far?"

avus: I hadn't heard of The Straight Story, but will be promptly checking it out on Netflix. Absolutely loved your bicycle journey. Much more human and exhilarating than a trip down the highway!

tammy: Houses and cars, too! I looked at all the cars on the highway and wonder where they're going and what music they're listening to, and what they're arguing about. AEM was a wonderful experience for the art--as well as for bringing people together. I'll have to remember to thank Kat for that!

tara: Something about a long car trip always makes me want to listen to Woody!

Patry Francis said...

r: We must have been posting at the same moment. Glad you're impressed with my counting skills! Good observation about the kids with video I-pods. Now I'm wondering at all they don't see while they watch movies in the palm of their hand.

Pamela Johnson Parker said...

After an hour's hike in the woods, we saw ice formations that bloomed on a frozen pond in the woods--like water lilies of crystal, like mandelas.

Shannon Hopkins said...

Sleet, cars in the ditch, long lines of drivers stopped for avalanche control. Beyond all that the snow-covered peaks rising steep, frozen waterfalls, and blue-black cloudsky.

robin andrea said...

Today we saw a big, fat-bellied red-tailed hawk flying right beside our car as we drove home from the market. We saw the sunlight on the bay, as bright and shiny as a dream.

I loved your list, Patry and it made me think of Dylan's Hard Rain, too. Oh it's a hard, it's a hard, it's hard, it's a hard rain gonna fall.

Happy New Year. BTW, I bought your book the other day and now I can't wait for February!

Overmatter said...

I saw a father pushing a stroller around a very nice sex toy store, where my friend was buying a gift for a bachelorette party. The baby in the stroller, maybe eight months old, was smiling the whole time. I wondered what he was thinking -- what both of them were thinking, actually.

gerry rosser said...

I wish I were on Cape Cod in our cozy cottage to greet the New Year, just this once.

Happy new year to you and all your loved ones.

Fun post by the way.

Patry Francis said...

pamela: your ice crystals sound miraculous and make me long for the winter we haven't had yet.

shannon: On second thought, maybe I DON'T miss winter so very much. It seems as if everyone's snow has landed in the Denver area.

robin andrea: Thanks so much for buying the book, and for regularly expanding my vision with all the things you see throughout the year--
p.s. Ever since I read James' comment, I have been walking around singing Dylan's song...wish I knew more of the words.

carmen: Oh, I love that. Maybe we should all vow to be a little more like that baby this year, to travel around like little Buddhas, and smile out at the world as we find it.

gerry: Maybe next year? Then again, a Florida new years eve with all the pink stucco houses and the music of many cultures sounds pretty wonderful, too.

Anonymous said...

Today I looked at neighbor cats out my window trying to enjoy their day even though their interyard fence highway was still coated with yesterday's snow. They appeared equally peeved at whoever put it there, and at whoever didn't clean it off for them.

I laughed when I read how Ted asked you to stop talking about the deer.

Dave said...

"I saw 9 deer grazing in a field near the highway. I had never seen so many deer in one place at one time." You need to visit Pennsylvania more often, then!

Anonymous said...

i saw dallas from 34,000 feet above.
i saw love in my mother's eyes.
i saw the future in my nieces'.
i saw mommy kissing santa claus. just kidding. happy new year, patry!

Sky said...

over the past couple of days we saw:

jack nicolson being his remarkable self in departed; interesting storylines unfold in babel; a parade of christmas ships dressed in evergreen wreaths and strands of glittering lights; an imported asian buffet with intricate wood carvings near our table in the quaint, thai restaurant; a squirrel hanging upside down along the chain holding a suet cake; snow blanketing the gardens, wrapping the rosemary in a white package. we saw our thick chested varied thrush searching for nuts and seeds and 2 tiny hummingbirds on the arbor waiting for the feeder to be filled. in the broken sunlight we saw neighbors walking dogs and babies as we joined the outside world, leaving our cozy home behind.

happy new year wishes, patry!

Patry Francis said...

sara: Just read that this was the first December when there was no snow in New York City since 1877, and if we go another week, it will be a record breaker. Is it possible to be jealous of a cat sitting on a snowy ledge?

dave: That's exactly what Ted said!

ruby: I like the way your vision starts off as a panorama, then comes intimately closes, and finally opens to include the wide, mysterious future.

sky: Thank you for taking me into your "cozy home" and letting me look through the exterior and interior windows. It feels like a fine place to be!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Being a painter, I'm constantly gawking at the light affects in our everyday world. I often have to remind myself that I'm driving.
I wonder how many people marvel at the beauty of the ordinary and the extraordinary. Light falling on an old pick up truck. A sunset. It's all about light and shadow with me.

When I'm the passenger and I can revel in the views, I describe the atmosphere between the receding landscape of hills as being like 'curtains' to my husband.
If you notice, the hills get bluer and lighter the farther back they are in the landscape because of the moisture in the air.
Notice that things seem clearer and therefore, closer, when the air is drier. I notice everything.
Now you know what I look at.

Looking forward to your book and also looking for more of that story "Race Point".

Happy New Year Patry.
You go girl!

Patry Francis said...

Mary: Thank you for all your kind wishes, and for sharing your marvelous "painter's vision." Though we can't all create amazing paintings like you do, I think we all need to make art in some way--to draw, to take photographs, or paint, however badly--just because it teaches you to SEE. I like your image of light falling on an old pick up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks as always for a thought-provoking post, Patry.

Upon reflecting about blogging and bloggers, I've seen (again) that the blogosphere community is incredibly diverse and pulls from all over the world, yet we all find each other somehow and connect.

I wonder if we can create more of this eye-open/heart-open connecting in the brick-and-mortar world. While a complex journey, I still feel it's possible.

A most happy New Year to you!

Lori Witzel said...

What did I see?

Infinite love; entropy; anomie and loneliness; burgeoning and bursting; pursed lips; tiny heads on great big bodies; contrails; kindness; oversized (I mean, 5-foot-long, really) bananas; indifference; drool; rust; friendship; mastery and creativity.

Among a few things, that is.

Anonymous said...

Patry, I adore your writing and simply can't wait for your book.

This morning, I saw thirteen turkeys scritch-scratching at my withered heather, black-eyed Susans, and chrysanthemums; two kittens mewling from their perch on a windowsill; three dutiful children flying from window to door and back again, eager for a glimpse, a taste of something wild.

Anonymous said...

I saw a forested valley full of dried leaves and mossy logs, two unleashed Bouviers who barked at the edge of a driveway but were too well-behaved to step off the curb, a poison ivy warning sign, two horses and riders at the edge of train tracks and a long, long driveway trimmed with too many massive bare willows to count.

I wanted to posess the valley, the Bouviers, the horses and the willows. The poison ivy - not so much.


Anonymous said...

This is like the 12 Days of Christmas on the Road! I love imagining you riding, noticing, and jotting down notes. Wondering is best done while riding in a car. If I'm driving, I have less time to wonder and find myself thinking, "I might as well be a pilot flying a did it come to this? How am I doing this? When did I learn to drive 75 miles an hour. Isn't his dangerous?"

I love this journey inside your mind. It has a certain speed and tenderness. The tree arrows announcing the clouds alone was worth the click of admission.

Patry Francis said...

kg: You've said something really important. I feel such connection and even love for my fellow bloggers, but still don't know the names of many of the people who live on my street! I'm sure many of them are wonderful people, but the way we live now--largely inside our houses or cars
keeps us isolated from one another. May we all do what we can to change that in 2007!

lori: That's why I enjoy visiting your place--because when I look at your photographs I see some of that, too! Thanks for being here on this rainy New Year's Day--

amy: We can never entirely quash our attraction to the wild and untamed. You paint a vivid and stunning picture! (And thank you for the kind words about my writing...)

tish: In writing about those things, I think you DID possess them--the poison ivy, too--which will become something mythically humorous when you recycle it into a story.

colleen: My problem is that I'm just as terrified of driving a car down the highway at 75 miles an hour as I am of flying a plane. Thus I make a much better passenger than driver.

Alex S said...

oh my ! Somehow that is one of my favorite blog posts I've ever read! And 103 Dunkin Donuts??? Eek!!! I wish you a very happy new year filled with health, love, joy, and of course, great book sales!! the time is almost here and I look forward to buying it NEXT month!

Patry Francis said...

alexandra g: Wow! Thanks so much for such a lovely comment--and a most happy 2007 to you. About the Dunkin Donuts--I wonder if their dominance is an East Coast thing. They're certainly everywhere here.

Fred Garber said...

Tell me about the lentil soup!

Patry Francis said...

fred: There's something very creamy about it--a bit reminiscent of good pasta e fagioli.

Anonymous said...

When I drive out for a hike I usually see deer, squirrels, turkeys, and other wild animals which my hunting friends dont find at all!
Probably they know that I am just a harmless nature lover and I dont carry bow, arrows or gun- just a camera :-)
Oh.. I also see a million trees on a foggy morning :-)

Patry Francis said...

tr.ipod: Your camera is powerful indeed! I'm so happy to have discovered your fine work, and hope that many of those who visit here have taken the time to check out more of your photos.