Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rail and Wire

Devices for annihilating time and space.  Count the camera as well.  Nobody really thought about time zones until trains were invented.  Before that, travel was always slower than the sun - something to be measured in days.  Trains and clocks are intimately connected, creating and sustaining the need for schedules.  "The steel rails knit the country together" said somebody on a page in my passport.  He was talking about the railroad that slashed an enormous hole in America's western frontier.  Today, that's a job for fiber optic cable.

I took a train across Russia once for about a week.  The eerie similarities between the continents means that every time some writer mentions big American train lines, I think of a long train ride across Asia - headed to the unknown East instead of the West.  Everything inside the train stays on Moscow time, even when things flashing past the windows are in a world five hours earlier by the clock.  You can walk into the dining car and get supper at 1pm.  By the time you hit the southern edge of lake Baikal, there are no meals served later than that.

It's an weird feeling to being hurled through a landscape in a box that's far out of your control.  It's not steerable like a car, and it's not far far away like an airplane.  A train travels fast enough to bend time, but slow enough to remain in limbo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The River

Always flowing nearby just out of sight.  Been spending a lot of time with it, as I should.  It's hot.  Climbing the Hunter bluffs it's a blessing to fall in.  You can feel the gorge sighing out when the sun goes down.  The river defines this landscape.  But it doesn't pulse the same and bring dirt and ruin every year anymore.  It's really a squiggling interstate highway.  The freight trucks lumber on.  We're all connected to some supply chain, some branch on this very big river.

But it's also a moat.  An object that demands your attention, demands bridges.  I'm reading Rebecca Solnit's excellent River of Shadows (thanks Shane.)  During the industrial revolution, photographers were just starting to take droplets from flowing time.  Photos freeze just the smallest representative pieces of a great arc of being, these fluvial molecules in a vial.  Stored and ordered and interpreted and obsessed over.  Like fossils.