I took eight years of French classes as a middle- and high-school student, and those courses’ textbooks inevitably had charming pictures of Parisian locales throughout. In trying to cover a wide range of French experiences, those books tended to show “everyday” life alongside the expected pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and so I came to associate all of these images with a sort of “imaginary,” idealized Paris.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived in France and found that it looks exactly like my books.
The smooth, iterative patterns of rolling Utah hills are only occasionally interrupted by the cubic forms of little homesteads. I happened to be rolling down the Interstate at just the right moment to catch this house peaking out from the shadow of the nearby hill into the morning light.
A coincidental alignment of a forest path, a summer wedding’s tipi, a Subaru, and a big motorcycle make for a convenient set of iconography that many associate with the American West.
Like some modern-day Pony Express, this rider on a mountain road outside Park City, Utah has seen a fair share of roughing it. Just look at those mud-caked boots and worn saddlebags; “LIVE FAST, HAUL ASS,” indeed.
Working through processing my back-catalog of sabbatical photos, I’ve finally come to the end of those I took in California. My semester of science and good food had come to an end, and now we drove back across the continent. The drive in December meant lots of snow-covered deserts and hillsides; summer was a bit different.
The human-made structures are as insignificant as you’d expect in the face of the great, empty American West.
Crossing the American West last winter, I was struck by the profound changes to the landscape affected by large-scale infrastructure programs. Rural electrification resulted in an expectation of electrical availability, and power lines now stretch to the horizon.
In much the same way, lines of Interstate highway curve off to the distance, twinned East and West streams.
Great expanses of Nevada’s winter landscape look smooth and round: rolling hills and puffy clouds.
Then the landscape tucks in around the Interstate, the chunky details are more apparent. That little fence in the foreground is thoroughly dwarfed by the not-so-distant towers of rock.