They were two impressive leather chairs, languishing in shadows where the stairway twisted between floors in an elderly Montana hotel. Adjacent to them, sharing royal red and gold carpet, an upright piano waited for a song.
Their town is small, set amid historic and geographic hot spots; you have to want to be there, and there were few guests the night I stayed. No one ran their hands over the smooth, time-worn arms, no modern bottoms felt the deep satisfaction of sinking into the cushions. The piano remained silent.
But, for a few precise moments, as evening peered through a tall window and I paused in the hallway, the glow of forgotten grandeur reappeared, and history sang softly in my ear.
For several years now, I’ve photographed my wife’s petite flower garden and, lately, a larger patch across from the house we call The Wild Area, because just about anything is welcome to take root there.
Stepping outside in slippers to say good morning to day lilies makes coffee taste better; I have no scientific evidence to support that claim, but on the other hand it is an indisputable fact that an occasional wheelbarrow, topped off with loam or compost or yard clippings, is a cheap ticket for the live performances she presents beginning in the spring.
What do I do with that largesse, hundreds and, eventually, thousands of pictures? Almost unknowingly, it seems, I’ve started a project, wielding a camera instead of a trowel and garden hose. Though our satisfactions are different, the idea is the same. Without them, this would simply be labor, something to fill time until we moved to something else.
It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for the future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true. —Gertrude Stein
Sorry, no scandal here—not yet, anyway—merely the well-worn tailgate of a Studebaker pickup, found at a garden nursery where it enjoys a second life as Found Art.
For flat objects like this, orienting the camera to guarantee sharp details across-the-board is fairly straightforward… when you focus carefully. Most subjects aren’t flat, of course, and present different choices. This time of year, flowers are my favorites; their abstract, whimsical qualities invite selective focus, as these roses did yesterday evening.
You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. —Mark Twain
Toward the conclusion of my trip last autumn, nearing a highway junction for Death Valley, I spied a collection of buildings ahead, just beyond our intended right turn—a detour. I’d only driven eight miles that morning, and Ulrich and I were anticipating all we’d see in Death Valley. We didn’t get any farther than Amargosa.
A mostly-forgotten magnet for history buffs, artists, daydreamers, and tumbleweeds, it’s a place you think you’ll stop at for a few minutes, a picture or two, until you’re suddenly booking a room for the night.
The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, and the artistry of Marta Becket, are the main attractions there. If you look closely, there are many intriguing details, such as a flower in a tutu (one of Ms. Becket’s originals).
The next day we moved on to Dante’s View (a beautiful sunrise) and then Zabriskie Point, where buses of tourists overran everything, selfie sticks in hand. Perhaps Amargosa wasn’t the detour, after all.
Marta Becket danced until she was 85 years old. On January 30, 2017, at 92, she passed away at her home in Amargosa. The link to her name features a short film on her life and art (on YouTube), California Dreamers.
The fine still images my friend Ulrich Rossmann took in Amargosa may be viewed on his online portfolio.
Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate.
—J. R. R. Tolkien
At the edge of Goldfield, Nevada, the International Car Forest of the Last Church is an eclectic canvas for cars and colors.
Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything’s different.
Drive-in theaters are among the last holdouts from a time when entertainment centers sported convertible tops (and the best action might be in the car parked next to yours).
Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. —Arthur M. Schlesinger
Between 1942 and 1945, the Topaz Wartime Relocation Center, located near Delta, Utah, was one of several internment camps set up in remote, rural areas of the western United States to hold the nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese extraction who were forced to leave their homes under Executive Order 9066.
Today, little remains of the original site—strands of sagging barbed wire, uncovered remnants of stone pathways, the rusting remains of a backstop on a baseball diamond—but on Delta’s Main Street the history of the camp, and the resilient people who lived there, is beautifully displayed and preserved at the Topaz Museum. Their Mission Statement promises that it won’t be forgotten:
“To preserve the Topaz site and the history of the internment experience during World War II; to interpret its impact on the internees, their families, and the citizens of Millard County; and to educate the public in order to prevent a recurrence of a similar denial of American civil rights.”
Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it. —George Santayana
The magic of steam locomotives is kept alive in many places, and none are more accessible than the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada. Your ticket to the museum includes the grounds and the shops, where you’re (mostly) free to roam, and imagine, as I did in September.