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
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 Fallon Electronic Warfare Range is located in the southern part of Dixie Valley, not far as the crows fly from Middlegate, Nevada. It’s open to the public (with some understandable restrictions) because the Navy doesn’t drop real bombs there—as the name implies, it’s computerized.
On the day we visited the roads were soft following a heavy rainstorm. If we got stuck, help (if any) would be a long time coming. We had our chance the next day. I’d added GPS coordinates to my Garmin hand-held, Ulrich had photos from Google on his laptop…now all we had to do was locate our targets.
I’ll bet the Navy pilots find them easier than we did.
We stopped at two locations on the Range, and probably missed a couple more. If Nevada seems large on a map, wait until you get out and walk around. We used up most of our day at just those two spots.
Highlights for me: The emptiness. Lean, spare scenery in every direction. Lack of insects (until dusk, anyway). The quiet. And the questions that come to mind out there—who operated the equipment, and when and where did they serve? The stories they could tell.
In Middlegate, Nevada, a camera functions much like a comb—you’re never quite sure what you’ll find until you’ve drawn it over the surface a time or two.
Sunshine, near Amargosa (Death Valley Junction), California
Every day is a good day to be alive, whether the sun’s shining or not. —Marty Robbins
Whether it’s a hurry-up for food, drinks, gas, or photos, quick stops can shortchange you out of other possibilities when you’re traveling.
If time is short, as it was for me in Tulelake, I suggest walking around the location; even a half-hour can bring you to interesting light and subjects. When you return home, some of them might surprise you.
Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. —Nathaniel Hawthorne
However it’s framed, life on the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan has never been easy.
After the sunset on the prairie, there are only the stars. —Carl Sandburg