An amazing thing happened over the two years since I escaped my cubicle. My spirits soared, my heart stopped racing, my breathing slowed down, and with eyes wide open I found the words and the pictures all around me. The long neglected right side of my brain came to life. And I drove and I drove. A lot. The road goes on forever.
It started when I wrote The Reverse Commute, which was conceived behind the wheel of my car on my forty-five minute commute to my cubicle where ideas percolated and a story came alive.
Some of the scenes from the road made it into the book.
It was daylight outside but the scene was still set in black and white. Sophie could see herself backing out of the garage. She watched the car pull out of the driveway, onto her street then out onto the highway. She lost sight of the Hyundai, the view in the dream moving further out, as if she were viewing everything from a low flying plane, the highway beneath her, following her usual route to the office.
At the farm she passed every work day, a burst of color appeared, everything still black and white except for bright yellow sunflowers swaying in the breeze. The picture was speeding up and quickly passed over the town she worked in and the building where her cubicle was. From this distance above it all, she could see the Atlantic Ocean was not far from her office.
The sunflowers grew at a farm along the route of my daily commute to a cubicle in Ipswich, Massachusetts where on a sunny day at a company picnic a real tragedy did happen despite the critic who thought the plot line was contrived. Truth is stranger than fiction. Consider yourself blessed if you don’t think it really could have happened.
Most of the time, when I am with my husband in a car, I am the passenger because he’s a terrible backseat driver but he is good behind the wheel. Most of the time. Except when he tailgates. Or gets lost, and like most men becomes angry, impatient, and anxious. But won’t ask for directions.
We’ve taken several road trips over the past two years and I take the photos. Once he’s on the road he doesn’t want to stop. He is focused like a laser beam on our destination. I’ve had lots of photo opportunities speed past my window. On a trip from Denver to Yellowstone I had an idea for a series of photos I would call Western Ranch Gates. This is the only decent photo I snapped.
So I started the Dashboard Photo Series. There are some places where every drive by photo shoot comes out decent. The road from Jackson Hole east past the Grand Tetons is one of those places.
While driving across America or around our neighborhood, we sometimes argue about his tailgating or what I consider his reckless passing maneuvers on two lane highways. That particular discussion made it into my novel Take Me Home. I gave Andy Radcliffe that annoying personality trait.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently, drifting to the left to see if any cars where coming from the other direction. “The two solid lines mean it’s a no passing lane,” she said.
“I know that.” He smiled. As soon as the broken white line appeared on their side of the road, he checked up ahead, leaned on the accelerator, pulled over and passed the slow moving RV. She covered her eyes. Fergus sensed her anxiety, whimpering and wagging his tail.
Andy looked over, perplexed. “Are you nervous? You’re scaring the dog. Relax.”
“I thought you said you were a mellow guy.”
“What? You want me to follow the Sportsmaster all the way to town? Calm down, that was a perfectly legal move.” He fiddled with the radio, settling on a Donna Summer song.
“You like disco?” she asked.
Other times accidental photos happen that might or might not be considered art. When I was in Vermont I took a painting class called Sequencing. The next day, driving along the dirt roads of Vermont, I tried to shoot a photo of the maple syrup taps running through the trees and this is what I got.
When painting a sequence you are encouraged to empty your mind and open your imagination. Get rid of destructive patterns of thinking. So go ahead, try it. Imagine this as abstract art.
A subcategory of the #dashboardphotoseries (my hashtag for my work) is bridges. I’ve crossed a lot of bridges on the highways and byways of America. This is the Ravenal Bridge outside Charleston, SC.
I’ll leave you with two more pictures from the #dashboardphotoseries. I was lucky enough to get a clear shot of these cars parked at hotels in South Beach.
And some music from Iggy Pop, for the road.