I’ve not driven off the road yet but the advent of smart phones has meant that I often find myself trying to click, shift, stay in my lane and not annoy the heck out of the driver behind me. I blame it on the absurd beauty that confronts me on my commute on a regular basis.
Take this past week, for example. As the sun set, the entire sky blazed red. Not pink, but a pomegranate hue, without a cloud in sight. The light had left the day except for the red scrim, so that everything else appeared as silhouette art snipped by a talented hand with sharp shears. I rounded a bend on Route 2 east by Nagog Pond in Acton. It reminded me that Acton was the inspiration for the Robert Frost poem “The Vanishing Red,” though that was about Native Americans, not sunsets. The pond caught the red sheen.
I reached for my cell phone which I’d already clicked over to camera. I managed to shoot the dashboard, steering wheel and car window frame, but couldn’t slow enough to capture the scene. For the rest of my drive home, I watched for the right combination of open vista, red sky, and a place to pull off. On the last leg of my drive, about a half mile from home, I paused on the narrow side road, rolled down my window and grabbed a shot. By then, the sun had dropped low enough that the red had faded. It was a nice image, but not the one I wanted to capture.
What did I do before my smart phone? Occasionally, I kept my Nikon in the car. When the weather dips below freezing, that’s not a good idea. My back-up was always that complex device called my mind. I focus on the scene as it swirls by and tell myself “remember this.” There is no way to share it though, unless I happen to have a passenger and then I’m apt to say “LOOK!”
A short list of some of the many images, recorded only in my mind:
Daisy growing out of the concrete and tarmac tunnel that is Storrow Drive
Tree, bare branches coated in ice reaching to the sky
Mist rolling through the cattails along the bank of the Concord River
Newborn calves in the meadow outside the State Penitentiary working farm
Some of my favorite images are signs. A church in Belmont has great messages about redemption and bingo … not combined. Farmer markets post messages that make me smile. Incorrectly spelled signs amuse the editor in me.
Captured or not, the images that make my heart thrum loader and my breath quicken do stay with me. Often they reappear in my writing. A writer can never make up something as good as what nature already offers.
It might be best if I resolved to stick with my memory and leave the phone alone. But there is this one image that I see over and over … it’s a weathered brown barn at the edge of a field. Early in the morning, the sun bathes one side of it in a way that would make an artist reach for a palette … or a driver reach for her phone.