For short periods in my life, I have been without a dog. While I have been fortunate that many people have taken care of my dogs when I’m gone, I find the intercanum period (my term for the period between dogs, from interregnum) a good time to travel. When Angus passed last November, I figured it was time for a road trip. I had a workshop scheduled for early June in Omaha, and that seemed like a good place to start. The map below is an overview of where I went.
I call this my “Partial Survey of American Landscapes” because the focus is on geography. There were plenty of interesting people and human constructions along the way, but it was the land that fascinated me this time. It started when I pulled out of my driveway and started down Route 11 towards Potsdam. It’s a trip so familiar that I take it for granted. This time, I really noticed things: The pale-yellow green of spring foliage, the wetlands between Potsdam Village and the Potsdam-Morley Rd, and the long view southeast from Windy Acres almost to the Cowan Rd.
I am a voracious listener of books and usually have one playing while driving. It wasn’t until leaving the Appalachians and starting across the plains of Indiana that it occurred to me that it was distracting me from really seeing the landscape. Perhaps it was because the plains of Indiana and Illinois are so flat that more concentration was needed to take them in, but I didn’t listen to anything for the rest of the trip.
Some of the realizations I came to were:
- There are no uninteresting landscapes except those desecrated by humans: The gentle roll of the ranges of Kansas may require viewing at a finer scale than the grand vistas of the western mountains, but I found myself mesmerized by them;
- Landscapes cannot be viewed independently of the weather, light, and people;
- Photographs (particularly mine) cannot capture the place, but I took a thousand as notes about where I was;
- 28 days is a long time to be away from my roots;
- I can drive over 700 miles in a day, but just because I don’t feel fatigued, I am; and
- The biggest lie I tell myself (and the one I always forget is a lie) is, “I’ll remember that.”
This is the first of a series of essays about my journey. I hope you enjoy it and the rest of the series. Please feel free to post comments and share anecdotes here. I’ve chosen to post these writings on my blog and link them to Facebook to maintain an illusion of control over their fate.
The sections that follow aren’t a travelogue but are about the landscapes. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t acknowledge the people who made the trip complete by providing human joy: Tyler and Liz, whose hospitality and conversation set the tone for the journey. My mentors at the building controls workshop in Omaha fed me four semesters’ worth of information in four days and tolerated my wisecracks and digressions while at the same time encouraging me in the Quixotic task of developing a program in something I know very little about. Louise and John who shared their home, life, dogs, and food with me in the shadow of the Hermit’s Peak fire in New Mexico. Gordon who opened his home to me (even though he wasn’t there) and introduced me, through others sharing his home, to the culture of fishing guides. Emma who shared her apartment, life, and love of the wilds with me, making me feel both young and old at the same time. Nina who gave me dinner with two of her lovely children, a bed in her cool basement (it was 100 F when I arrived), and stories of our time as teenagers in Quebec. Catherine and her family who gave us lunch and welcome in Denver. Betsy and Bruce who hosted us for three days and took us into the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. William who put us up for four days in Boring, OR (near Portland and sister city of Dull, Scotland), and extracted very little work (a quick roofing job) in return. My high school partner in crime, Mike, whose home in Pleasant Hill, OR, has beautiful gardens and orchards, and soon will sport a performance stage. And, of course, Veigh, who joined me in Denver and tolerated my idiosyncrasies for two weeks.
Copyright 2022 Robin McClellan
One response to “A Partial Survey of American Landscapes, Part 1”
Very cool. Quite an adventure I know that heartbreak threw you out your front door I look forward to reading more about your great explore and what it reveled both of substance and emotions.