The well-worn path is like a college dorm room. Old wall posters become invisible after a couple of years, even the ugliest of them. So too do the homely sights along my daily walks. Telephone poles, street signs—even abandoned tires in the local flood canal—they all melt away with repeated sightings. Mostly this is a good thing. When I was in college, there were some truly butt-ugly posters around. Grateful Dead fans, you know what I mean. And along with that omnipresent Deadhead skull of my youth, my selective vision has made a few power transformers simply disappear from sight. The human mind is a wondrous thing.
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Corte Madera Rail Path
I've blogged about this tire before. The damned thing is hard to ignore. It sits in a flood-control canal near our home, submerged in brown muck. As if it were a piece of urban art, it changes with the time of day and the level of the tide. I'd like to think that the thoughtless person who tossed it there may have had art on his mind. But, this is unlikely. It is a hapless landmark made beautiful only by a fertile imagination. It is the Tire of Corte Madera.
When I was a very young boy, a neighborhood kid used to come to our back door, asking me if I wanted to play with him. He always had a big smile and a runny nose. He was a pleasant kid with a bad habit. He would draw telephone poles in my books. For some reason he was obsessed with them. We'd be playing in my room, I'd get distracted, then turn around to find a book filled with crayon-drawn telephone poles. Hundreds of them.
I stood at a fence post. On a path near my home. The morning light was like a flood lamp in my studio. At the end of a rare April heat wave, I could feel the radiance on my back and neck. The path is the remnants of an old railroad spur that once connected the villages of Marin County. Now it might connect the morning walkers if we'd put down our cell phones and iPods and say hello to one another. But, no one ever looks at anyone else. In this instance, most people stare down as they pass, pretending not to see the guy with the camera who is photographing fence posts. We are all 21st-Century walking bubbles of self-contained entertainment.
There is that old Paul Simon song that pops up in my mind when my brain gets weary: Maybe I Think Too Much. Thinking is sometimes a curse. I’ve never solved much from thinking through anything. But, it hasn’t stopped me from trying. My mind is a trickster. It does its thing regardless of my deeper wishes. A walk on the old rail path with my camera usually gets me out of my head and into a better state of presence.