The Frank Gehry designed Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro
A while back I did a short post about Downward Travel, a different sort of journey that goes inward and happens close to home, a journey that can often provide as much, if not more, growth and exploration than quixotic voyages taken in the far reaches of our world. Now don’t get me wrong, when funds and time provided me with the ability to travel far, I was the first one hopping on a plane, and as a teacher, I had lots of time to explore, be it camping the Northwest, taking Spanish classes in Oaxaca, or backpacking through Europe. As it stands right now, with two small children, traveling to far off lands has been put on hold, but our daily explorations take place in the beach, desert and mountains all within an arms reach of our adopted Los Angeles. These explorations satisfy our longing for art, color, beauty and inspiration. This week alone I happened by a section of the Berlin wall while on a walk to the La Brea Tar Pits, took in the iconic basketball court that overlooks the Pacific and the port of San Pedro, touched a sea star at the Frank Gehry designed Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, enjoyed an avocado sandwich at the Trails Cafe in Griffith Park as my son climbed trees, jumped in hay stacks and collected pinecones, and I took in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
Back when I was finishing my Master’s in Education in NYC, I was taking a class in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, and as an English teacher, one of the last classes I took was on teaching Physical Education and Art (yes, they were lumped into one course, but that’s fodder for another day). It was a long day, 8 hours to be exact, and the Professor, whose name escapes me, sent us out on a simple, but meaningful mission. We had about three hours to go out and walk…now this was before camera phones, unfortunately, but she simply said, go out, look up, notice the architecture and visit a gallery. I walked streets I had walked many times before but I stopped, I looked up, I noticed cornices and gargoyles. I noticed the contrast of the sky against the buildings that scraped it. I entered galleries I had passed by so many times before, and saw some great work I would have otherwise missed.
San Pedro Basketball Court via Harsh Forms
A favorite spot, The Trails Cafe in Griffith Park
Taking in a section of the Berlin Wall in sunny Los Angeles
A few weeks back the NY Times Magazine, as it often does, asked for reader photo submissions about journeys and voyages, visual representations of your most meaningful travels. I just received the special issue, simply entitled Voyages. It is filled with images from many far off lands, tales of travel, growth and exploration in all forms, and while it admittedly tugs at the strings of wanderlust inside me, one piece stands out among all others. How to See a Tree, with photographs by Mitch Epstein & text by Michael Kimmelman, chronicles Epstein’s year of photographing arboreal-landmarks within the teeming metropolis of NYC, which is also his home…
“That was the America that Epstein found. The tree series shows the world, specifically the city where Epstein and his family live, as he prefers to see it. It also proves you don’t have to travel far to go on a journey or to be awed by nature.”
The above image of a a Weeping Beech in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens explicitly states Epstein’s message. – The word HEAVEN is carved in an upper, swollen branch, revealing that this is, in fact, an urban tree, a character in the landscape constructed of soil and concrete, and a carefully tied string on your finger reminding that Heaven, or your version of it, is wherever you make it, see it, feel it, believe it.
So take a moment to stop, be present and see the beauty in the chaos around you, it’s there, no matter where you are.
Watch the slideshow of Epstein’s trees here & read an interview with the artist here. See the photographs in person at Sikkema Jenkins & Co in NYC March 16 – April 14, 2012. And don’t forget to look up.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
- from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens