Today, we once again we have a ‘picture less” version of the Earth Images feature called, Memories From the Field. Just because we have memories from our photo trips, both great and small (trips that is), doesn’t mean that there were always pictures made to illustrate the memories. When I say “in the field”, I mean anywhere and everywhere that concerns the act of finding subjects, including the journey to get there.
Ron and I had just spent a great day at the New Mexico wildlife refuge known as Bosque del Apache. Certainly one of the best known refuges in North America. This was one of the best days for shorebirds/wading birds that I can remember. We headed off into northwestern New Mexico and one of our nation’s largest (Navajo) Indian reservations. We enjoyed the somewhat distant mountains and stopped along the way to photograph several Sandstone rock formations. At one such stop while Ron was off making pictures I was visited by two dogs. Their similar white-ish color, and facial and body structure, told me they were two of the thousands of feral dogs that roam these reservations. They were clearly good at begging for food, but unlike the dogs that live in our homes, there was no tail wagging or submission to my dominance. They never stared directly into my eyes, or me into theirs. I have experience with feral dogs from Colorado and I know they won’t hurt me, but they would not tolerate my touching them, and have no interest in hearing any “cute doggy talk” from me. They are in the business of survival. We had some plastic wrapped cheese in the back of the car so one by one, I fed them slices of cheese. I was careful not to hand it to them directly, or to toss them in the air. I would take one slice and gently let it drop to the ground near one dog, and while it consumed the cheese, I would repeat that with the other. There was no friction between the dogs and I repeated this action until the cheese was gone. The absence of more cheese did not make my semi-wild friends happy and they began to get a little pushy and came closer. I slammed the car door and walked off into the distance. Satisfied that the meal was over, they trotted off into the distance, in the other direction, nose to the ground searching for another meal, whether that be a hand out from a passing photographer, or a rabbit that wasn’t paying attention to its surroundings.
We got back into the car and I drove deeper into the Navajo reservation. I was aware that a legendary rock form known as Shiprock was in they area, and indeed as darkness took over, we spotted it in the distance. Too late for pictures and it was time for dinner and a room. We stopped at a motel and secured a room for the night. Ironically (or not) it was rented to us by Indians, but not the Native American variety. I chatted briefly with them about what brought this Asian born family to an American Indian reservation, and then headed out to find food. It is in fact the restaurant we found, that is the heart of this week’s Memories From the Field.
We drove into the small parking lot of what appeared to be, a diner from the mid 1950s. I am not speaking of a cool diner that was built or remodeled to look like the fifties, or a diner clean and simple yet glitzy, as they actually were in the 1950s. I mean it looked like it was once a diner in the fifties, and in the fifty plus years since, the finances were not available to “keep up with the times”. I felt a little sorry for them, but was happy that this was the only restaurant open. There were people in the diner, but none were eating, and all were clearly family or friends. We were welcomed with politeness, but also with a look that said, “you want to eat here?”. Please understand that while the diner was messy with things like newspapers, personal clothing, and sewing projects, it was perfectly clean. The booth we sat in had a table that had long ago been worn out. It was spotless, but thousands of people over fifty years had eaten their breakfasts, lunches and dinners here. I imagined what stories it could tell. My plastic covered bench was of a completely different color and design than Ron’s was, on the other side of the table. Mine also had colorful tape covering cracks in the plastic. More stories to tell. We ordered our meals and those meals came with Frye Bread, something I always eat when I am Indian country. I am not too sure that Ron was happy with the place or its food, but it is the sort of thing that I live for. Places (Americana) like this are disappearing, and all the modern restaurants in the country that try, through modern techniques and materials, to regain that feeling of yesteryear, only fail.
I guess to understand me and my love for authentic places like this, it might help to know that I have been in Mexico four times, and I have never visited a posh resort. Those places can be visited in Florida, or any number of locations around the developed world. My preferences were to explore the “real Mexico”.
I digress. We got up the next morning in the darkness, and began making our way to Monument Valley. We drove off into a morning fog, but just as that fog began to lift, there was Shiprock again showing herself, waiting for me to create a few images. I obliged her and we were off in search of our next Memories From the Field.
While as I mentioned previously, I have no pictures from the diner, or for that matter of the dogs, I did get a brief shot of Shiprock as the morning fog broke. This is a digital copy of the what was originally a 35mm slide.
I’m usually proud of not following the crowd. That is certainly true of the narcissistic habit of taking “selfies”. I am not talking about the occasional picture of one’s self, made for people who really care. That’s actually not for me either, but snapping an image of yourself with your great Aunt Emma, to share with family and your best friends is understandable. The non-stop sharing of self-made pictures of oneself, on social media for those hundreds or thousands of “friends”, of which ten are actual friends, is ego filled. We don’t care about the current color of your hair, and probably don’t care about your breakfast unless there is something truly interesting behind it. It is funny how the more “social” we become on the internet, how much we actually prove to be all about ourselves.
As spring forces its way into our lives, it is time for nature photographers to get busy. This is the fastest moving time of year, and one of the most exciting. There are changes in tree foliage, flower development, and bird migration on a daily basis. Soon there will be insects popping up everywhere. If you snooze you lose. Don’t spend next winter wishing you would have gotten out and created both pictures, and memories from the field.
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
God Bless, Wayne