Three States of Driving

::

When driving a new road, with new scenery, the eyes dart constantly, vigourously. They dart from road, to scenery, to rear view mirrors in rapid succession. Of course, in such a situation, driving speed is greatly reduced. It’s the Sunday Drive mentality. Except it was Saturday, so I pulled over whenever necessary to let the normal traffic pass.

For me, a field trip is getting out of the comfort zone and encountering something new and unexpected. Our brains need the new and unexpected. It keeps us “on our toes”, as they say, but it specifically benefits creativity and problem solving. Even so, I can’t go past the opportunity to experience wonderment for no other reason than to experience wonderment. So much so that I’ve trying to schedule it into my routines.

I’m off to somewhere new at least once a month. Just a day trip. Nothing fancy.

Recently, I headed south from Canberra into Namadgi National Park. Apollo Road takes you to Honeysuckle Creek where the tracking station that helped with the first moon landing was located.

It wasn’t planned but this trip presented an opportunity to ponder three states of driving.

In the first state of driving, there are the twists and turns of a new road while scanning for interesting subject matter, keeping a mild panicky eye on the fuel gauge and planning “what next”. It’s an invigorating state of being. Preoccupied with the new. Not noticing the normal.

In this state, it’s easy to lose track of things.

Add to that the adventure of road-side photography. Finding a safe place to pull over on a mountain side. Heading out into the bush to get a better angle. Clambering up and down rocky slopes. The mind is now tackling the creative and technical requirements of a digital camera while avoiding kangaroo poo and unseen holes in the ground.

In this state, it’s easy to lose track of things.

::

I decide to head for home and stop for lunch at Tharwa Bridge on the way. It was here I realised I’d lost something. Not so expensive that I couldn’t replace them, but too expensive to be comfortable about it. I knew where I’d seen them last. Only about 20 minutes back. I decided to retrace my steps.

This brings me to the second state of driving.

Now the eyes settle and stay on the white lines. The chin is lowered slightly. The hands sit high on the steering wheel. Driving speed has increased by 20k, though still within speed limits. There is a motionless no-nonsense inside the moving vehicle.

I walk the spot twice to no avail. Could someone have found them? Possibly, but in a such a short time? And here, in what is not a common stopping point? I had checked in the car before I headed back to this point. I couldn’t think of any other alternatives.

I turn for home.

Now the eyes settle on the dark bitumen. The hands sit low on the steering wheel. The arms are heavy. This motionlessness is different. It’s disappointment … in myself. I did not stop for lunch.

This was the third state of driving.

::

The trip was one of emotional highs and lows. I’m not talking about extremes here, just an exuberant mid-range roller coaster of emotions. Just enough to make finding my sunglasses down behind my camera case a mild relief tinged with an uncomfortable embarrassment.

However, finding them doesn’t overwrite the fact that I got myself into such a pickle.  Why did this happen? And can I do things differently next time?  According to an article in today’s newspaper, probably not.

::

“In many instances when our brain seems to be malfunctioning, it’s actually taking charge.”

The idea goes something like this. The brain has a habit of deciding what to prioritise at this exact point in time. In the stress and rush of all that life throws at us, we don’t always agree with our brain’s decision.

That’s all well and good. Even encouraging.  However, I would like to avoid situations where I waste time backtracking after one of these perfectly normal malfunctions.

I wonder if there’s a fourth state of driving I could adopt instead?

 _

Reference

Sunday Canberra Times, 20 April 2014, “Middle-aged peace of mind: Far from being a forerunner to dementia, memory lapses can be a sign that your busy brain is efficiently prioritising, writes John Elder”, p15.

Weekly Photo Challenge – On Top

The weekly photo challenge at WordPress’ Daily Post is On Top. This topic makes me a little uncomfortable. Words carry connotations, an implied additional meaning, that can tap into a dichotomy of extremes. For someone or something to rise to the top, there must be others somewhere between second best and last.

Ranking seems inevitable. If society is to strive for improvement, it is expected that some individuals will improve faster than others. Many of the world’s religions understood this and responded by including humility in their value system.

I’ve selected this photo as my submission to this challenge. It is more about striving for improvement than reaching the top; there are still many steps to go.

::

The Set Up

This is a frame from a HD video I shot while travelling around Victoria last year. Pulling this still from a video feels like cheating. There were no decisions about camera settings, white balance or exposure bracketing. There was no “photographer”. I placed the video camera in the up-turned palm of my hand and wandered around.

This photo is a product of the editing process. From the video footage, it is possible to select the exact frame that captures your attention or fulfils the brief. In this case, it was the moment of decision that seemed most significant, “What’s next? Will I continue?”.

::

Maldon Fire TowerThe video was shot at the fire tower on the lookout at Maldon.  It’s a classic representation of how there is only room for so many at the top.  There are three platforms, plus the ground.  Only a selected few can access the top level.  It is locked to the rest of us.  That’s where the fire fighters work.  To get to the level below, you need the physical ability to climb a nearly vertical set of steps.  Then there is the larger lower level available to anyone who can tackle two flights of an average staircase.  For those who can’t manage that, there are some information panels on the ground.

 

::

Even from the second level the view was spectacular.

Crippling a New Year’s Resolution – temporarily

X-ray images are supposed to be revealing, enlightening. They bring to the surface that which is not seen but often felt. In my case, this one crippled where only nuisance once stood.

A few weeks ago, I decided to find out why my foot hurt and get it fixed. It was all part of my new year resolution to really explore and learn about movement and physical activity, with the aim of being more active.

X-ray images are now digitised. No more carrying around bulky films, advertising where you’ve been. You now discreetly log in to a website, enter a password and see something of your insides in low resolution.

I saw monstrous things attacking my big toe.

I was stopped in my tracks.

::

The silliness is not that I was happily skipping rope, climbing hills and taking long walks before I saw the x-ray. The silliness is that now I couldn’t do any of those things, not because I was told not to but because … well, I didn’t know “because”.

I wondered if this was the reverse of creative visualisation. The sports coach encourages the athlete to see themselves winning in high definition detail. A low definition reminder of mis-adventure might have the reverse effect?

I wondered if these new fangled mirror neurons might be the culprits. Someone thinks we’ve got them in our brains. Granted, it’s still a controversial theory, but maybe my new fangled attitude to exercise is just a reflection of what I saw on the x-ray?

Thankfully, neither of those is likely to be true. I stumbled upon the Radio National broadcast “Unlocking the secrets of the brain”. I loved this bit ….

the brain “… turns out to be thousandsfold more complicated …” than scientists thought .

Apparently, there are thousands of proteins stuck together like little machines, hanging out on the ends of our synapses, and these machines are processing stuff 24/7. Just imagine the network inside each machine, the number of possible connections, the amazing way they’ve been coded to produce this or that message and send it on to its neighbour.

::

My doctor very kindly pointed out, “I think they’re supposed to be there.” It’s a worry when your doctor uses the phrase “I think” when referring to the human skeleton. Surely, they’re supposed to know. I rummaged out an old film x-ray of my other foot and, Yes, the monsters are supposed to be there.

The embarrassing bit is that my memory sees the monsters as pointy and sharp. That’s what I remember seeing. When I looked at the doctor’s computer, I saw instead knobbly and rounded.

The doctor pointed again at the high resolution image. Just barely visible on the side of my toe were the shadows of pain. The tiniest wisps of light.  Delicately misplaced.

Somewhere in that mass of protein machines there’d been a mis-coded response to my x-ray, creating a barrier against action.

Thankfully, after giving that barrier a bit of a push, seeing the x-ray through informed eyes, I can report that those protein machines finally managed to get the coding right.

 ::

References

The Edinburgh-based researchers have their own website: http://www.genes2cognition.org/

 

Gundagai’s Historic Bridges

Gundagi Bridges 8

A different angle for the Road’s Edge theme today. When approaching the edge of this road and it’s danger sign, you can’t see what awaits over the fence.  You can’t be sure how dangerous the danger will actually be.

In this case, the road’s edge on which the fence is sitting is pretty tame.

I was drawn, instead, to the tense predicament of the railings, stitched it seems, to the crumbling structure of the bridge.

Gundagi Bridges 10

Gundagi Bridges 9

::

Related Posts

Collage Process 1

Tracing my love of collage

For this game, you have to think of a fun and creative thing you do! The next step may take a while. Trace it back through the years, right back to its genesis.

At this point, I should make myself clear. I don’t mean the first time you ever did whatever it is. Instead, look for when the essence of that fun and creative thing first appeared in your life.

It’s a tricky game. I know how difficult it can be. The consequences may, or may not, be useful. They may even be a bit alarming.  Yet, for me, it has been a worthwhile pursuit … to find out how creativity adds to my life.

Tracing back my love of collage

One of the creative things I love doing is collage. It’s only an occasional past-time. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy it, enough to have added a few examples to this blog some time back.

The first time most of us try collage is in our early school days. Did you have Construction Paper at your school? Bright colours that were a bit hideous, perhaps because of cheap printing processes for non-important school children.

The next time, for me as an adult, was in art class. It’s an efficient way of teaching beginners about colour. You mix the paint and paint some swatches. You cut up some swatches and arrange them, and re-arrange them. It’s efficient because there is little wastage, the swatches can be re-arranged time and again to try different effects. Eventually, glue is applied so you have something solid for your assignment.

Both those situations were rather technical in their focus. They were designed to teach. I love to learn, but that’s not where the essence of my current collage practice began.

When I was young, we had to wait patiently for the television broadcast to start. There was no such thing as 24/7 media. At some point in the afternoon, the test pattern changed to a pretty photo. This signalled that proper TV would start in 15 minutes. But until that singular point each afternoon, there were lots of hours to fill. Spending those early childhood years on a farm was a great help … a big outside world and a big farmhouse to run around in.

It wasn’t until I sat down to the latest puzzle that the penny dropped. Jigsaws were one of the many time-filling activities we loved. I realised this was where my love of collage began.

Children’s jigsaw puzzles

There are a few reasons for giving children jigsaw puzzles. The puzzle process encourages brain development, problem solving, etc. It also demonstrates – physically – that it’s possible to make sense of the seemingly disconnected world in which they live.

It is a lie, of course. It is impossible to find all the pieces we need to make sense of the world. Every piece we find adds a little more clarity to the overall picture, but the world is too big. Sometimes, what a piece means is not clear until it’s placed into context. Sometimes, we place a piece, happily, until another comes along and we see how wrong we were.

I wonder, having placed the last piece, did that neurologically hardwire the now highly opinionated to believe they had everything under control? Perhaps jigsaw puzzles should be forever missing a piece or two.

Yet, we should give a child that sense of surety, even if only for a little while. “OK you’ve solved that one. Let’s put it back in the box. Now, here’s another jigsaw puzzle with a new picture to assemble.”

Collage without the mystery

Does knowing make any difference? Surprisingly … Yes. It’s that sensation of the fog lifting. Things seem clearer; less fuzzy, less muddy, less mystery.

And that last point points to a new problem. I’m not sure I like this feeling of less mystery. It was very appealing, the idea that my collages were somehow outside the rest of my life. I’d sit at the table with scattered pieces of paper or photos. Immerse myself in the colours and lines. Remove all sense of the three-dimensional world, perhaps even a sense of self. The process was a place into which I could withdraw and hide.

Now I find it springs from hardwired experiences that date back to my early childhood. I don’t feel as if I’m escaping anymore.

All is not lost

I tried an internet search using two words – collage art. (Including art in the search criteria eliminated the photo collage software sites that topped the list!). I found an entry on the Museum of Modern Art’s website that was helpful …

“Despite occasional usage by earlier artists and wide informal use in popular art, collage is closely associated with 20th-century art, in which it has often served as a correlation with the pace and discontinuity of the modern world.”

I’m not interested in how the writer wants to distinguish high art from popular art.

I am interested in how the writer links collage to the “pace and discontinuity” of our lives.

Perhaps I was never escaping when I indulged in this playful art. Perhaps the world came with me, covertly. Perhaps I was responding to pace and discontinuity. However, when I titled some of my pieces, I felt terribly uncomfortable with this imposed connection back to the world.

Deconstruction

To make my collages, I must first destroy something – a magazine, a photo. This brought to mind deconstruction, and I searched out its meaning.

I found a useful definition at Oxford Dictionaries …

“Deconstruction focuses on a text, as such, rather than as an expression of the author’s intention, stressing the limitlessness (or impossibility) of interpretation and rejecting the Western philosophical tradition of seeking certainty through reasoning by privileging certain types of interpretation and repressing others.”

When I’m preparing the collage pieces, I have no interest in the photographer or artist’s intentions. Each discrete piece pulled from its context contains limitless possibilities and absolute uncertainty in what it will eventually become. It’s probably not what Derrida had in mind when he put forward his theories on deconstruction back in the 1960s, but it’ll do me.

It means that, even though some of the mystery has gone, ie I understand where my love of collage started and why I’m drawn to it, there remains plenty of limitlessness and uncertainty into which I can still lose myself.

Collage Process 1

::

I’ve been looking at this image. I took it to illustrate this post.  It could be argued that the image it is not balanced – the cardboard templates on the right dominate and hold the eye.  Yet, I’m drawn to that pile of collage pieces that seem to be spilling past the left-hand frame. Occasionally, my eyes dart back to the potential piece at the centre of the template because the stack of shapes seem resolved, ordered, restful.

That got me wondering.  In which section of the photograph are you most comfortable?  The smorsgasboard of line and colour on the left, or the contained and hierarchical pile of shapes on the right?

Curious.