Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Throwing off routine


Top photo: Ohio River at Martins Ferry
Bottom photo: Broken shaft from the John Porter: monument to yellow fever victims at Gallipolis.

Allen and I felt we had gotten into a rut lately. So when several favorable situations converged, making travel possible over New Year's, we took a two day road trip along the Ohio River. We went to Wheeling, West Virgina and spent the night; then to Martins Ferry, OH, Parkersburg, West Virginia, Pomeroy, OH and Gallipolis, OH.

My main goal was to get some video footage of the river for a film I want to make about James Wright for my seminar next semester. That's why we started in Wheeling and Martins Ferry--that's where Wright grew up. Admittedly, I am in the rudimentary stages in my film-making abilities, but film as a vehicle for story-telling excites me just now.

The weather was unseasonably warm, cloudy and still the first day at Martins Ferry. We stood at the same spot at which we landed back in 2004 with our boat during our Ohio River journey. Just off to the right, there, is a stand of willows--that is where we spent the night in our boat back then.

Afterwards, we drove to Pomeroy and Gallipolis because we had such fond memories of both places. It was colder on the second day, and windy. The river was choppy. The second photo is a partial depiction of an unusual monument in Gallipolis to yellow fever victims. That is a broken rocker shaft from the John Porter from New Orleans. The broken shaft kept the boat from proceeding further than Gallipolis. Passengers aboard the John Porter carried Yellow Fever, which spread among the people at Gallipolis, killing 66 in 1878.

I like the monument. I remembered it after returning from the river journey, but I had no photo of it. I was happy to be able to get a photo this time. As much as being a monument to the 66 who died, this is a monument to chance. The shaft is an agent of chance. Had it never broken, history would have been different. Looking at the shaft, I'm invited to wonder at what small object might play a role in my own destiny. The shaft reminds me that I can't control every situation in my life.

We spent New Year's Eve in a motel at Parkersburg. I think this is the first time in my life I've ever spent New Year's Eve in a motel room. Maybe a motel room is the perfect symbol for where I am in my life just now. Motel rooms are at once public and private spaces. In many ways, art is the same. It comes from an intimate space, yet it occupies a public space. Somehow the artist has to reconcile these two extremes. I lay awake all night thinking of all sorts of creative projects I'd like to do. This short trip was very good for the imagination.

It's good to get away from the familiar haunts of your life now and then. The imagination thrives when you can throw off your routines and expectations.

In other words, I had fun.

6 comments:

Cynthia said...

You're in such a fertile place right now. Reading this was just exciting.

ggw07 said...

"if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom"
from "A Blessing," James Wright
Film! What images! A passionate story! Of course! Do it!
Gretchen

Judith HeartSong said...

I am glad you had fun!

judi

Erin said...

Sounds like a great trip! I didn't know you were interested in film. I'll be excited to see what develops there. (haha!)

:-)

Anonymous said...

Love the pictures, glad you had a nice getaway. Teagrapple

Anonymous said...

Saw your class posting about Berryman on L.Webster's site and read on to see your photo and info on James Wright. Thought you might like to read a great poem by a friend of mine: http://www.batabix.com/ecotone/text/vol1num2/derekSheffield.html

yours,
KJM

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