A couple years ago, Bob and I took a train to Seattle in the winter. It was a couple of really beautiful days. I’ve already written about how much I enjoy getting out of the city and seeing the countryside, even the unspectacular parts. Everything always looks so much more interesting and often poignant from the train, perhaps because every sight is so fleeting and because you are cut off from it in so many ways. There is a remove, there is silence, there is no hope of any further understanding or engagement.
Perhaps this feeling is more intense when traveling across the relatively uninhabited Upper Plains, as we were. The expanses were so great, and there were very few distinctive topographical features. So the great beauty and subtlety of the landscape, the wonderful repetition of a few elements and their recombination in endlessly varying tableaux, were all the the more striking. The irregularities of the land, the distinctiveness of each collection of rusting junk clustered around the homesteads, the geometry of the fields and farms . . . entrancing. When I looked at my pictures when I got home, I was glad that they captured the pastels and the grainy nubbles of the earth covered with the fading winter light and a skiff of snow.