TRIP-6 ENTRIES   5 OF 6

Hi!

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I had spent the night in Four Corners, California. It was at this crossroad that I had to decide if I would go to LA and see a few museums or head up the Owens Valley on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although there is a lot about LaLa Land I love, I opted for the freedom of the open road over the frenzy of the freeway. I got up before dawn and in the same time that would have put me in the morning rush hour, I found myself alone at the edge of Diaz Lake. Back in 1865 the Diaz family was raising vegetables at the base of the foothills where a spring filled a small marsh area. The small stream flowed through the rest of their small homestead in this ideal location. Suddenly, the earth quaked and before it was all over the land had dropped twenty feet. The depression filled with water. The Diaz family was safe and continued to use the land to raise cattle until Los Angeles bought the land for water rights. LA is the largest land owner in the entire valley.

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As I was driving through Lone Pine pining for a pint of black coffee to fill the thermos, down a side street, I saw a murder of crows spill themselves onto the blacktop. I turned around. It turned out that the school crossing guard had been feeding them for years at this same location. I gave her a picture of a red and cream colored rose. She then directed me to Movie Road, because, as she said, “You’re a photographer, you’ll love it. Just go down to the light (the only one in town) and go West. It’s only a couple of miles.” I did love it and promised myself to return someday when the long shadows of dawn or dusk would give me a good black to accent the fantastic forms. It was fun to be in the same place that I had seen Billy the Kid, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and The Lone Ranger on our black and white TV set as a kid.

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I’ve been through the Owens Valley a number of times and I would never have know about that place if the crows hadn’t introduced me to the crossing guard. Another place that had always escaped my attention was a small Japanese styled guard house in front of Mt. Whitney. It wasn’t until I stopped that I read the small sign for the Manzanar War Relocation Center. There was a large gray building with no markings and very little evidence that this spot of land once held 10,000 of the 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were imprisoned during World War II.
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The only thing that remains of the original camp is one decapitated barracks and the camp cemetery. Thousands of colorful origami cranes continue to collect on the consecrated grounds.
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I nearly passed over going into the gray building. To my complete surprise, inside there was an absolutely fantastic museum. The presentations and displays did a wonderful job explaining the prejudice of the times and how the fear of the unfamiliar had justified such a move. The museum gave the numbers names and, even more importantly, a human face.
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The next town down the road is Independence. As I drove through the small town, which I don’t think even has a traffic light, I stopped to take a picture of the small and very American U.S. Post Office. Next to the P.O. there was a banner in the window announcing an exhibit about Soviet Gulags at the Eastern California Museum two blocks west of the courthouse. I was beginning  to feel like I was channeling the History Channel. The remote location certainly gave no indication of the size or importance of this world class exhibition. It opened at Ellis Island in New York where tens of thousands visited the exhibit. The New York Times called the exhibit “powerful” and declared that “small things tell large truths… in spareness and simplicity.”
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These “small things” were actual objects that powerfully portrayed the inhumanity of such a system. There were also objects that intimately spoke to the enormity of the human spirit. There was a set of toothbrushes that had belonged to Ivan Kovalev and his wife Tatiana Osiova. He had etched a secret love note on one of the brushes so that he could get it past the camp guards. She sent him a toothbrush with her message one year later, after he too had been arrested and sent to prison.
Seeking the appearance of democracy, the Soviet Union held elections, but only one Communist Party candidate appeared on the ballot for each office. Fear of punishment ensured that nearly all Soviet citizens “voted” by taking their ballot and ceremoniously placing it into a ballot box. The ballot seen in the picture was cast by Ivan Burylov, a beekeeper, who protested this absurd ritual by writing the word “Comedy” on his “secret” ballot. Soviet authorities linked the ballot to Burylov and sentenced him to eight years in camps for this “crime.” Having been to the former Soviet Union and meeting the people who were supposed to have been our enemy, this exhibition held a special meaning for me.00915.jpg
One of the things that traveling has taught me is the infinite number of ways to hold the experience of being human. It’s all relative and we are all related. We are all the same…each absolutely unique. When I offered the women who ran the museum three of my flower prints they said that they each got the one that they wanted. I hit the road, poured a cup of black coffee from my now filled thermos, checked the map and counted my blessings.
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In another few miles I saw how a bit of water and care could transform the world.
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While stopping to take the picture of the alfalfa field I saw a shadow move across the ground. Looking up I saw a red-tailed hawk against the blue. It reminded me of what someone who had been a child at the Mananar Relocation Center said when asked if there was something she remembered fondly.
While stopping to take the picture of the alfalfa field I saw a shadow move across the ground. Looking up I saw a red-tailed hawk against the blue. It reminded me of what someone who had been a child at the Mananar Relocation Center said when asked if there was something she remembered fondly.
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There are still a few more miles go before we conclude the tale of this trip that I will forever remember fondly. Rather than tack it on here, I’ll call on your patience to receive the final chapter in a few days. The last flurry of pictures surprised me in the way they brought the rest of the trip into final focus. So, again, thank you joining me on this journey. Of course, for any reason, if you want to be removed  from my mailings just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you are one of those who received  this from a friend and want to be added to the list send me an email. I will be delighted to include you. 

Thank you for being one of my blessings,
 Jerry
Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
415-686-2369
jd@jerrydownsphoto.com
http://www.jerrydownsphoto.com/

A NICE WALK 12-21-05

March 9, 2008

This last week my friend and fellow photographer, Joe Burull, and I took a walk out to Tennesse Valley near Sausalito, CA. It is a beautiful two mile walk out to the ocean. Joe took my portrait but hasn’t downloaded that card yet. He got too excited about the other images…..you’ll see why. When he took my picture I let him use my tripod. It was fun for me to just be out walking without too much concern about getting the perfect image. Joe left his camera on the tripod and after about 20 feet we saw….

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This is the first bobcat that I have seen in the wild. It was bigger than I had imagined. It was so beautiful and strong. What a great totum animal to show up in our lives.
I left Joe and walked ahead. I saw santa fast asleep at a picnic bench. I guess he is resting up for the big night.
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By the time I made it to the ocean the sun was just about to set. I played with the waves. They would go away and I would follow, then they’d come back and I would move away. And everytime I thought I had figured them out, the wave would break it’s routine and come after me full speed. I would have to run with all my might to get from being caught. They are very clever. 
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Everytime I see the moon reflected on water I marvel at the miracle. I watch the reflection move as I move. I get such a thrill knowing that it is there only because I am looking. To the lake, the moon shines across the entire surface. To another person walking down the trail it shines for them. It moves me every time.
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While walking back in the near dark we heard and then saw a number of owls. Joe took this shot. He did, add my suggestion, to put Venus behind the owl’s head. There was just enough glow from the thinly overcast sky to make the magic. It’s wise to support each other’s success. 
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As you can see, the Owl was shot on the same tree that I shot these crows last Spring.
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On the drive out of the valley I told Joe to look for a farm house that looked like the perfect Xmas card. I had noticed it last year, but didn’t take the picture because the moon was too high in the sky. I told myself to come back when it was right. I thought it was going to be the next night. I guess my intention was strong enough….it was just right.
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Merry Cristmast. If you ever have a comment about these photo essays please drop me a line. If you have a picture you’d like to share, please send it along. I love hearing from you and seeing how other people picture the world. Of course, for any reason, if you want to be removed  from my mailings just send a reply with “No Thanks” in the subject line. If you are one of those who received  this from a friend and want to be added to the list send me an email. I will be delighted to include you.  jd@jerrydownsphoto.com

 

Jerry Downs Photography
P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977
415-686-2369
http://www.jerrydownsphoto.com/
Joe’s website:

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