Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Next New Adventure

I love to walk in the rain
Look for me when its stormy
Down some lazy lane and I'll be there

I couldn't help but have this ol' Shirley Temple tune in my head as I ran the second half of Phalen in the pouring rain. With my phone/music device tucked into my shirt and the sheets making a thorough drenching of everything I was wearing, the monsoon-like waves of water provided a happy adventure in the otherwise longest stretch of my run.

Now I'm home the Phalen route, once relegated to a once a week event, has been happening with much greater frequency. With even the shortest run I attribute a degree of pain to the experience. But Phalen, with its bobbing pinks heads of bergamot at the shoreline, weaving, rising and steeply falling hills through canopies of burr oak, cottonwood and weeping willow, landscaping that lends itself perfectly to an outdoor Shakespeare performance and regular visitors than leave caucasians in the minority, remains my favorite place of reflection and rejuvenation.

My trip through South Dakota was successful. White lasting only four long days, it felt I was there for much longer. I did see some things that left lasting impressions.

On my entrance into the northeastern segment of the state I passed through many a farm field, as was to be expected. But in the dusk, I caught the soaring daredevil-ness of a crop duster. This yellow plane, with smaller fuselage and over-sized, squared-off wings to more easily provide lift at low speeds, hugged the ground closely and pulled up sharply in joyful acrobatics. His path was running adjacent to my own, so I was able to marvel at his playfulness for a good many miles.

I was heading into the heart of the Black Hills (after some easterly shoots) during the event many of you know as Sturgis. I can't say I was looking forward to it, other than applying my old adage of "at least I can say I was in the heart of the Black Hills during Sturgis." I was thinking of the concentration of biker rallies that I had experienced in Myrtle Beach. It was much different, however, as the bikers are spread out throughout towns such as Sturgis, Hill City and Deadwood. Yes, some main drags are closed down to allow the bikers to congregate, but, for the most part, it was well organized and seldom obnoxious.

I skirted occasionally rain and experienced a very hard thunderstorm up in a cabin, in the midst of Black Hill's forest terrain. But most of the weather was gorgeous! Blue skies with white puffy clouds. The dark green hills providing a variated backdrop to the green grassy clearings and historic towns settled in the valleys.

I made the customary stop at Mount Rushmore and happy to see the old Presidents which I hadn't seen since I was a wee lad. I walked in and took my shots with camera and tripod. It wasn't long before two park rangers approached me and, seeing that I was commercial with no permit, took me into custody. There are some laws I'm aware of and some I am not. Sometimes I've shot video in places that I did not know I could not. The fact was, I was in a National Park without a permit and I needed one.

The two officers were of different molds. One had little to say, enjoyed puffing out his chest and took my identification from me to run a background check. The other, was a bit more social and I asked him a bit about how he was assigned to posts.

The other came out and notified me that I had two options. One, that he could cite me and I be on my way. Two, that I erase what was on my camera and be on my way. "When you say 'cite' do you mean I citation?," I asked. "Yep," he answered in the affirmative, "$500." So, I opted for the latter and had them watch to see that I was erasing everything after Wall Drug through Rushmore. Then, I was happily done with that and on my way!

Happy to put the camera into retirement from destination video, I yearned for elsewhere. Next, was something I had not seen since very little. At that time it was nothing more than a hole blasted through a rock. It was Crazy Horse.

As I pulled into the parking lot, the monument in the distance filled me with one of those awe-inspiring moments. True, it would be many years before it would be completed, but it was truly awesome! You could see the fully completed face of Crazy Horse and a long straight portion of blasted rock which is where it outwardly pointed arm will be. Below this was the tiny hole that I saw when I was a child. But, we should, put things into scale.

The heads of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore are 60 feet high. Crazy Horse is to be 640 feet long. Really, it will be larger than any monument ever created and the most near-immortal artifact of our existence, if you think about it. Long after buildings and other artificial structures have long succumbed to the ravages of nature, this monument will be of the few lasting records that we ever existed! It is also being built in the round, so that it will be fully cut on both sides.

The controversy is a bit concerning. Some Lakota view it as sacred ground and also point to the fact that Crazy Horse himself never wanted to be photographed. Here we are, lead by the belief of an eccentric white man, carving into the natural rock that many Native Americans hold to be sacred. Russel Means used the example of going to the Holy Land and carving into Mount Zion. Well said. Another interested tidbit is that it is taking so long to construct because they only accept private funding. So, they don't accept any public dollars even when millions have been offered.

But I found myself as much moved by this as when I stood below the Parthenon, that very hot day in Athens. And this was being done in our time, represented of American culture and achievement and was arguably the greatest monumental undertaking in world history! Can you imagine what the the greatest ancient builders would think if they could gaze upon it now?

So, yeah. It left an impression. Also very impressive was the large Native American museum that has sprung up at the site. Very large, very stimulating. After watching the ok and somewhat outdated interpretive movie, I made a quick tour. I was on my way to zooming to the exit when my eye caught something. It was like a fish-hook pulling at the lobe of my ear that made me do an abrupt about-face and head to one display in particular. The costume designer of the movie New World had donated a good portion of the costumes to the museum. I was able to get up close and softly touch the raccoon and caribou robes that Christian Bale and Collin Ferrel spent a good deal interacting with. I wasn't so much star struck as I was beauty struck, the costumes being so reflective of the uncomprable imagery of the film.

By the way, there is something they called the Volksmarch at the first week of June, where you can actually walk out along the arm of Crazy Horse. If anyone might be interested in doing that next year, please let me know!

The last shoot I had was at an old ranch that was converted into a setting for rental cabins. It had been a three shoot day, with an hour or more drive in the morning, through some of the busiest Sturgis traffic. After the shoot, I would take a direct, ten-hour drive back home.

These cabins were set at the perimeter of the expansive ranch field. They were clean, well constructed and sat up upon the rising slope that rose into the Black Hills. I took shots of the cabins and surroundings and took some nice shots of the horses.

The sky was blue, the clouds were small, white and puffy and the sun and surrounding green felt of the best days in the Shire. I stood, with my sole companion of this last year and a half in my arms - my camera and tripod. It had been a wonderful run, all of this. The chance to see so many things, so many places and be with so many people, all in an aspect where I could delve within a culture, live in it and experience it for what it really was.

As the South Dakota sun beat down upon my face, I closed my eyes. I could feel the sun of the Emerald Coast of Florida and remember those clear waves I crashed into. With no one else in sight, on a similarly beautiful day and upon an alien-like shore. The sun was also warm as I climbed upon the rocks and looked upon Palm Springs from the mountain of San Jacinto. Buttes and valleys of Sedona, cricket songs in the vegetated tunnels on Bald Head Island of South Carolina, bumping all around green-stomached in the skies over Vermillion, in a submarine under the ocean waters in Aruba, kayaking with rays jumping in the mangrove waters around me, driving white-knuckled in Colorado mountains and breaking trail downwards in my first venture in a snowmobile. From turtle hospitals to helicopter rides, curried goat to rocky mountain oysters. Getting lit with a bunch of cowboys, Aussies, Brits and Irishmen or sitting at a quiet table listening how the largest things were created from the simplest of dreams. It's all been pretty amazing stuff, it has. I am extremely grateful.

But, I open my eyes, take one last good look around and know, I'm ready to go. It's now on to the next fantastic adventure!!!