Note: First published on Blogger on April 26, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Racing down through Central California, Sal is waxing poetic as he usually does. Not surprising, given that his creator was a poet. Click the map!
"...Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments."
On the Road, Chapter 12
These moments, as Sal describes, are hard to come by. You have to really treasure such times. Kerouac uses both sight and smell to describe this evening, and it's interesting that I remember my own moments in the same way. Sunsets over the Pacific Coast, where I grew up, were notable. Especially on evenings in early to mid-summer, when the air was cool but not cold, and the sun set over the ocean through a panoply of clouds, leaving muted pastel colors of yellow, orange, red, gold, purple and pink in its wake. There was always a smell of salt surf in the air -- even when the ocean was calm small breakers would still throw up mist into the air, which had a slight but sharp aroma when inhaled.
Evenings in New Orleans were often associated with both light and smell. One evening, not long after I moved there, I went to some friends' house in the Riverbend district. As I pulled over and parked, the sun was setting. The sky in the west was an incredible burnt orange, the likes of which I had never seen before nor have I seen since. The air was filled with the aromas of New Orleans -- jasmine, wisteria, gumbo, crawfish and jambalaya. I stayed outside my friends' house until the burnt orange faded into a purple, soaking in the beauty of it all.
On a trip to Canyon de Chelly, in northern Arizona, we camped in a Navajo-run campground on the reservation. We awoke early one morning to the sound of Native American flute music softly playing on a loudspeaker at the camp headquarters. I crawled out of the tent to see the most amazing dawn. The air was crisp and cool. The moon, which looked gigantic, was setting in the west -- the sky near the horizon was black like night, changing in hue as my gaze lifted toward the sky above me to a very dark blue. Above me the last few stars of the evening blazed. Then, as my gaze turned east, the sky began to lighten, changing from dark blue into a dark red, then red, then orange until, at the eastern horizon, the first glow of the sun peeped up over the scrub of the desert. I felt, at that moment, perched on the edge of night and day and that I had the power to tip the balance between darkness and light. It was a magical moment that I may never see repeated.
Moments, then, in time and space that we can't repeat will still stick with us forever. We leave it to the poets and the dreamers to make them real for the rest of us.
If you want to know more about Madera
City of Madera
History of Madera County
Next up: Fresno, California