Monday, February 28, 2011

Jacob and Big Toe - scaling the scaffolds of the observatory dome.

The Griffith Observatory holds a special place for me, as with a lot of Angelinos I imagine. From memories of those first dates walking around the premises enjoying the city lights, looking through the 12" Zeiss Refracting telescope to see Saturn's rings or Jupiter's moons for the first time along with an hour long planetarium show, the laser shows that are no longer, hiking the miles of trails through the hills, or getting frustrated finding a parking space; it is one of the quintessential Los Angeles experiences that a lot of us grew up with.

I recall one particular personal Griffith Observatory true story of mine that stands out above the rest which occurred back in 1984 when the copper domes were being cleaned for the observatory's 50th anniversary celebration the next year. An elaborate scaffolding was erected for the cleaning of the tarnished copper domes which patine to a grungy green over time, and in fact that is the trademark color of the observatory domes for so many years. It is almost foreign to see it glisten with the fresh copper color, and which quickly turn dark brown. But alas, that scaffolding erected surrounding each of the three domes was like a giant jungle-gym invite for the mischievous inner child in playful souls like my friend Jacob and I. It is what Jacob and I fondly refer to now, as the Scaffold Adventure atop the domes of the Griffith Observatory.

The Griffith Observatory is more a public science museum than an observatory. It is perched on the southern slopes of Mt. Hollywood overlooking the Los Angeles basin. It is a beautiful place. But the close proximity of it's location to the wondrous city lights which would glisten at dusk would render any sort of research observation useless. The glow of the city lights themselves would wash out the darkness of night, making only the brightest stars visible. Whole constellations would vanish from the heavens. Great nebular clouds and star clusters would cease to exist to the people in the city bellow. The magical band of the Milky Way robbed of its power to grace the sky of its fluid light stretching from horizon to horizon. When dusk turns to dark—when darkness takes over Los Angeles, heaven is shunned and the people cease to look up in awe. One must then rely upon the inner resources in ourselves on the ground for guidance and inspiration.

Thus under these hidden precepts did I express to Jacob my whimsical idea to climb the elaborate scaffolding erected around the main central dome of the Griffith Observatory. The purpose of the scaffolds was to clean the oxidized copper domes to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the observatory, to make it look all shiny and new. But I had a different purpose in mind.

"Look at that intricate work of art," I would say to Jacob. "It's just magnificent." I was referring to the scaffolding around the observatory. This I often said whenever we drove by on the road at the bottom of Mt. Hollywood looking up at the observatory. On our second passing of the day driving in the opposite direction, I would comment, "One of these days, I'm going to climb to the top of that heavenly heap." The third time around, I again proclaimed my desperate desire. I said, "I'm climbing that wonder web of metal monstrosity." And on the fourth, with Jacob driven to madness, I looked up to the big white of the building set amongst the green sea of shrubbery of Mt. Hollywood and I declared my dream gone awry, "I'll be damned if I don't climb to the top of that pile of junk."

"Okay! Okay already. Jesus—you're driving me crazy!"
"What do you want to do tonight?" I asked Jacob.
"I don't know. What do you want to do?" he asked back.
"How about going to the record store instead? You want to go to the record store?"
"We always end up at the dumb record store, and you always end up buying a hundred dollars worth of stupid music."
"What stupid music? My music's not stupid."
"I know it's not stupid. That's not the point."
"Your music is stupid!"
"Okay, calm down. Your music is not stupid."
"But yours is."
"Okay. My music is stupid. Happy?" But he didn't say anything else. "Let's go take a hike or something. It just might do us both some good. I thought you love hiking. You love to climb Jacob."
"Okay. Let's do it."

This time, we took a different route and started below and trekked up the southern slope of Mt. Hollywood. But we didn't stop at the foot of the observatory. We just kept on climbing carried by the momentum of my obsession and of Jacob's love for climbing—a fierce combination to which no structure, mountain, or whim was safe from.

There was a security guard guarding the ten foot wooden wall surrounding the scaffolding area. We waited, watching the unusually clear smogless skies over the city lights which started to come out as dusk brightened the western horizon. We waited, watching the pregnant clouds in the distance give birth to thunderless lightning. We waited, feeling the cool breeze of the wind recoil for the power punch of the oncoming storm. We waited for the guard to leave or to somehow miraculously get distracted—but how? We waited, and right next to us, in furry patience, a raccoon waited along with us. We took another peek at the guard. He was munching on a bag of chips. Suddenly, to our amazement, the raccoon snatched the guard's bag of chips, and scampered into the bushes as the guard ran off after it cursing in Spanish I believe. This was our chance.

Jacob hopped the wall with such ease, being the expert climber that he was.
"Goddamn Monkey, that's what you are—Monkey Boy Jacob."
"Stop your yappin' and climb the wall already," he said. I on the other hand, was just that—I needed another hand. I needed a third hand—Jacob's hand to help me up. "What's the matter Joe, your big toe too heavy?"

He pulled me up and over the wall just as a car drove up the driveway, and I could have sworn the headlights were aimed right at me. We sat still behind the wall, feeling certain we were caught. We sat still in camouflaged silence fearful. We heard car doors open and close and other doors in the building open and close, then silence. Our anonymity was safe.

Looking up at the endless criss-crossing of metal girders and wooden planks made me dizzy. Jacob took hold of the scaffolding and tried to shake it to check it's stability, but it was rock solid. Instead his whole body shook. I urged him on and he gladly went first. It was ironic how I instigated the whole thing always nagging about climbing the scaffolds some day, and how in the heat of the actual moment, Jacob took over. I felt envious all of a sudden not being the one to reach the top first.

The climb itself was easy. There were enough girders and planks and criss-cross bracing at close proximity to one another unwarranting the out-stretching of our hands and feet. Then Jacob stopped just short of the top plank circling the dome. "You go ahead Big Toe," he said feigning exhaustion, but I was the one genuinely out of breath to say anything, so I just kept on climbing. I now know that he let me go up ahead because he knew I valued such seemingly trivial things. I often talked about what it would have been like to be the first man on the moon or in space, to be the first atop Mt. Everest, or to be the first to sail the seven seas, or to be the first to discover the rings of Saturn. All these firsts, I would recite to him in dreamy prose and awe. That is why Jacob let me go ahead of him. I would thank him later. What are good friends for, especially friends willing to sacrifice notoriety, even if it is just intimate notoriety amongst friends.

Once at the top, we collapsed from true exhaustion. I was beginning to wonder if we should have brought along oxygen tanks. We had brought Jacob's camera, but forgot the tripod. To take pictures of city lights at night warrants a tripod to keep the camera steady for long exposures. I did the best I could to keep the camera as stable as possible propped against the scaffolding itself and took a picture of the city lights with the intricate web of the metal scaffolds in the foreground. That was another picture I would frame and proudly exhibit in my own intimate museum.

We then walked around the wooden planks, around the dome, still awe inspired by the lightning, now silently rumbling with thunder but still near the horizon. We heard an orchestra down at the outdoor Greek Theater further down the hill. Its music was carried along—hitched a ride with the wind so to speak—up along the contours of the mountain, through the metal mesh of scaffolding, up to our ears. And as we stood our stance, two good friends, Big Toe Joe and Monkey Boy Jacob, high up above the whole city, with the wind flapping our loose clothing, I imagined the vision of ourselves outside of my own perspective. We were two men, a vision reminiscent of an ancient scene of two biblical-like figures about to perform a miracle—or who had just performed one.

I still have that blurry snapshot of the city lights with the scaffolding. It is perpetually framed in those cheap acrylic box frames, with dust and grime and a big crack across the front.

Jacob and I have had other out-of-the-ordinary adventures, one of which was illegally hopping the fence of the Hollywood Reservoir and finding a wooden raft near the banks - our version of a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn shenanigans. Not many people know that there is a huge lake nestled in the Hollywood Hills - not even some locals. That maybe for the next post...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Scaled Down for Intimacy

Having returned back to Los Angeles after pretty much growing up here, and after living the provincial lifestyle in Kentucky living on a beautiful small farmhouse and working in a small town in Lexington for 8 years, I am overwhelmed with not just the nostalgia of my old digs, but of renewed exuberance at how much Los Angeles has to offer in the way of lifestyle adventures, whether they be grand epic proportions, or small intimate personal ones.

I use to religiously drum at the Venice Beach Drum Circle every Saturday and Sunday, calling it my "church" where it is the renewal of mental and spiritual equilibrium drumming for hours at a time, sometimes drawing blood on my hands - the catharsis of a long week earning a living or the cleansing of a fresh slate for the week ahead. Music usually has this affect on many, and with the crowds of tourist, locals, the regulars, and even the homeless, gathering on almost a guaranteed basis, it becomes a transient weekly "family" gathering of sorts. Old friends come and go, as was my case disappearing for 8 years into the Midwest, only to "come home" and get reacquainted with old friends greeted with fist butts and bear hugs - a real honest to goodness homecoming...

The cold windy Saturday made for a small intimate drum circle consisting only of the die-hards. Sunday is the bigger turnout too turning into "rave" like circus and can become a real headache for law enforcements especially when trying to end it for the night.  But on this intimate Saturday gathering, things were a lot more subdued, and the setting sun provided for the ambient lighting amidst the cool sounds of the wind mixed in with the rhythms.

Against this beautiful setting and backdrop, I listened to an old native friend of mine named Andy who is a Tohon...o O'odham native


tell me of his avocation as an oral history teacher and mentor to some of the kids in the reservation and his love for drumming and chanting at pow wows.  Andy rarely touches a drum, he just stands there on the perimeter of the circle, with the constant mantra of his shaker, sometimes just gazing at the setting sun...such a good soul, and it felt good to know so much more about an  old friend that intimate settings sometimes afford.

I in turn told him of my internship at Kitt Peak Observatory back in 1990, having studied and earning a degree in astrophysics at UCLA, and told him of spending time at the observatory doing research, while at the same time admiring the landscape of the Sonora Desert, and being under the ever present watchful presence of the sacred mountain called Baboquivari Peak which is prominently visible from the observatory.

Baboquivari Peak is the most sacred place to the Tohono O’odham people. A particularly striking physical attribute is it's almost surreal "bubble" head jutting up from the surrounding mountains - almost mimicking the observatory domes across its sister mountain Kitt Peak.  You just can't help but feel awe and inspiration in its presence. What's beautiful about the whole setup is that Kitt Peak resides within the Tohono O'odham reservation in the Sonora Desert and sits on one of the sacred mountains of its people, and through mutual respect for the pursuit of science, and in turn the mutual respect for the traditions of the Tohono O'odham culture, it becomes a symbiotic respectful coexistence of seemingly opposite human endeavors. Both of which are engaged with nature - one with the spiritual respect for traditions and reverence, and one to study and learn as much from it. It is this respectful coexistence between two seemingly opposites that humans with their abstract, artistic, scientific brains are allotted for in this world, in this universe.

What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and evening...and it was all for free...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Traveling from state to states of grace

I haven't posted in a while on this blog and don't feel guilty about it either.  I will not surrender to the mental prodding of self-induce obligation to jot down reflections on everyday life when it is the very state of grace that is needed...

At the beginning of this particular journey, I was riding a tide, a tidal wave of emotions, mixed emotions, of promises and dreams, of the wondrous nature of the unknown.  In fact it was a fear of the unknown at first which transformed through proclamations, into reveling in that which is undefined and unknowable - to celebrate the future as it was.

Yet, even in the chaos of emotions and unanswered tidings, there was a certain "state of grace" that was present.  It permeated the pores of time itself it seemed, circumnavigating through the ethereal world and back into the here and now, doubling back onto itself, folding, multiplying its intensity with each fold, getting thicker.  There was a thickness to the state of being graceful, graceful not just in the mere mechanics of action and movement, but graceful in its very state of being, of how it takes up space, displacing molecules of air, of space itself, affecting even parallel as well as alternate universes.

It is this very essence which provides for the catalyst to think, absorb, process and feel, and to write, that which is undefinable in mere thought and feeling.  It was as if, "someone" or "something" was listening.  There was a collector for all that was shared, an audience, which through some form of magic, was affected, responded, applauded, and "shared back".  Oh, what a magical mirror it seemed...what a magical mirror indeed it seemed...

As I drew nearer and nearer to my destination, I was feeling the angst of arrival for it beckoned, like a magnet...but all of a sudden, a switch was thrown.  A word spoken, out of place, a breath exhaled bearing of such poison...a hair out of place, a feather plucked and deviated from it's meandering path it seemed...and the grace was gone...and I coasted the rest of the way...floating...

As if the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and grace, with all it's incredulity and misconceptions, walked away...walked away from where it belonged.  The audience...gone, the circus of the ridiculous has ended and the tent is silent...a mere shell once again...

*   *   *
I had lunch with my sister today and she tought me a very valuable lesson.  It is a lesson I am quite familiar with, but through the course of time and our meanderings in the tall rye fields, we sometimes forget which direction we were originally going and we lose our way, stumbling blindly this way and that.  Leave it to my sister to point up, yes up, in the sky and say, "Hey Joe, look up at the stars, and you shall find your way again."  She had just returned from her travels to Thailand, which was partly funded by my bank account by the way and through hindsight was quite the wise investment, even though it was through sheer brotherly obligation and also genuine love for my sister.  She wanted to tell me of her travels and I was excited and giddy with anticipation - I was her audience for her far away exotic traveling circus.

We were then approached by a homeless woman who at first, graciously asked for change so that she can get something to eat.  I had just returned back to our table from paying our lunch check at the register and had given my last change as tip in the tip jar, so I graciously, told the woman that I didn't have any more change, and offered her what little pita bread we had remaining on our plates.  She then proceeded to chide me for offering her actual food which she denounced explaining  how I could be so "stupid" (quote, unquote) as to actually offer her food when "everyone knows" that her original request was just a figure of speech.  I then reacted, or through the mechanics of mental triggers proceeded to fall prey to the onset of negative stimuli and over reacted by becoming verbally belligerent and returned profanity volleys back at the woman.  This made the woman turn and walk away, though still reciting her repertoire of insults albeit under her breadth and to herself (as she is prone to being her own audience I imagined).

My poor sister, witnessing such cantankerous behavior from her older brother who should be the wiser, especially in his years and having always looked up to me - I see it in her eyes, when she casts that idolizing gaze at me, how she looks to me for approval and support.  And here I am, in uncontrollable ungracious fervor.

She then proceeded to tell me of the wonders of her travels, but more the wonders of the people of Thailand.  She said that Thailand is full of some of the most gracious peaceful loving people she has ever witnessed.  She went on to explain that most of the people avoid conflict by sheer graciousness.  Instead of anger, they exhibit the opposite by showing quiet understanding, compassion, and just pure states of grace.  When confronted, deceived, or wronged in some way, they do not react negatively, but act positively to correct that which is misdirected, for there is always a communication breakdown, a misunderstanding of some form or another - ALWAYS.  There is no perfect interface between two individual minds...and never will be exactness in the transference of thought.

I then realized that I had over reacted with full force, and to what end?  To intimidate, to punish, and surrendering to the belief that compassion will never "fix" a person or a situation.  How wrong...how utterly wrong and dangerous this thinking is.  If the whole world reacted in this manner, our civilization would be doomed.  If families engaged in this form of behavior, those families would be doomed...if a person "thrives" in the intimidation of others even in the justification of punishment, that person is doomed...and their soul is doomed...I should have reacted with...or rather, continued exhibiting graciousness, and not reacting.  Always, always ask yourself, what is the gracious thing to do?  That is the third tie-breaker litmus test to administer.

As I heard these words coming from her, I almost felt the wind change direction, the pendulum has reached it's cursory zenith at one end, and began to make it's journey down the other direction...and it clicked...of course, that is the way of the world.  That is the state of grace that I needed to hear.  No longer focusing on that which is crying for negative reaction.  No longer a slave to what could have been, or how alternate realities could have transpired.  It is through the sheer act of graciousness that is the answer.  What epiphanies have dawned on this simplest of states of being, what religions could have spawned on this moral dilemma answered?  In fact, though some exhibit just the opposite of this, through vindictive, vile words used specifically to maim and to destroy and the sheer joy and hunger for the very destruction wished upon others, do not resort back with verbal abuse, negativity, or even anger for it is poison to graciousness.  Rise above the fog of hatred, and clearly see it for what it is...just troubled souls vying for reaction...and react, in turn, with no reaction...react with love and pity...for it is they who are suffering...that is the state of grace...

...and it is inherent in the soul of the individual...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Left My Heart In Las Cruces

Arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico and stopped at a local mom & pop gas station to top off the tank, but in actuality, had to use the restroom really bad.  Turns out the restroom was out of commission, on account of some poor fellar didn't have the manners to clean up after themselves.  The clerk put it a little milder - "last guy who used it musta started swatting a fly in there cause it's all over the damn walls!"  And then she said, "Sorry, it's a real mess in there.  Can't let you use it."  She must have seen the sorriest disappointed look on my face, or maybe the pained cringe, cause she conceded by saying, "Unless you want to wait?"  To which I happily agreed.  So I started chattin' with the guy behind the counter, while his I presumed wife cleaned the toilet.  Told him my story and mentioned how beautiful Las Cruces was and was thinking of staying the for the night.  He replied, "Don't do it.  You won't want to leave!"  Hahaha, funniest line I ever heard about the beauty of Las Cruces.  He was right though...almost.  It was hard to leave a beautiful city in the desert.  Las Cruces was good to me...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tripping the Light Fantastic

          Ulysses I have shrugged
          by Sinbad I conspired
          on the heels of Achilles
          I hitched a ride on Halley's tail
          and feigned Columbus on a starship
          a castaway on the Flying Dutchman
          high and dry
          or a prisoner atop
          the Castle of the Pyrenees
          My name is not Ishmael
          but I will be free
          so long as I may serve on Ahab's ship
          I did not circle this world to stay
          thus Magellan I did betray

          Come sail with me
          I want you by my side
          my princess for a millennium
          come romp with me on a starry ride
          and trip the light fantastic!

          I'll take you on an airship
          and skim the cloud tops of Jupiter
          We'll spend our honeymoon on the moon
          and dine by the waters of Neptune's seas
          We'll gallop through the galaxy's domain
          around the Horsehead Nebula's mane
          We'll star-hop 'round the Pleiades
          and ride the crest of the shockwave
          of a supernova!
          I'll take you ice skating around
          the rings of Saturn
          We'll play hide and seek in
          the Motari Nebula
          or a joyride through the Asteroid Belt
          and have cereal
          in the Milky Way

          I want to waltz with you in Kubric's space
          to the Blue Danube in weightless grace

          We'll see seabeams glitter in the dark
          by the Tienhausser Gates
          Attack ships on fire off the shoulders of Orion
          burning with the fires of Org

          Or we may, in our solitude
          watch Scorpius rise from the Sea of Cortez
          a candlelight dinner on the Observatory's balcony
          to gaze at the gibbous moon near Mt. Baldy
          and play tag on the 210 freeway

          These memories and images
          in the past, in the present, in the future
          or in fantasy
          will live in my mind and in my heart
          even when the universe has collapsed
          and another big bang occurs

          And I will love you all over again...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flying Without Leaving The Ground

As I gaze out into that horizon, getting more familiar with it each day of driving for hours, the only difference being the color and logo of the tractor trailer behind in front of you, I fight the shrinking visual window of the onslaught of tunnel vision.  The Great Plains of the Midwest are a formidable foe to visual stimulus, the only physical interaction being the slight muscle movements necessary to steer the vehicle to stay within the boundaries of the road, and the occasional adjustments to the sun visor as the road steers directly into and away from the sun's blinding fury.  Music helps - it helps to feed the melancholy hunger of the solitary mind when exposed to such minimal existential states.

With the human scale of our immediate perception, compared with the global scale of the landscape, the evolution of place is migratory, or in other words, it is almost imperceptible to see the change in the landscape as I drive along this concrete/asphalt path that stretches into the horizon and beyond.  Yes, I am barreling down on this interstate, in a monster truck, sending the seemingly microscopic little lizards and insects on the road scampering away, while in relation to the macroscopic terrain and surroundings, me and my truck are but a mere speck on a crack in the sidewalk of the North American Plate, on a straight line course heading West.

This is what the GPS shows - I am a mere blip on this screen superimposed on the map of the US.  I've always loved maps, and the GPS screen is a map come alive!  It moves and tracks my migration.  It is the "liaison" between me and the world!  It is one way of interjecting, however minimal, a sense of epic to the mundane you see.  It affords us modern humans what our ancient ancestors use to do on a daily basis - to celebrate and worship that which is bigger than us.  Our ancestors didn't have tall buildings and giant structures obstructing the natural beauty of the landscape.  They made gods out of mountains, forged myths and legends around the sky, the sun, stars, and even the clouds themselves.  I do have this enigmatic fascination with that which is bigger than ourselves - the horizon, the mountains, clouds in the distance, the ocean, the rotation of the earth and all that it entails to create sunrises and sunsets and the migration of the sun, moon, and stars, even the rotation of the earth around the sun, the spinning of our galaxy, and the expansion of the universe!  It is ironic that that which is larger than ourselves makes our human drama petty and trivial compared to the grand scheme of things...and yet, the pain and the love is so very real making it "feel" like the universe revolves around us...

This maybe one reason I missed seeing the horizon, to have a certain ethereal affinity and longing to gaze out at open space and see that flat line in the distance, where sky and earth meet and touch.  My eyes need the sense of "distance" with referential elements that clouds cannot afford.  I felt as if in a bubble and needed to journey out into the open, to free my spirit and ignite the inquisitive and the creative that has mothballed in the attic - suppressed by my own accord.  No one to blame but myself...

Now I am here, out in the open, and I feel the change.  It is not without sadness, but with change comes the leaving of place, but...it is also for the arrival...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Peripheral Vision of the Unfamiliar

I've often wondered about the jadedness of the familiar - how a spectacular view once a source of awe and bewilderment can often times become so familiar and almost mentally obsolete in its power to move.  Like the fading attributes of enchantment and passion, it becomes dulled by time, a repetitive mental stimuli that has lost it's very essence and meaning.  But why is this?  How does something which has the power to stimulate passion and awe succumb to the "elements" of time, as if eroded by the wind and rain that crumbles the mountains of our psyche?

Although this seemingly mysterious phenomenon seems like a reasonable question to ask, I did not come by this at first thought through this question, but rather happened to observe the reciprocally opposite effect as I embarked on a journey through unfamiliar territory.  I took a road trip, you see, to break away from the bonds of familiarity so to speak, hence the need to write, hence the start of this so called blogging task that seems to be the rage these days.  I feel the need to mentally explore other avenues of the mind to ease the normal anxieties associated with the unknown...a need to explore the periphery of the unfamiliar...

Henceforth, as I traveled to new and exciting places and experiences, I am beset with grand unfamiliar vistas on the road traveling from one state to the next, specifically driving across the country through the Midwest.

What came to mind (which by the way has been somewhat dully noted in the back of my mind years before, but had never bothered to take full mental note) in being presented with these unfamiliar places is that there is a distinct physical phenomenon that occurs when the mind and the eye are confronted with an unfamiliar scene.  One can clearly notice that when confronted with a new place, the mind and eye literally become "wide eyed", as if adjusting the wide angle lens mechanism inside our heads, and low and behold, our "tunnel vision" is averted to take in the whole of the unfamiliar.  I believe this is point of fact a direct result of the unknown beyond what is physically visible to the eye.  On the one hand, when an unfamiliar scene is presented before us, there is a source of bewilderment, a curiosity and our mind becomes creative and constructs dreamlike environmental "avatars" of what's beyond the visible.  Our minds literally opens up all the possibilities it can muster.  This I believe is akin to reading a book, where our mind is given free reign to design as world architects of a world of our own making.

Oppositely, when confronted with a FAMILIAR scene where what's beyond the corner on either side, what is to the left and beyond, what is to the right and beyond, and what is beyond those buildings, that hill, that horizon, - the mind constructs the KNOWN virtual world inside our heads, and the longing for exploration, of what's beyond and the inquisitiveness disappears.  The mind shuts down creatively, and neglects to concern itself with what is tried and known - that tree will always be there, that rock or that building I've seen a million times and don't need to concern time and effort to "explore" it - it will always be there, nothing new to see.  As a result, our vision narrows into that all too familiar "tunnel vision" that unfortunately is the default state of condition of our modern lives.  We only concern ourselves with what is directly in our line of sight tunnel vision for our minds is concerned only with the task at hand that needs to be done, with nary an exploration or "idea" constructed or the need to be creative.

With this knowledge, I begin to understand the wonderment of the unknown and the unfamiliar, and consciously begin to "see" to the edges and periphery of my vision.  I take note of what's beyond on the corner of my eyes, and take note, and not just of specifics, but of taking it all in, as if a work of art.  Life is a work of art that is constantly in motion and changing.  I take it all in and notice the "big picture" and see the "themes" that tie it all together, and feel the continuum of its majesty, it's grand design, and absorb it fully.  For me, this is what a road trip is all about. It is absorbing the unfamiliar, to gain a better perspective of ourselves and our place in our environment.

One other fact, it is not just to the left or to the right that I take note of things, it is also what is above and below - to look up once in a while, of what's beyond, before, after, the past, the present, and of what's in the future...