Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thomas Wolfe Had a Point

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Sometimes you can’t go home again. Same applies to Caliente Creek Road. While my little story here has nothing to do with Wolfe’s isolation from home, it does connect with his famous title. And, let’s face it, I can go back to Caliente Creek Road and, indeed, have already done just that.

Sadly, it wasn’t the same. Those magical late March flowers that blanketed the area and the extraordinary spring light that touched the trees just as they were leafing out—gone. There still is a great deal there to interest me; but, as is often the case with love at first sight, closer examination has shown the subject of desire to be a bit more ordinary than it initially appeared to be.

[Note: The photo above is from the March 29 visit.]

The Husband was in a mood for a drive a couple of days ago, and I never say “no” to the possibility of a scenic drive. He wanted to check out the possibilities of expanding promotion of his farrier business into that close-by area, and I happily grabbed camera gear, eager to tag along for the ride.

The fact-finding mission was a success, and The Husband will be asking for help sending off ad copy to the small local paper. However, the drive convinced me that my original idea about making Caliente Creek Road the subject of my SoFoBoMo project was ill-conceived. The flowers are almost all gone; the oaks no longer appear lavender in the evening light; and, the greens are downright earthly. As I’ve said already, there are still many more photos to take along that road, but it won’t be the location for my photo book. The light is terribly tricky on that twisty windy road through the canyon. I will need to study the area for quite some time to do it justice.

But, all was not lost. An unexpected bonus of the trip was our stop in the midst of the ranching country outside the canyon. We checked out the Twin Oaks General Store and Restaurant. The Husband had wanted to stop to ask about the local paper and to grab a cup of coffee—which, of course, meant a treat for him. He had the gall to choose one of my favorite treats, one of those packages of powdered donuts. (I know, not exactly a culinary triumph, but I still remember how much I loved them back in graduate school.)

What now serves as a general store and cafe is an old schoolhouse—complete with a chalk board that covers an entire wall. The building itself will be fun to examine more than once, but the most fun for me was meeting a gentleman at a table near ours. Partly because there were a few interesting photos on the wall and partly because the sight of those donuts was driving me crazy (I have mentioned that I have to maintain a strict gluten-free diet. Sigh.), I soon got out of my chair and wandered. Before long, I approached an elderly couple by the wall and asked permission to look over their shoulders at some fading black and white photographs behind them. I asked a question about the photos and we got involved in a conversation. It turns out that the fellow in one of the photos was the gentleman I was talking to and he had lived in the Twin Oaks area all his life. Indeed, with his well-worn black cowboy hat, dusty boots, and weathered face, he looked to be part of the land.

As usual I chickened out on asking his permission to take a photo. They were eating after all, and once he apologized for being difficult to understand saying that he had just had his teeth pulled. The meeting had seemed charmed. These strangers were friendly and only appropriately guarded, faced with a stranger asking questions. The man’s eyes twinkled, and he was quick to smile in spite of his recent dental surgery. I couldn’t bear the thought of having it all end on a negative note. Not to mention that I haven't explored portrait photography and know I couldn't begin to capture the fascination of this marvelous old character.

The couple left before we did and I watched them walk out, he stiff and seriously favoring one leg. As they disappeared, I resolved to revisit The General Store and some day I will take a new photograph of that friendly face—along with some of the other residents of Twin Oaks, I hope.

Oops, I suppose I have made the point that on one hand, the Caliente Creek road just got more interesting as her blinding beauty faded. Beneath the surface is a grand old gal with marvelous stories to tell—stories that deserve more than a month’s worth of exploration by an outsider.


  1. Pity with your flowery vision of Caliente Creek Road that faded away, even better something new and perhaps more interesting appeared behind all this. Btw, I would have chickened out too, even though I really wanted to have their portraits.

  2. Anita, what a wonderful story. It reminds me of a quote (can't remember who said it):

    “It's beauty that captures your attention; personality which captures your heart.”

    It seems you experienced a little Caliente Creek road personality during your "lucky" stop.

    Also, the beauty of the countryside in the photo is amazing.

  3. Anita: Let me say first that you redeemed yourself, partially, by the end of the post. I was about to chasten you for passing judgment on Caliente Creek Road. While she certainly is beautiful in her nice, spring, flowered dress, I think that you can get to know her better by seeing her at different times of the day, year, month, whenever.

    As you are well aware of my "field across the street" has been somewhat productive for me. However, I was a bit disappointed yesterday because the grass had been mowed and, well, she just didn't look as pretty as she did all decked out in clover. :-) That's when I saw the tree at the edge of the lot 'smiling' at me. I don't know if I really would have noticed the tree, just yet, if the flowers had still been there.

    Regarding the couple. Don't delay. People really don't take offense at you asking them can you take their picture. Most are flattered. I had a neighbor next door whose great grandfather lived with him. He was 97 at the time. I used to love to hear him talk, and thought about taking a picture of him, but didn't want to 'bother' him. One day, I decided to take my camera out and shoot while he talked. Unfortunately, the day before he had fallen, broken his hip, and was in the hospital. He died about a week later. :-( So, jump at the opportunity the next time you see him. He can only say no! That's as bad as it gets!

    As Craig Tanner so aptly put it: Don't say no before you give them a chance to say yes! [steps down off of soapbox] :-)

  4. Great story, do you have any images of the building?

  5. Ove - Mostly I was disappointed that I didn't get back in time to see that spring celebration at least one more time. I will work up to those portraits. Paul will keep encouraging me, and I am being drawn to it.

  6. Earl - What a lovely thought and perfect for my Caliente Creek experiences. I will know next year to have a spring date with that road trip. In the meantime, I plan to get to know it much better.

  7. Paul - I knew I would catch holy h..., as soon as Paul got wind of this escapade involving a missed portrait. Thank you so much for the push. Believe me your kick wasn't as rough as the one I gave myself. And, please, feel free to get on that soapbox any time you are in the mood.

    Your touching story of the neighbor hit me in a still tender spot. As the man was disappearing, I knew I had blown it and started in kicking myself. In preparation for my next opportunity to photograph a beautiful face, I will practice hearing your and Craig's words in my ear. Thank you.

    Thank goodness I redeemed myself by the end of the story. It was a cheesy stunt to save my discovery of the area's charm until the end, but I couldn't resist.

    The lesson on "your" field is powerful. That tree was waiting to be seen. I'm sad about the clover, but it was lovely meeting the tree. Who knows what you will find next time.

  8. Chris - I don't have a good shot. It was one of those days when the light went from one extreme to another: harsh and flat to almost non-existent and, strangely enough, equally flat. There never was that lovely evening light. It was peculiar. We just skipped right over it. I suppose our timing couldn't have been more off. We hit every spot half an hour too early, or an hour too late. It just wasn't meant to be a photo day. It was a scouting day and that's all right, too. I have some more places over there to check into now and will have to be ready to spend more time the next time I am there.

  9. Believe me, Anita, I was talking to myself as much, if not more, than you. I constantly have to make sure that I push myself in that direction. I still hear Craig's voice in my head, too. :-)

  10. Paul - Thanks for saying that it's tough for you, too. That encourages me. While you are pushing yourself, I hope you'll keep pushing me. I am drawn to experimenting with portraits, but moving like molasses.

  11. That's one of the reasons that I'm not very good at candids, I tend to be equally reluctant to ask people to let me photograph them. I guess it takes practice, but I'm too used to photographing flowers, mountains, and waterfalls, none of which seem to mind being photographed. At least, none of them have ever protested! :)

    About the Caliente Creek... it will still be beautiful, you just have to give it time. Sometimes you really have to get to know a place in order to photograph it well.

  12. Rakesh - I don't know about you, but I'm determined to overcome my reluctance. I know, in my heart, that Paul is right.

    You are 100% right about Caliente Creek. While I enjoy exploring new territory and a bit of travel, in the long run, I prefer shooting in an area that I have come to know and love.

  13. Anita, just in case you need a little more inspiration, please see this post:

  14. Paul - When I have a moment to write about it, I will share what you have already gotten me into. If I check this link, am I going to be in even more trouble?

  15. Anita - Probably! :-) I think that you will find it very inspirational. I'm looking forward to see what you get out of it.

  16. Paul - I am also looking forward to it. That will be my treat tonight after the light is gone.


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