First Light, Upper 2 Medicine, (IX.13.2010) Glacier National Park
On the road in the American Northwest. [ click photo for next . . . ]
LET’S GO CAMPING!
Omnia mea mecum porto
(All that is mine I carry with me)
There seem to be two distinct styles of Northwest living.
One has the appealing improvised quality of old-fashioned hillbilly
living, frequently featuring trailers of long, linear proportions, designed
more to be pulled by trucks on an interstate than to be lived in, and
sometimes surrounded by a kind of protective mote of neatly stacked
firewood, wrecked trucks, old refrigerators and broken snowmachines.
Such homesteads proudly project the libertarian metaphysics of both
life-is-a-vacation-inside-a-beer-can, and “Big-brother-government-
The other style of Northwest living seems to be concerned more with
the outward display of material wealth. It displays large, expensive
Disneyland-like designer structures placed squarely upon equally
squarely and recently fenced off, just-cleared forest or old worn-out
ranchland. For someone travelling from abroad, two striking features
of this type of homestead which stand out are their airbrushed fastidi-
ousness—indeed, they look hardly lived in at all—and their size. They
are big. Very big. Whole extended families from Mexico or Africa
could comfortably take up residence in the garage.
The only accessory these first two styles of Northwest living might
have in common is an American flag. For the cultural anthropologist,
this is a classic example of the display of an identical icon with, in-
terestingly, two radically different meanings. For what one flag may
implicitly pledge allegiance to, the other may flatly contradict. One
may salute the lost hopes of a whole generation, a generation forced
to execute and suffer the insanity of Vietnam; while the other may pay
homage to the power of Wall Street, and the growing Praetorian Guard
being assembled to protect that power in our name. One flag; two mean-
ings. But this, of course, is just a minor detail distracting me from my
I would argue happily for a third, more contemporary, style of North-
west living. Something new, something shaped more by the new pos-
sibilities, technologies, insights, and urgencies of our time. It would
be something like the less-is-more of a Bucky Fuller Geodesic, made
entirely of recycled materials—light, airy—the physical structure in
fact weighing less than the air it contains—strong, energy self-suffi-
cient, and expand-contractible. And when the land upon which it stood
showed signs of needing a rest, or when climate patterns became less
auspicious, it might also be easily packed up and moved. This is not the
strength of reinforced concrete, but rather the strength in resilience of
native Prairie grasses, with their deep roots for long droughts, and
flexible stems for the winds and storms which are sure to come.
Please visit my picture-poems.com MOUNTAIN WATER
print gallery. Above is a set recent images.
I might just mention here, following the ethical principle,
First, do no harm, I never use cars or snowmachines. I
do everything on foot, bike or ski. I think this in a
deep and direct way affects my work, and how I see
the world. So all the photos above were approached
on foot, including all the in between spaces, sometimes
involving journeys of weeks or months.
I would not want to work any other way.
All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 1999-2011 picture-poems.com