Thursday, November 8, 2007

Return of the Shuttle

Shuttle Overhead (Sketch)
8.5" x 11"

Shuttle Overhead
8.5" x 11"
watercolor and pencil
Clear blue skies on a bright autumn afternoon. Warmth from the sun washed over us as we drove north on Highway 6.
"The tree is coming up," the driver advised.
My tree. That one lonesome tree on a hill that broke up my drive to and from work for so many years.
I could remember when the highway was changed, but still passed by the tree. And I remembered the "friend" to this tree. When I was younger, there were two trees on the hill. Following a storm, we found, on one of our drives, that the second tree was struck by lightning. The burned tree trunk remained for a long time until, finally, it was cut away, leaving only the trunk. The trunk is no longer visible from the highway.
I could make the drive more interesting by observing the tree. I made up a little poem to say as I passed (and also to entertain grandchildren with). I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be that tree, anchored to that one spot, observing the changing scene and traffic passing on the highway. What if the tree had thoughts, like we do, and was rooted to that spot as storms came along, when fires threatened, during drought and floods. The way that the branches were formed, the tree sometimes seemed to be stretching or reaching, appearing in the pose of a dancer, a basketball player, or just wishing it could move from that spot. Below the hill, there were other trees.
And, I painted that tree many times. I would probably be upset if anything happened to this tree. One early morning, while the moon was setting in the west, a family of foxes frolicked on the hill near the tree. Often, there were cattle grazing around the tree. I did paint the foxes around the tree. All I could really see were their fluffy tails and a hint of their bodies as I passed by.
I thought of the artist, Bob Ross, when he painted trees. He would paint a tree, then give it a friend. Surely my tree was like this. A tree, and a friend.
The tree, still on top of the hill, appeared on the left. The highway curved as it went downhill. Railroad tracks appeared from behind a small hill and road on the right. Trees covered the hill on the right side, making me believe that the whole area, including the hill with the one tree, had once all been woods. The road was the old highway. Facing that road was an old fashioned filling station, with a house behind it, that now backed up to the new highway. Both buildings were leaning, with trees and vines almost concealing them.
"Those should be restored," I thought. "I'll have to paint them one of these days. I hope that no one decides to tear them down. Cozy places. Not fancy, but cozy. I wish I had been in them, and knew some stories about them. "
"How do you work this thing, anyway!" I turned a knob on the dashboard. A small screen above the knobs lit up with lines of print.
"You have to learn how to work this if you're going to ride in the car! And, if you are ever going to drive again, you are going to have to know how to work this. It's as easy as the old radios! Just try it!" The driver insisted. The hand pushed more buttons, touched the screen, and different things appeared.
"Listen, here. I've been driving this road for my whole life. I'm not going to get lost on it. Why do you think I need that thing! Just something else to distract you when you need to be watching the road," I fumed. "You just stay on this highway and it goes all the way from Galveston to Dallas and points north. When you get to the town you want, you just turn off. All this fancy stuff! I would rather have a good radio, or a tv set!"
"But, look at all this does! Look at this. You can even see the weather report, with radar!" The driver tried to convince me that this was a necessity.
On the small screen, a woman pointed to a map. Several clouds of green were on the map, with yellow L's outlined in red in the center of each.
"And here are the low pressure centers for your area,"the broadcaster said as she pointed to each green shape. "Looks like some rain is coming in, but, for now, the skies are clear where you are."
Bad weather. Rain. I didn't want to get caught out in that, especially if all those areas of rain were moving our way. I remembered the last year that I made this trip daily, and the big flood that I got caught in. I don't want to go through anything like that again. I was a bit uneasy. This road had been underwater, the town was cut off, and there was flood water in buildings and streets in town. I was driving a little sports car that day. Since then, I had always wanted to hurry and get past the low areas and creeks on this highway.
At least, today, we were in a big, old, pink, Chrysler Imperial. This one wouldn't be swept away so easily, and was much higher off the ground.
"Wow! Look at that one big area. That one looks like it is heading right for us!" The driver pointed to the screen.
"That doesn't look like an area of rain, to me," I said.
"Sure, it must be. Look at all that green!" The driver was watching the screen more than the road.
A white blob appeared in the center of the green cloudy area. The blob appeared larger and larger as we drove. Soon, there was little green and only the white blob.
"Look! Look out your window!" The driver shouted and ducked down to see through the windshield, while still driving.
There was an eerie whooshing noise in front of me, and I, too, ducked a little as I twisted and looked out the passenger side window. With something that large coming at us, it was only natural to crouch down as if to avoid being hit by the craft.
A huge, white rocket approached us, and passed beside us,over the hill on the right, and quickly disappeared behind us. I could see a United States flag painted on a fin that hung down below the craft. The fin appeared to be a bit rusted, or maybe it was burned. Silent jets on the back appeared to have the same coloring.
"What was that!"
"That had to be the shuttle!" I answered. "I didn't think it was due back yet. And, why would it be flying this low over here?" I hoped that it wasn't off course, or in trouble. I remembered the shuttle that had exploded not so far from here.
The pink Chrysler continued on its journey on Highway 6. The passengers were in a state of high anxiety after what they had just witnessed. The driver pushed more buttons on the dashboard. Maybe they would find more news on the screen about what had just happened.
They knew that it was not something that happens every day, or even something that was likely to ever happen to them again.
And, then I woke up! It was all a dream.
It was a few days later when the shuttle actually landed, safely, as I watched it on television. And that was a relief, to have the astronauts back on the ground. I guess, with the news reports on tv, and actually seeing it pass over us, then drawing and painting it, the shuttle was in my subconscious.
I thought that you might enjoy my art work and the story that went with it. I think that I actually like the pencil sketch better, but I wanted to show the colors of the weather map and screen in the car. And I had to put a little pink in the car.
I added watercolors to my pencil drawing, then used watercolor pencils to add more definition to the version in color.
I hope that you enjoy my story and the pictures, and that you will pass my work on to others.
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