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Launching Arabah
13.02.2024
The idea
11.02.2024
11.02.2024

The idea

Many years ago while working as a freelance illustrator, a dream began to form in my mind. I dreamt of writing a book. More accurately, I dreamt of illustrating a book that celebrated the open road and all the adventurous, restless types who take to traveling it. Apparently I’m not the only one with such aspirations.

The open road, with all its romance, mystery and adventure has been the subject of many songs, the setting for many a tale, the muse for a community of “road photographers” and the backdrop of countless Hollywood movies. It weaves its way through the fabric of our culture as surely as it winds its way through the geography of our nations. 

My earliest experience of the now mythical ”American Road Trip” was a cross-continent trip my sister and I took with our parents in the summer of 1987. As I watched the ever changing landscape roll by the open window of my dad’s Chevy Suburban, I couldn’t have known then that I was falling in love.

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It was the west in particular that stole my heart, with those big open vistas, clear blue skies and expansive horizons of infinite sage and dust. Our view of the road stretched before us as far as the eye could see, interrupted now and then by lonely little tumbleweed towns with their empty streets, worn and weathered shops, fading signage, abandoned gas stations, and derelict motels. 

My 12-year-old self wouldn’t have understood then that I wasn’t just driving through another dot marked on a map somewhere. I wouldn’t have appreciated then that I was entering a rich story of a multitude of colourful characters who had, in their day, pursued adventure, opportunity and fortune. Characters who had won big and lost everything, dreamt big dreams and suffered hardship and heartache. I would not have recognized this landscape as the setting for an ever-unfolding drama. Naive youths search for themselves, traveling salesmen shuck the latest modern convenience, and unsavoury cons, aimless drifters, bikers, hippies, poets, and songwriters come and go. Yet, amidst it all, a few hardscrabble folks choose to remain anchored in place, clinging to a dream that has long blown out of town on a hot desert wind. 

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Watching yet another town disappear in the rearview mirror, I wouldn’t have known about introversion and extroversion and how quiet lonely places call to the more introspective among us.

At the time, I wouldn’t have connected the abandoned and decaying roadside artifacts with the words of Jesus as he warned against the storing up of treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy. 

I wouldn’t have been aware of any of this.

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I now realize the road will only take you so far. We will need to leave the road at some point, park at a trailhead and hike. Get lost. Not finding ourselves so much as losing ourselves so that we might find our true selves. John Steinbeck suggests “‘the roadtrip’ is the antidote to the professional sick man.” I suggest that the road to the promised land or to the promise of something better, will necessarily take you through the desert. On foot. With no Cozy Cone Motel to check into in a thousand miles.

I had set out to write a book about the road, but like any good road trip, my journey got detoured and delayed. 

At one point, I drifted off course and eventually found myself in a desert of sorts, drifting aimlessly and seemingly lost. But not all who wander are lost. And not all wandering is a waste of time. God’s own chosen people were led through such a place and not without purpose. 

The project is now shaping up to be a book about the need to experience desolate places and discovering beauty and meaning in those arid, seasons of wandering and wondering. The dream has expanded to include a collection of fine art, a public exhibit, a coffee table art book, a film and other products.

The desert continues to call and function as muse for the creative, the seeker, the believer and the storyteller.