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The Road Rarely Traveled: The Frozen Edition

Much of North America has had much to note about temperature this winter. It's been a whole different kind of adventure up here.

Winter and photography are the same.

It’s halfway through the winter and I only have a few moments in my memory. I’ve only been skiing once, snowshoeing once, and that’s a tremendous disappointment. Our pictures are those few moments, too: frozen in time, waiting for our eyes to finish the story.

I <3 tungsten

As I type this, we have had 222" of snow this season, already over our average, and with a couple of months yet to go. My scooter sits in the garage kind of sadly, to say nothing of my bicycles. And I really miss disc golf.

It was quite a grey day out on Lake Superior. Literally. A lot of these pictures are out on the lake itself; it’s frozen more than a half mile out, and satellite imagery shows we’re more than half frozen now. But while it was dark and dreary, I remember this day out more like this. More with these colours, the small hints of warmth on a landscape set to pause.

All I hear is “Nothing is Real” by Boards of Canada as I flip through these photos.

It hasn’t been the easiest winter, probably an appropriate cap to a year that hasn’t been terribly easy. I feel like I’m reaching back behind me to pick up pieces I’m leaving behind, let alone getting out in front of what I want to do. It’s like looking back at the shore as my boots crunch out on the ice, not really noticing where the edge is. Scary, that.

That’s why I like these photos. That’s why I like this place. They freeze. Pause. Take a breath from what I’m doing and look around with a clear head. Winter usually lets us do that. It’s why I’m looking forward to temperatures above, say 10F next week to get out and ski. I’m not great at it, but stopping in the woods, a few flakes coming down, trees hung with their winter wonder, it’s a pause.

We all need a pause sometimes.

Analog, in every sense.

I reach back to a few other frozen moments in my head. I remember one of the first CDs I bought, probably around 1990 or so, and it had the warning on the bottom that it was originally recorded using analogue equipment. So it might not sound as good had it been digital. The Mighty Lemon Drops “Out of Hand” comes to mind. I hear that song, the kind of thing that would have fit in being rehearsed in the top floor of one of the unrenovated academic buildings where I started undergrad. No running to a device to check, like a postal worker who could show up at any time. Mail ninjas. Text messages. IMs. Same thing.

Pause.

My new desktop image at work.

Around the same time I drove my first car around the suburbs, trying to find obscure music or maybe a video game I really wanted. And there was that question if it would be there or not. Could I get it or not. Was it possible. No, just ordering it online if it was out of stock or the employee just looked at you oddly while you tried to remember the name. I remember the boxes, CDs and games alike, all of these eye-catching images, frozen. I don’t necessarily judge by a cover, but I can be drawn in by one. They would make me pause. I never remember checking to see what time it was, let alone a calendar.

Pause.

Photo by kevinhodur

I searched forever. Alright, about two years. I wanted a CD from the English duo Red Flag. Naive Art was the one my sister’s friend had, but I never saw it anywhere else. Then, one day, shopping in a second-hand store somewhere or other, I found the remix album in the stack of stuff they just got. $3.99. I borrowed a quarter to cover the sales tax. I remember where I sat, the way the car felt hot in the summer on the ride home, the pitch of my friend’s squeaking voice. It’s a snapshot that runs forward and backward.

Pause.

Photo by kevinhodur

I don’t know how many of those I have now. I’ll be turning 36 in a couple of weeks. I don’t know where the last 12 or so years have gone. I really don’t. I have so few images. I’ve gone from one thing to another, barely pausing, holding on to so few. I look back, but there’s nothing for me to scramble and reach. That scares me as I’m walking forward.

Photo by kevinhodur

I’m not old, but I feel old. I feel like things are slipping away. I feel like I need to live, and to live now. Think of the song “Rod Beck” by Stroke 9. “I find myself waiting for things to happen to me in my life. And then all of a sudden I come to this incredible understanding: As I’m waiting my life is happening—this is my life—and it’s a little bit upsetting.”

Don’t. Pause.

Collect them while you look ahead.

Photo by kevinhodur

Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled next time, written approximately whenever.

written by kevinhodur

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