I've noticed a growing trend of yard art, subtle and grandiose, in my recent travels out in rural America. Americans have long had a propensity for decorating their yards at Christmas and Halloween, and even Easter, so much so it might be termed part of our cultural heritage. It has almost become a craze among some communities, and a compeition only as Americans can make it. Whether it is an urge for self-expression or a clamour for attention, the "art," tacky as it can often be, ought not be too severely condemned. It is more often an enhancement than a blight and can be credited for leading to a higher and more varied form art.
Yard decorations have begun to evolve beyond mere pink flamingoes and ceramic deer. More and more home owners are putting up original creations. Whether its an over-sized wooden woodpecker on the side of one's garage or a scattering of tributes to Mickey Mouse, they all deserve commendation.
There have always been the eccentrics who have devoted their lifes to filling their property with a wild array of concoctions. Now they are being joined by common everyday citizens who have a bent for some fun and creativity, adorning their yards with something out of the ordinary.
I have been enjoying a regular dose on my present ride down to Columbus, Georgia to attend the annual vigil outside of Fort Benning in remembrance of the Jesuit priests who were murdered in El Salvador nearly thirty years ago. I biked the eight hundred miles from Chicago last November for the occasion and enjoyed basking in the great passion and energy of the thousands of activists from all over the country in attendance. I knew I couldn't stay away. Unfortunately, I'm not accompanied again by Tim, but will be joining up at the event with Dwight, a long-time friend of equal stature who I have shared many an adventure, including another one in Georgia for the 1996 Olympics.
My first four days on the road across Indiana have been marked by Carnegie libraries and yard art. I hadn't even left Illinois when I came upon a permanent pallet in a farmyard featuring pumpkins and bike wheels.
Bikes have been a common adornment.
I'm not always sure if the bikes are meant to be an art-ful display, but I accept them as such.
I can't say what this rural resident meant by his display of bikes, but they were a statement of some sort.
The property with the woodpecker south of Huntington, Indiana had a scattering of art with a throne looking out upon them.
I have been particularly attuned to these creations, as Janina and I have been inspired by this same spirit sweeping the land. Since I moved in with her after my return from Telluride, we have mounted a bicycle on the roof of her house and decorated another out front near a Goldsworthy cairn Janina constructed. Its just the beginning. I've been extra diligent collecting bungee cords on this trip, no matter what shape they are in, for something we don't know yet. Janina will figure out something.
Her yard is increasingly filled with cairns varying from four or five rocks stacked on top of one another to caverns of dozens, some as high as four feet. And we're only just getting started.
Another version of yard art sweeping the land are colorfully decorated "little free libraries" for trading books.
According to the website that sells them, there are over 30,000 scattered about the country. One can find them by entering a zip code on the website. Janina and I haven't joined that fraternity, but we regularly stock five of them within several miles of her home. When we recently visited friends in Bloomington, Indiana, we brought along books for its littlefreelibraries. There was a significantly higher quallity of books in the academic community compared to Janina's suburbia. We came back with an Orhan Pamuk novel, a study of Malcom X, a novel by Jiimmy Carter, a book on the humility of the founding fathers and not surprisingly, a biography of Bobby Knight. No Kurt Vonnegut though, born in Indianapolis, where we visited the superb Kurt Vonnegut Library with his typewriter and paintings and rejection letters along with all of his books.
The yard art also spills over to libraries. Many have sculptures relating to reading out front.
I try not to let the many forms of art along the way be a distraction from my Carnegie-quest, but rather be another feature of it. You'll have to wait for all the libraries in the next post.