Grooves 2.1 / by Nathan Webster


Before they were metaphors, they were actual wagon wheels. And before that it was just feet and hooves moving overground, tamping the grasses. A few fur trappers, explorers, and mountain men. At first it was a fairly random westward trickle. There were no centers to move toward, no cities.

Others followed, their feet pressing a faint hard line into the earth-- an improbably long line across the continent. That line. To travel such distances changes the size of an individual. Looking down at the continent from above, the scale renders a human invisible; turns people into nearly imaginary specks moving across the landscape. Like the slowest of neurons carving a path through the brain of the country.

But the wheels: the path created by the feet and hooves forged a way for wagons and soon a surge of those deployed, and the path widened, became a proper trail. A few hundred wagons, and then thousands, and the trail deepened, cut grooves into the earth, until what at first could have gone any number of routes turned into what felt like inevitability.

At first it was just an idea. Then it was a groove. Tracks went down, and came trains, then freeways.

This post is part of a series leading up to NOW-ID's show NOWHERE on July17/18, 2015.  The series' headings are: Migration, Grooves, and Mountains and Temples. 

Grooves 2.1 text by Amie Tulius, with photograph by Adam Bateman.