I have a comprehensive collection of every roadside cross (and one Star of David) from Port Angeles, WA south. I always think about how affecting these places must be for these people’s past family and friends: do they think about their deaths every time they pass by? How often do they make a pilgrimage to these sites? If they are driving, how do their driving habits, especially their speed, change in the 5 miles past these crosses? Or the next 10 or 50? How long does that impact last? It’s an interesting example of how tying a personal story into a specific place can alter one’s actions and relationships. It’s an interesting exposure of one’s personal psychogeography.
Roads obviously play a significant role in the psychogeography in the American west, and I am always taken aback when I hear people describing the landscape in terms of the roads you drive to get from place to place. Of course, it makes sense that we should talk about the connection between places in terms of how we move between them, and when it takes little physical effort to drive over high passes at high speeds, it makes sense that the contours of the land itself could be so easily forgotten. I’m certain that frequent jet travellers think about connections between cities in terms of the airports needed to access them (and the road/rail connections to the cities themselves), with barely a thought for the landscapes they zoom past at 1000 km/h. It’s an interesting example of how technology has reoriented the way that human beings conceptionalize the earth.
And it’s true that the way we move through the world is largely dictated by roads and airports. But I think it’s important not to think about the land as an obstacle to the mode of connection, especially insofar as the land is the provider of the food and the mineral/energetic resources needed to fuel the travel. Sure, land is for food, for energy, for resources, and for tourism, but when we mark it with these types of ornaments, we reclaim it for ourselves. Which just goes to show that good things can come out of bad stories too.