Not Much of a Gate, Hwy 25 (edited) - Tony Williams

10 or 12 years ago, in my grand exploration of the California landscape I discovered Hwy 25 and its beautiful, remote valleys. The valleys straddle Hwy 25 and run mostly parallel to US 101, 1 or 2 ridges of low hills and 20 miles to the east. Hwy 25's northern terminus is its intersection on the eastern side of US 101 just south of Gilroy. From there it runs over 80 miles almost due south, ending at Hwy 198. 

Experiencing Hwy 25 helps fulfill my deep desire to be part of, to be in touch with, something I do not have: a peaceful, pastoral Past. Serenity envelopes me as I make my way south, out of Hollister: I am transported back to a California much as it was in the early 1900s. In a striking visual and tactile way these valleys are more than a century removed from the turmoil and cacophony of our present. In the rainy season the rolling hills are deep green, green as Ireland’s blessed landscape. In the summer, they are the color that gave California its nickname. Scattered oaks, small clusters of meandering cattle abreast of carefully groomed vineyards, random ranch houses, some well-kept, some not so much, dilapidated barns, and sturdy corrals all speak to me of a different time, an alternative reality. 

Last Saturday afternoon, on my 5th trip through here in the past year, hoping to engage explosions of wild flowers (no joy) and delve into other photographic opportunities, Jan and I made our way south. Maybe 20 miles past Pinnacles National Park, Jan called my attention to a previously overlooked ramshackle, rusty metal shack nestled in a grove of winter shown trees 75 or 80 yards east of the 2-lane road. I pulled over, took out my camera and walked back 75 yards or so to appraise the abandoned metal shack’s possibilities. Nearby, 150 or so yards to the north of the shack and somewhat to the east and beyond the gate pictured above was a weathered white, boarded-up, what looked like a 1 room peaked roof homestead.

I recorded a few images of the metal shack and some of the boarded-up house. Still not satisfied, I turned my focus to the left, backed up a bit to record just the gate and the boarded-up, white house. As I took in this different layout, it came to me: the easily breached gate, the flimsy fence the gate hung on, the hint of a path through tiny wild flowers and the small, yet easily distinguished, empty field beyond were the more interesting components of the scene. So, I focused there, recording 5 or 6 images (see image above).

Reviewing my work, these last “gate” images have a greater impact on me than the “shack” or “house” scenes. Probing why, drew me back 20 years to a presentation by the poet, David Whyte. He speaks insightfully and authoritatively on our lives, the paths we traverse, our stumbles and efforts at rebalancing while moving over those twisting courses. One of his many memorable offerings, from the Contemplative Tradition by way of Joseph Campbell, came back to me: If you can see the path in front of you, it isn’t yours.

Truth be told, for years I audaciously spouted that saying while never actually grasping the insight, the wisdom underpinning those words. I had half-heartedly accepted them as poignant because David Whyte said them. Discovering and recording those 3 scenes and working this past week, reflecting on, working with, attempting to grasp why the “gate” scene held more meaning for me than the others I came to this understanding:

If you see the path in front of you, clearly, it was already there. It logically follows, someone, not you, made that path. And, as is brilliantly espoused, in service to positive progress through this life, one must be true to oneself, one must establish your own way, one must invariably create a new path, for no one else’s will work. So, this scene offers, if I desire, the possibility of a new path for me, marked with tiny wild flowers leading up to and past the gate.

The easily breached gate, seemed to me, indicative of the need, the opportunity to pause, however briefly, allowing appropriate time and thought to understand where one is truly going. Then, to move with purpose through the barriers we often erect ourselves.

And, in the upper right-hand corner, the small, seemingly inconsequential field, barren of adornment, spoke to me of the vast possibilities which lay beyond my oh, so limited vision.

In closing, I’m very pleased to have been pushed to work up this presentation. I probably would not have thought this through on my own, nor identified and verbalized my feelings regarding Hwy 25.

Needless to say, I heartily endorse keeping this blog thing going.

Thank you, Larry and Robert!

Be well,

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