The Helmet of 2012

If lives are partitioned into eras, then the year of a change in era is a monumental year. As I rode the last mile home from a trans-continental motorcycle trip, I knew 2012 held one of those changes of era. Behind me from that year were some of the best motorcycle adventures in my life and the death of a friend.

Interrupting my return home from my epic trip had been two days of hard riding west from Colorado to Oregon to tend to an emergency. That was followed by twenty-one days attending a death of a close friend. High and low smashed together into one event that forever changed my life. It was not a bike related accident, but an unrelated happenstance of timing of my bike trip and terminal stage Cystic Fibrosis.

Finally arriving at home, I rolled onto the dirt path to the bike shed (it's painted brown). Paul had opened the door in anticipation of my arrival. I switched off the bike, pulling off my helmet as I stood and clambered over the heavy machine as it ticked with cooling metal. As I emerged from the trees that obscure the bike shed from the road, everything seem different. I was, at last, home after a month and a half, layers of varied emotions buckled and faulted under my skin. I hung my helmet on the skeletal remains of the canvass Costco shelter as I head to the yurt.

It has hung there ever since. As it had a matte black finish with no shine, dust collected in the scratched surfaces and lichens soon followed. It's become a beautiful aging specimen hanging there as a monument to that year: a garden of several varieties of lichen and the beginnings of moss.

Monuments are important symbols in my life, both personal and civic. The helmet is a personal monument to the trials and triumphs of a year.  I honor the civic monuments of grand ideas like the Statue of Liberty. When it comes to monuments about people, I'd rather there be more commemorating scientists, mathematicians, musicians and artists. And why use stone when a tree or a garden would do? Let's remove the dead stone and metal statues that glorify war and replace them with trees that glorify science and nature. This year, I will plant my own monument to John Conway.


The image at the top is an art collaboration between husband, my lichen crusted helmet, and me. In the hour that we worked together that day, Paul took four photographs with a 8x10 camera. All I did was stand very very still. He took two as positives in the form of tin types, and two as negatives using wet plate on glass.

Paul sells a book of his modern take on 19th century photography. See his flickr  photostream for his most current art.