Left Turn, Clyde.

Picture: Mysterious moving rock on the Racetrack Playa at sunset, Death Valley National Park, California

Picture: Mysterious moving rock on the Racetrack Playa at sunset, Death Valley National Park, California

“Left Turn, Clyde.” It’s probably the only line I remember from the Clint Eastwood movie, Every Which Way But Loose. Looking at this image, I have to ask, “Do you ever feel like this rock?” I don’t mean dense or thick-headed (guys), but rather feeling like you need to, or are being pushed to change direction. Perhaps it’s a long thought or debated decision, or maybe it’s just a sudden urge that you find impossible to ignore.

One thing that has always stayed with me since I was a teenager was the memory of one of my best friends car, a little old black VW Bug. I remember whenever I was a passenger in the front seat, looking at a message he put on his glove box, using those stick-on individual block letters stickers you find at the hardware store.

“I feel a force, pushing me from behind, that won’t look me in the eye.”

I know there have been lots of times when I’ve felt that force myself, including recently. But looking at this rock, and the path that it has taken, it just leaves me to ponder the questions:

How long had it been traveling on that path?

What made it change direction all of the sudden?

Will something happen to it on this new path that wouldn’t have happened if it stayed on the old path?

Where would it have ended up before, and where’s it going now?

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2 Comments on “Left Turn, Clyde.”

  1. G Dan Mitchell Says:

    Gary, you probably know that I head out to the Racetrack to visit those rocks every year or two. In addition to doing photography out there (by the way, unusual effect with the stripe of light!) I also stay overnight to experience the deep silence and I ponder things like time while standing on the playa and thinking about the “lives” of those rocks.

    I think that when we look at photos of them we imagine that they must be “in motion,” but this is only the case on truly long time scales. The spend far more time completely static. In sense their existence is like that of photography – both seem to arrest something that appears dynamic and turn it into something that appears static.

    Thinking about your friend’s VW and the force pushing from behind. I had a VW van – yes, feel free to fill in the rest of the details as you please – and I was more concerned about the times when its “forces” ceased to “push me from behind” – which happened with some regularity!


  2. Jean Day Says:

    I agree with Dan…that streak of sunlight makes this unique, but the stillness and simplicity are what draw me in. I had the opportunity to be there last December without another soul out on the playa. It was humbling.

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