Everybody loves a road trip. But what if a work-related, cross-country trip led you to so much more than sights and scenes – to things both frightening and revelatory?
In his literary memoir, Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road, author Patrick Ross shares this very story. His story.
“[Patrick’s] task is to interview a range of artists about copyright infringement,” explains author Jessica McCann in her 5-star review of Committed. “The interviews and conversations with the artists begin to lean more toward creative passion, life and balance than toward the legalities of copyright. His road trip soon evolves into a journey of inspiration, reflection and self-discovery.”
On the book jacket, Patrick is described as “a Washington, D.C. journalist-turned-lobbyist who disguises his bipolar disorder as well as his estrangement from his parents and heads out on a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip, engaging with creative and generous individuals who trigger a yearning to pursue an authentic, art-committed life. To embrace that life, however, would require tremendous change. He would need to break with his funders, face down his fear of a bipolar spiral that might endanger his relationship with his wife and children, and come to terms with his family legacy of mental illness.”
Today, in the spirit of What I Saw, Patrick shares photos not contained in his newly released book. I met Patrick, by the way – a former Arizona dweller with a fabulously inspirational writing-creativity blog – on Twitter four years ago, and while I haven’t yet read his memoir (it’s loaded on my iPad and ready to go!), I am even more inspired to read his courageous words after seeing this piece about him in the New York Times last week.
Enjoy this visual journey through Patrick’s camera lens, with captions excerpted directly from his memoir. Click to enlarge all photos. (Then get your butt out there and buy his book!)
Newmarket, New Hampshire: “‘Let’s head down to the river,’ Ernest says. ‘Maybe we’ll get to meet the girls.’ Was that a wink? I grab my coffee and follow, anticipating sun worshippers in bikinis, the sworn enemies of the purple-haired girl behind the counter. Instead, the ‘girls’ Ernest introduces me to by the river are three non-migratory geese.”
Charleston, South Carolina: “This day has been perfect, and I’m not letting a literal freak of nature–frozen rain on a hot summer day–destroy it. We press forward, deeper into the water. Marisa squeals, I believe more in delight than fear. Waves erupt from both sides of the car like a crystalline angel’s wings.”
Savannah, Georgia, with Savannah College of Art and Design professor Meghan Woodcock: “Then she warns us not to touch the Spanish moss hanging down over our heads. It descends enticingly from the tree branches like spun taffy in the window of a beach boardwalk store. Chiggers live in the moss, she says, and will burrow their way into your skin. Once they’re in there it’s nearly impossible to lodge them free, and you’ll believe you’ll never stop scratching.”
The Toledo Botanical Garden in Ohio, location of an interview with singer/songwriter Leah Martensen: “I stop at the Herb Garden and set up such that Leah will be seated on a mount for a now-missing sculpture. She finds me not too long after that, floating into the garden, a shimmering vision. A billowy blouse reflects against the sun nearly as many shades of green as are found in the garden.”
Lake Whitmore, outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan: “This stretch of lakeshore is also lined with chain-link fencing, but it allows approach almost to the water’s edge. I walk up to the fence and grab links with each, hand. Leaning forward, I press my face into the wires and gaze upon a thin slice of moonlight cutting its way across gentle ripples. I can’t reach you, I say silently. Can you hear me? I can’t get through.”
Downtown Madison, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Mendota: “The waterline is at most five feet below where I am standing. I look across the lake at glass-lined mansions sitting just up from the shore. How is this possible? Do the residents of Madison not understand that water does not always stay at the same level? It can create the illusion of a permanent state of calm, but with no warning water can rise. A wave can propel itself across formerly languid surfaces, destroying everything in its path.”
The Hormel SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota: “When I pick up a sample of the pretend meat, I find it is a bean bag with a rubber exterior. Not ready to let go of the surprisingly comfortable toy, I don’t question the fact that this assembly line is a fiction. It presents itself as such.”
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: “I step out on a dry slab of rock. Below me a small vortex has formed, water trapped in a circular flow. It strains to break free, to join its brethren in downward motion. I understand that feeling.”
The Columbia River upstream from Portland, Oregon: “I’m chasing along the Oregon Trail now, pursuing the ghosts of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. I wonder what Lewis’ mental state was when he knew he was approaching the end of his journey. It’s hard to know, because his journal falls silent.”
Portland, Oregon: “The rain is fitting. It is Portland being authentic to herself.”
For Writers: Curious about creativity and living an art-committed life? This memoir may be just what Santa recommends for your stocking this year!
For Readers, For Everyone: I’m sure the above photos and descriptions have inspired you in the same way they did me.
Head on over to buy Patrick’s book at Amazon, or visit his website to learn more about the author, the book, and additional places to purchase. Patrick took a courageous first step in writing this memoir. Let’s keep this important dialogue about mental health (and the stigmas surrounding it) going.