Pulling Back

Two years ago, using my phone through the car windshield, I snapped this shot of the Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston.

Looking straight up at cables on bridge over Cooper River.Since then, I’ve had it in mind to go back to Charleston to find a place to stand (a place to grow!), to try some other shots. Maybe even to get one of the whole bridge.

A few weeks ago the Big Guy and I went to Charleston with friends to tour Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. I found my “place to stand” on the deck of the passenger ferry out to the Fort, but getting “the whole bridge” turned out to be trickier than I’d thought.

To get both towers and to include the full length of the ramps — an integral part of the bridge whether over land or water — I kept having to pull back . . .

Yorktown aircraft carrier with Arthur Ravenel Bridge in backgroundView of both towers of Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge and Yorktown aircraft carrier . . . and back . . .Middle-distance view of Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge and Yorktown aircraft carrierLong-distance view of Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge and Yorktown aircraft carrierHmm. By the time I had the whole bridge in the frame, I could hardly see it. This wasn’t what I had in mind at all.

The next morning I found a different place to stand, jettisoning this “whole bridge” nonsense.

View of Srrhur J. Ravenel Bridge from Waterfront ParkBut the universe sometimes sends me an answer when I’ve given up on my question. As I hustled back to the car and my patient fellow-travellers, I stopped to get one more shot and learned that the first bridge on this site was built in 1929 as “a major link between Maine and Florida.”

Plaque for original Cooper River Bridge with Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge in backgroundHmm. I don’t think about bridges in any context beyond the local: as a way to connect this side to that side, whether of a river or creek or gorge or ditch. (Preferably in a picturesque or photogenic way. It is, after all, all about my needs.)

Yet in a broader context — say, that of a national highway system — a bridge over a major body of water can also be seen as integral to connecting a country’s northernmost part to the southernmost, or westernmost to easternmost.

I can only see that whole bridge by pulling way back.

I wonder what other connections of any type — physical, artistic, intellectual, interpersonal, spiritual — I mistake for purely local phenomena.


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4 Responses to Pulling Back

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Isn’t it interesting? It’s away more than “just a bridge.” Everything has a story!

    Process theologian Alfred North Whitehead said that everything was linked…every event, every thing, had a preceding something and something that came after it. Same with your bridge. And look at all the stories that bridge collected along the way.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I love the stories/movies that play on that link theme, but admit that I find it hard to keep it as top-of-mind awareness, day to day.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    You’ll probably recall that Nancy Ellen Abrams had a whole chapter on how much of reality any of us can grasp (a better word, in her context, than comprehend) at any one time. She showed an Ouroboros the snake eating its own tail, with the tail being the nano-micro world, too small for us to deal with, and the head being the astronomical/galactic world, too big for us to deal with. Occasionally, we can push the boundaries, but most of the time, we have to live within the space/time we can deal with.
    So too with bridges, perhaps. Sometimes we (okay, you) can back off to see the whole picture. But mostly, we deal with what’s immediate.
    And as you noted, not just with bridges. The Donald is simply beyond me, but I can deal with bullies at a local level. Sort of. And I can support those who deal with levels of reality beyond my ken — physicists at the particle level, astronomers at the galactic level, and progressive politicians at the political level.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – That’s an interesting connection to the range of sizes that Abrams writes about. In the context of the universe maybe there’s not much difference between a great honking bridge and a border-to-border highway system, but the point is sound.

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