Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Iconography of Wings

After my teaser of last night, here's my proper entry for Steven's Round Robin Photo Challenge topic, "Things With Wings." In the end I went to both Mysterious Place #1 and Mysterious Place #2 (as I called them in last night's entry) for the 75 photos I took today. But there were problems. Mysterious Place #1 was in use when I first stopped by to see about taking my pictures, and I had to rush off from there to lunch and then the county employment service seminar. That ran late, and I had another jobhunting-related errand to run after that. By the time that was done, I couldn't get inside Mysterious Place #1, and had to content myself with walking the grounds, provoking a little polite suspicion from a second grade teacher as I did so. By then I was parched (it was 108 degrees today, so says my car), so I went home for a can of diet root beer before tackling Mysterious Place #2. I wanted to time that one for sunset, but was delayed half an hour because I lost my car key behind my old computer. Still, there are some interesting things here anyway. There had better be, in 75 shots and hours of photo editing!

Mysterious Place #1:
The Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels

St. Michael the Archangel guards the memorial garden

One of the ideas I had yesterday while driving back from Nogales was to stop at Mission San Xavier del Bac and take pictures of angel icons, because a) it's an historic church and likely to have really interesting icons, b) I was driving past there anyway, and c) I thought perhaps other people might not think of angels in connection with this Challenge. (I was wrong about that last one.) I didn't stop, though, in part because my memory from past visits suggests that the statuary there is primarily saints rather than angels. Besides, I am the webmaster of a church called St. Michael and All Angels. Do you think there might be some angel icons in the place?

Inside the church one can find an old St. Michael statue behind the altar, a pair of cherubs over a side altar, and at least one painting of St. Michael on the walls. I've photographed all of these at one time or another, but I wanted fresh photos for this Challenge, not reruns or leftovers. Since the Wednesday Mass had not ended when I was there at 12:15 to 12:30 PM, and the church was locked when I got back at 5:30 PM, I wandered the grounds instead. This rather nice St. Michael statue (above) stands behind one half of the parish's memorial garden, when parishioners' ashes are interred.

This angel is very supportive of Mary.

This angel would have gone unnoticed had I not been specifically looking for angels. He's supporting Our Lady of Guadalupe from below.

One of the things that's interesting to me about angel icons is that they represent something most of us will never see in this world - and if we say we do, hardly anyone is likely to believe us. Many people don't believe they exist, and those who do have a variety of ideas what they look like. Do they really have wings, or is that just an identifying feature artists use to clue us in that they are angels, a representation of their ability to travel between Heaven and Earth? Do they look like austere men, like most depictions of St. Michael, or beautiful women, like china or resin angels from a gift shop, or cherubs, or whatever suits their purpose at the time, or none of the above? Goodness knows the lore of angels is extremely muddy in the popular imagination, where they are often depicted as dead people (including Tommy Smothers in a 1965 sitcom) or people like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life. I'm not going to get into a big theological rant here, but I'm generally more comfortable with depictions of angels that seem reasonably congruent with their appearances in the Bible - not chubby, Cupid-like babies, not beautiful women, but messengers from God, whose appearances are so imposing that they must preface their remarks with "Fear not."

The school's bronze eagle is also an icon.

St. Michael's also has a Parish Day School on site, and their school mascot icon happens to be an eagle. There's a big eagle statue outside the gymnasium, so I snapped a picture of it just before the gate to that corridor was locked for the night.

Two white-winged doves hang out on a courtyard wall.

The parish grounds are full of trees and flowers, so naturally they attract a lot of birds. I've seen hummingbirds, white-winged doves, cactus wrens, house finches, mockingbirds, curve-billed thrashers and probably several other species there.

Mysterious Place #2:
The Boneyard (AMARC)

Some of the larger planes in the Kolb portion of the Boneyard

As I rather cryptically mentioned earlier, I got a late start on driving over to the Boneyard tonight, because I just couldn't find my darn car key. I've always called it "the airplane graveyard," but the popular nickname for Tucson's 2600 acres of scrapped, stored, or derelict airplanes is the Boneyard. The official name, or at least the official name for the military portion of it, is the Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Center.

Closer shot of retired military planes at sunset.

A horseback trail edges a long row of old Navy jets.

Perpendicular to Kolb Rd. is a road with base housing on one side and a stretch of the Boneyard on the other, edged with a trail suitable for horseback riding. There are tracks of horseshoes, human shoes, ATVs, coyotes and rabbits visible in the dirt, and birds flit between the fence and the bushes. The cactus wren in the photo above (can you spot him?) had a few choice things to say about me invading his territory.

A Navy plane with an intriguing past

I don't know whether you can read the writing on this plane, but it says Naval Research Laboratory. I wonder whether that makes this an old "vomit comet," or what other atmospheric experiments may have taken place aboard it.

This old plane is an empty shell.

It takes a few hours to explore the perimeter of the Boneyard, which goes on for miles and miles in several different directions, all the way from Escalante to Valencia, from Kolb to west of Wilmot at the south end. And that's without including the Pima Air and Space Museum, which is well worth a visit. Tonight I was only able to cover a couple blocks of it, and even at that I ran out of time as dusk fell. But this isn't the first time I've explored the area with a digital camera, and it won't be the last. I am fascinated by the idea of all these old planes, most of them used in wars long behind us, now lying half-forgotten in the brutal Tucson heat, where the normally low humidity slows down their rusting. Eventually most of them are stripped of useful parts and melted down for scrap metal, but it could take years and years for a particular plane to meet its final fate. It's a bit melancholy to drive past over four thousand broken, empty airplanes, the vast majority of which will never fly again.

Oh, and Mysterious Place #3? That would have been Madera Canyon. I'll get there some other time.

Okay, I'm done. Maybe. If you haven't already done so, please check out the entries of the other Robins:

Linking List

Steven - POSTED!

Jessica - POSTED!
QuickSilver Dreams

Nancy - POSTED!
Nancy Luvs Pix

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Vicki - POSTED!

kerrin - POSTED!
a new day

Janet - POSTED!

Suzanne R - POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life

Carly - POSTED!

Gattina - POSTED!
Keyhole Pictures

boliyou - POSTED!

Gina's Space

And check out the Round Robin blog for an announcement about the next Challenge, and some changes to the RRPC format and scheduling. See you there!



MyMaracas said...

These are great! The stone angels feel so ancient and mysterious, and the planes are so strange in their silence.


Janet said...

Wow, it's like a graveyard for planes! 4,000 you say? Amazing!

boliyou said...

I love the stone angels and statues. It's strange that I wouldn't have thought of that.

Suzanne R said...

I like your pictures and accompanying thoughts here tremendously well. I am especially partial to the angels. My late husband Steve thought airplanes were so very beautiful, and I can't see one without thinking of him.