The walls are covered with paintings of bridges. I’m not sure why. Call it one of my foibles, or call it an obsession if you want. Doesn’t matter…The bridges keep arriving from distant places, England, Canada, New York, California. The list goes on. I don’t really know how this got started, but I have this fascination with bridges. What’s really incredible is that my lovely wife also thinks it’s a wonderful way to decorate, so I’ve not had to hide this obsession away in a private room.
The first bridge painting we purchased came from a great little antique shop in Tulsa and was acquired for a very small amount of cash. A watercolor by a famous artist, it was a wonderful find for us. Of course, the artist was famous for his comic book art, not watercolors, therefore it’s not worth any great amount of money, but we wouldn’t part with it anyway, so it’s just as well. Many others have followed from different sources, flea markets, antique stores, eBay, and garage sales. I’ve given away one or two, but most of them are too valuable to me to be parted with and even though there’s no room available for all of them to be hung at once, some of them sit in a corner, awaiting their turn on the wall.
What’s so special about bridges? I see people in big cities and in the country alike, drive over them like they’re just another scrap of road. I’ve done that myself. One day, not too long ago, the lovely lady and I made the long trek to Cotter, Arkansas, some 135 miles away, just to dawdle a bit under the gorgeous rainbow bridge that crosses the White River there. After a great afternoon spent wandering the trails under and around the bridge, we pointed the car toward home. We hadn’t taken notice of any other notable bridges on our way over, but on the journey back, we noticed a small side road that obviously crossed one of the many streams and we decided to turn off the highway there. As we doubled back beside the highway and eased along the unbeaten lane, we looked back at the road we had left and were surprised to note that we had just passed over a beautiful little stone bridge, which could only be seen from the side angle we had chanced upon.
Day after day, the cars speed past, the passengers inside never dreaming that beauty lies just beneath them. To them it’s just a road, a means of transportation from one place to another. But we live in just such an era, when the destination is all important, and the journey is simply an inconvenience. For us, a chance decision, a fortuitous turn, changed the ho-hum journey into a reminder that surprises lie around every turn, and beauty will be found in the most unlikely places.
What is special about bridges? It’s an intrinsic factor, the very reason they are built in the first place. Bridges are the triumph of men over the elements. In a place where no traffic could pass, the connection is made, from one side of a deep gorge to another, from one bank of a mighty river to the other. Even in the most simple of bridges, a rock laid across a stream, the possibility exists to move goods, and livestock, and people from home to market and back again, without the dangers of raging waters or slippery passages on rocky creek beds. The beauty of bridges lies not just in their splendid design or simple usefulness, but in their conquest of the very environment around them.
I no longer speed from one dot on the map to another, unaware of the road that lies between. There are so many places along the way where men have struggled and conquered, where beautiful examples of craft and art make our journey possible. It’s true, many of these elegant behemoths have been sacrificed for plain-white-wrapper, generic concrete spans, but that doesn’t detract anything from the original visionaries, who saw the need, and took action, leaving a legacy of craftsmanship, architecture, and grace in their wake. Take a little time to admire what remains of their workmanship and dreams the next time you head for some far-off destination.
I guarantee you, all of life is better when you pay attention to what’s on the fringes and enjoy the journey.
“There’s a bridge to cross the Great Divide.
There’s a cross to bridge the Great Divide.”
(Point of Grace~The Great Divide)