I sat beneath the great oak today that rests beside the dirt road next to the boathouse and watched the passersby as they drove or meandered down the lane. The day was bright, and the wind blew dust devils from the edge of our pasture all the way over the plowed field to the little pond that sits by the spillway.

A blue sky with billowy white clouds floated above and it brought back memories of when as a child my mother would sit with me on the cool green grass saying as she pointed up into the heavens, Johnny, do you see that camel up there, as a cloud moved across the sky? Look, now it’s an elephant.

I miss that.

Not so much because it was my mother who passed at 97 about eight years ago and not because it was a special time, which it was. But, because it taught me about art and probably drew my imagination into the open freeing my spirit to discover and create, fantasize, build imagery and explore boundaries outside of the norm.

It seems today, however, that so much of society has become locked into a narrowly focused existence only opening their consciousness to those things directly in front of them. Tuning out their peripheral vision and feelings as though viewing life through camera obscura where the details of that which we focus, though crystal clear, completely conceals all that occurs around that single image or moment. We seemed to have locked ourselves into a cocoon of self-absorption, becoming introverted units that no longer communicate on a personal, one on one level.

Gatherings have evolved into a grouping of drones each staring down at a phone, texting, or scrolling through the latest blurb of social media. Society has moved from personal interaction where the senses were an integral part of communication to a sanitized, bland and impersonal note where emoji reflects emotion. Life has become an elevator ride where strangers enter standing shoulder to shoulder fearing that if one of them looks any place other than the floor or the lights above the door that the world may come to an end.

We have become so isolated by our personal communication devices that you can’t walk into a doctor’s office where people are waiting without finding 9 out 10 of them looking down between their knees at some sort of gadget that has kidnaped their attention and each one of their senses.

We have canned creativity, eliminated experiences that fall outside of that which is fed to us through technology, we’ve stopped looking at the clouds, stopped thinking outside of regulated limits that we are fed daily by media and highly monitored by social technology. We, for the most part, have accepted life as gifted by those that feed us daily thoughts and sadly control everything from what we buy to the things we should eat.

Adding to this we seem to have forgotten that there is more to this world than our careers, the last text or news blurb regarding corruption in Washington, the latest diet fad or which celebrity did this or got caught doing that. All family units no matter of their status in this world appear to have become boxed into silo’s that revolve around this sports event or that business dinner. They rarely come together to celebrate the love for one another and its unity, no longer build the bonds between siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles where family history is created and passed from generation to generation. No longer create moments that also develop character and pass wisdom along that has taken decades to be recognized by its elder members and is so important in the lives of the youngsters in the family.

We seem to have almost evaded and uprooted the senses blocking out sounds, touch, scents, and emotional responses as though duct-taped into a box that collects dust in a garage.

All of these things that have evolved during my life are yes partly my doing. I didn’t see the train coming and also got caught up in the excitement of technology, the speed of communication, the ease of completing a task by pushing a button. But now that I’m older, have seen the changes and struggle to find that special place along the dirt road that was in front of my grandmother’s house, I have to wonder if we’ve maybe gone too far, given up to much freedom, walked off that sandlot baseball field never to return again. And if we have, I find it sad, lonely and empty in a way because life isn’t about moving faster, building bigger and controlling more, it’s about family, love, moments and fond memories of smelling baked biscuits, hugging a loved one, holding the wrinkled hand of an older family member and seeing a story in the lines across their face.

Well, it’s time for me to move on down towards home. Maybe next week I’ll attempt to unravel the question as to why in the south everyone waves at you when driving down the road. Or at least why they used to!


Johnny Johnston
Johnny Johnston
An artist/writer as well as graduate of the University of South Carolina with degrees in journalism/20th Century American Literature, and retired senior executive of several international hotel/resort corporations, Johnny is the product of the south having been raised in the ever-changing transient lifestyle of a Carolina coastal resort. A point where he discovered, within his 300-year-old heritage and the world's dramatic social/cultural shifts during the late '60s to early 80’s an ambitious hunger and overwhelming curiosity to touch, see and become a participant in the virtually unlimited possibilities offered to those who wish for and seek life experiences. A journey which when hearing its details initially makes one a bit skeptical, questioning its validity as it is hard to imagine that incidents such as these may have crossed one man’s lifetime. This is the fodder required to step into zones exposing one's personal inner self, which many of his paintings and the words he writes do, openly. An ability to see and hear the tragic, beautiful, accomplished, exciting journey in a life free of inhibitions allowing others the opportunity to live vicariously and become, through his works, a part of its future. His larger works which have been featured in several Colorado and Fredericksburg Texas galleries and resorts have produced a number of collectors and fans. However, over the years, his paintings are mostly viewed by friends, enthusiastic new artist encountered on the streets or a small number of acquaintances he meets when dining in local cafés with his wife.

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  1. I hear you my friend. I find little left of the life I lived. The world has left our way of life behind. I choose a life on an old Dirt Road with my wife,my dogs and a place to welcome my old friends. Johnny I promise I will wave if we pass each other on the lost highway. Love you brother