Invoking The Magic Of The Open Road

Magic comes from what is inside you. It is a part of you. You can’t weave together a spell that you don’t believe in.
― Jim Butcher

April 2013

3 weeks. 4500 miles. A car that started out black and came back grey-brown from a solid caking of road dust. A 901st birthday, and the sort of landscapes that didn’t exist in my reality until then. Being able to drive endlessly again, winging down open New Mexican highways with a Jedi time lord and the soundtrack to life. 

The open road, New Mexico

Getting from Mexico City to Albuquerque, as mentioned in the last post, was a drama and a half that had me missing my original connecting flight and spending yet another night on the cold stone of LAX. So as the plane finally descended through those amazing New Mexico clouds, my face was permanently cracked from smiling so hard.

The gentleman in the seat next to me must have felt some insane delirium emanating from me, compelled as he was to ask what it was about.

“I’ve had a hell of a time getting this far from Mexico, so this is the most beautiful sight in the world right now,” I told him, nodding out the window.

He nodded back. “Ah, you must be glad to be home.”

Contemplating Elephant Butte Lake. Picture by Flemming Bo Jensen

I’m a long way from any home, but seeing Flemming past the gates at the airport in Albuquerque was utter relief, and affirmation that I really was out of border-crossing purgatory. New Mexico is home to a lasting exhilaration though, this thing we call Mad and Magic Raving: getting out there for all we were worth, having all the space to be free, released from doubt and worry and all those other nonsensical persistent things. Living for whim and instinct. Gut-feel and glory. Two kids in the candy store of the world, no filters, and a sense of undampened wonder. And how amazing it was to have people everywhere respond, fiercely, in kind.

Walking into the sandstorm. White Sands National Park. Picture by Flemming Bo Jensen

Everything was a little bit magical (yes I realise I’m wearing this word thin) those few weeks: having a lasting love for the landscapes of North America since I was a kid from too much related reading, I often had to remind myself that yes, I’m really, finally here, right in this place I’ve been imagining for so much of my life. That we encountered all manner of extreme weather, only helped dramatize the experience.

First tremendous look at Monument Valley. Picture by Flemming Bo Jensen

Scored by the sun and sand during a howling sandstorm in the pale dunes of White Sands, regarding the earth beneath me at the top of the world in Arches National Park, bouncing around in the strange monochromatic world of Gila National Forest as snow (snow!!! from the sky!!!) fell softly and in total silence between the trees, and made a powdery carpet that groaned under the pressure of my feet. Watching stars form a canopy over the VLA as night fell.

Flemming speaks to the stars at VLA

The majesty that was Monument Valley, Mars-like in a sandstorm one day, and completely obscured by a snowstorm the next, before allowing us glimpses of its splendor through the shifting clouds and changing light of day.

Gratuitous Monument Valley picture

There have been few moments in my short, awkward life, where I have felt that there was a time or place in this world for me. Being on the road this April, was many startling moments of feeling like I was, for once, in the right place at the right time.

Snow in Gila National Forest

I think more than anything, in the last four months of being a wandering bum, the thing I have been continually reminded of the most, is how many crazy incredible things can happen if you have the freedom to take a chance on instinct. Sometimes you get horribly hurt, and at other times you just find yourself someplace wonderful. Both have certainly happened a fair amount in my short time as a vagrant.

Running into the sun, Eagle’s Nest Lake, New Mexico. Picture by Flemming Bo Jensen

But Mad and Magic Raving is a little bit different. It takes an otherwise impossible set of parameters, the space-time continuum and all the universe to warp in a certain way, and a bloody great friend who allows you to be fierce and true without holding back, trusting that someone has your back, utterly and without caveat.

Flemming dreams of of the universe, Monument Valley.

When all of these things combine, you are free to burn with the sheer force of being completely alive.

It is a rare state of grace.

Locura y magia.

To each his own magic.
– Libba Bray


  1. Charlie says:

    damn those are some good shots – that really is an incredible landscape. I’m insanely jealous.

    1. charlene says:

      This isn’t even scratching the surface!

  2. I’m so glad you have some images of *you* in these wondrous landscapes. What a powerful reminder they will be of this magical time. Beautiful!

    1. charlene says:

      Oh yeah Dorothy, this is the first time I’ve had so many pictures of myself in any situation. Good on Flemming for stalking me mercilessly (though I didn’t think so at the time!). I was filming a movie the whole time so have barely any stills myself, very happy for these.

      1. I was feeling a bit stalked myself so I wanted to return the favour :) It was worth the looks and the middle fingers to get these shots :)

  3. Truly beautiful Charlene…just like the writer!:)

    1. charlene says:

      Mark, you shameless flatterer.

      (thanks though!)

  4. Mark Olwick says:

    Such a beautiful post. Very inspiring.

    1. charlene says:

      Thank you Mark :) It was an inspiring April. Hoping you are similarly recharged in Asia.

  5. Magical words. “an otherwise impossible set of parameters, the space-time continuum and all the universe to warp in a certain way, and a bloody great friend who allows you to be fierce and true without holding back, trusting that someone has your back, utterly and without caveat.” Ditto on that :)

    There is nothing like living life to the fullest, kids in a candy store, time-travelers in the universe, complete freedom. Good thing this was just the beginning.

    1. charlene says:

      Agreed in full. MMR the universal edition! Now just to get TARDIS fixed eh?

      1. Just tried to see if I could get my bicycle up to 88mph. Apparently some serious shit is supposed to happen if I ever make it. Fingers crossed. Oh to be in Texas.

      2. charlene says:

        TARDIS has been broken for at least 200 years. Hello… talk about behind schedule? (bicycle, pfffft)

  6. Tadpole says:

    I have it from a good source that God is a vagabond herself… so you’re in good company. Love the words; jealous of the photos.

    1. charlene says:

      I’ve not heard that one before but I am certainly liking it ;) Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Superb post, really great to read your thoughts and learn from your journey of discovery. Insanely great images, both yours and Flemming’s. Take good care and continue this wonderful road that you are traveling.

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Ed, much appreciated :) Journey is being continued for sure!

  8. Erin Wilson says:

    Considering the quote you led with, you’re clearly a believer. Pure magic here, Charlene.

    1. charlene says:

      I’ve always been a believer Erin. I figured one day I’d be proved right :)

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