Wabi Sabi Windshields

I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of Geist and University, when I looked over at the brand new Subaru Forester next to me and noticed a magnificent spiderweb array of windshield cracks. It was so Fibonacci. so spiral nebula, so double helixissimo that I grabbed my cobalt blue Cannon Powershot Elph from my purse and was about to click to infinity, when I noticed the woman in the passenger seat frowning at me. I grinned, waved, put my camera away and prayed to God that she wasn’t packing a shot gun. Many are around here, judging by the bullet holes in virtually every road sign.

Okay, so I didn’t get shot, or get the shot. The photo above is from my trusty old friend, Wikimedia Commons, though it is quite similar to the one I would have taken. But I did learn something. A cracked windshield has character and, in this case, it had the esthetic luminosity of an ancient, cracked Japanese vase. I began to look around for other artsy windshields, and the best place to do that in Fairbanks is in the parking lot of the only-game-in town-one-stop-shopping-mecca, Fred Meyer.

I parked and walked around with my Cannon. Here’s the first crack I spotted.


Was I excited?  Not so much. A single snake of a crack? Who needs it? I kept up the search, meandering between SUVs so large they would have been considered houses in some parts of the world and battered and rusted-out trucks that might have been dumped where I come from. But the same knife slash of a crack seemed to be the norm, and most of the cars in the lot had one. After a while, I knew that I’d seen the ultimate crack in Fairbanks, and possibly the world. It was time to either head to Iceland or go home.

By the way, Peter Mulvey, with whom my son, M, had the good fortune to study guitar when Peter was in Boston, has a written a touching song about Fairbanks and its windshields that have seen better days. Here it is for you to enjoy.

I drove back to my daughter’s house out on the marina and looked around at the airplanes parked everywhere along the dirt road that serves both cars and small aircraft in the neighborhood. There are signs posted everywhere that encourage cars and pedestrians to give airplanes the right of way. No problem there. Just to compare, I tried to locate even one cracked plane windshield among the hundreds before me, but there were none. Not even one! Maybe the strict Alaskan windshield rule stating that a windshield must be replaced if it does not afford a driver clear vision even if the crack is tiny, is actually reinforced with airborne vehicles, unlike with cars. Which is why at the end of the long driveway that leads to my daughter and son-in-law’s hangar and house, I wasn’t surprised to find their old Suzuki parked out front with a triple lightening-bolt crack jutting out from the center of the rear view mirror like a wabi sabi butterfly, a sort of low-end gallery on wheels. And kind of nice.


11 thoughts on “Wabi Sabi Windshields

  1. Hilarious! You have such a strong voice. I’ve never been into windshield cracks, myself, but you’ve made a strong point about their potential. Glad she didn’t pull out the shotgun. Maybe she saves her buckshot for the grizzlies. 😀


  2. Thanks, jd. There is a bit of Mexico here in the sense of magic and it calls to me…kind of a tequila on the rocks. Both are hearty cultures where people use humor and ingenuity to survive.


    • Keep your eyes on the road, lady! Thanks for stopping by, Dawn. Today I checked out car incrustations. There’s so much mud and dust on the road after snow melt that most vehicles look like they’re cocooned in a couple of inches of crud. Maybe we are, too. 😉


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