The Best Kind of Vacation


The best kind of vacation is the one that stretches your horizons. It teaches you something about a place and its people.  You come home feeling like your world view has shifted, if only just a bit.

It’s a huge world out there and I haven’t seen most of it so when my pal Johnna suggested that I visit her in Wyoming and we journey over to South Dakota for some adventure, I was ready to go.

We spent a couple of days exploring her neck of the woods and then road tripped over to South Dakota’s Black Hills. The vacation was amazing, even if everything didn’t go as planned.

Truth be told, we only hit a few of the highlights and didn’t do everything we had hoped. There’s a lot to see and never enough hours in the day to do it. But we had a great time – partly because we did fun stuff and partly because the company was great.

As I sift through pictures and souvenirs, it becomes increasingly clear that there are many, many stories to tell from this trip. The plan is to begin sharing these tales, one at a time for as long as you’re willing to keep reading.

This trip taught me about the Lakota people and some of their traditions. I learned about how our government prohibited by law many aspects of religions and sacred ceremonies of native peoples. This impacted Native Americans, Eskimos and Hawaiians and it was within my lifetime that our government passed an act granting them the religious freedoms they deserve.

This is something that I want to revisit another day and there is nice imagery to go with it.

It taught me that sometimes a tourist trap is just a tourist trap but also gave me hope that there could be a breathtaking rainbow around the next bend.

I also learned about the rural nature of Wyoming and some of the challenges that come with living here. The western landscape is about as foreign as the surface of the moon compared to my wooded southern Ohio. The big skies, various shades of browns and the sparseness of the landscape lend a unique beauty that you won’t find most places.

Plus there were some good restaurants, interesting people and beautiful sights along the way that made each day of this adventure seem a more rewarding than the one before.

It was a great vacation so stay tuned! There’s more to come!

Which Do You Prefer?

I went on a little excursion yesterday morning. Just rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth and grabbed a hat before hitting the road. I wanted to take some pictures of barns and churches and streams down in the valley. It was a short trip through familiar territory.

There was a time that I wanted to make perfect pictures. I tried so hard but it seemed  there was always a utility pole or traffic light in the way. There were always people or a car or my skills simply fell short of capturing the scene that I wanted.

Frustrating doesn’t begin to explain it.

For a lot of years, I focused on the details – a single flower instead of the bouquet, a window instead of the building. And I still do that a lot. I love the details, the simple things in the world around us. Doors as well as details on cars like tail fins and headlights are among my favorites.

But somewhere along the way, I began looking at the big picture and even including those imperfections that I previously found annoying. I think it’s partly a response to the changes I see in the world around me and an odd desire to capture some scenes before they go away. Abandoned buildings like homes, churches and barns often appear on my camera roll. Vintage signage has long been a favorite but now I’m even including old style traffic lights and utility poles. Sometimes this works to my advantage because these extra details add interest to the picture at the same time the picture is preserving the world exactly as it looked on that day and not as a contortion of reality.

Time marches on and the landscape cannot remain unchanged. Brush closes in on unused barns and old style wooden electric poles are replaced with new technology. Trees are cut down and farms become housing developments.

The site where I live was once woodland. Then it was pasture. Now it’s my yard. Who knows? Maybe someday Mother Nature will reclaim this spot as forest.

But I digress.

We’ve reached the interactive portion of today’s post. Here are two pictures I took during my little adventure through the neighborhood yesterday morning.

Tell me in the comments – which do you prefer? The great old barn with the electric pole or the great old barn without it?

barn with no power lines

barn with power lines

Someday I’ll take a photography class and work at getting better. Meanwhile, I’m happy playing and learning as I go!



This One Will Haunt Me

aa.JPGI like to use this space to tell happy stories. There’s so much negativity in the world that I prefer to spend my energy sharing good vibes. Today is an exception to the rule.

Unexpected free time yesterday led me out on a hike and a little drive down a country road where I found a church that will haunt me for a long time.  It’s abandoned. Falling in. Broken and probably beyond repair. To add insult to injury, I suspect there’s no one interested in stabilizing the place, much less fixing it up.

Located on a ridge top with a well tended cemetery in back, the church was once beautiful. Today there’s a padlock on the doors and plywood on the windows.



I walked through the cemetery and then the perimeter of the church and was able to see inside a broken window from the cemetery yard. There is a beautiful old piano that I’m guessing was too heavy to move when they cleared out everything else. They left the light fixtures but took the cross – you can still see the impression on the wall.


There are a couple of old chairs and, through the window, I could tell it still smells like church. You know what I mean? Churches always have a unique smell.

It was the saddest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

dd.JPGChurches are the heartbeat of any community, especially rural communities where there’s little else to bring people together. The sign out front says 1848 so you have to wonder what this little country church has seen, the comfort it has given and the joy that once reverberated throughout.

Children were baptized here. They grew up in the pews and maybe knelt in prayer at the altar. Couples cried tears of joy as they celebrated their nuptials on that altar. And families gathered in sorrow at the funerals of people who grew old within these walls.

A lot of living and growing and praying and dying went on here.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not criticizing whoever owns this church or whoever contributed to it ending up in this state. It is a very old building. Plus, I don’t know the circumstances and I’m not in a position to to help so criticism is inappropriate.

I’m just sad.

It makes me wonder about the fate of so many other quaint community churches that are suffering from an aging congregation and dwindling attendance. I see a lot of them in my travels. Many of them are being closed and sold so they can be reinvented as homes and businesses. Others are just abandoned.

I’ve been on the fence about repurposing churches but I have picked a side. I would much rather see a church building given a second chance at life as someone’s home than see it slowly deteriorate and suffer a fate like this.





Saving Mount Zion Baptist Church

bmt2.jpgThere’s a church in uptown Athens that I pass by occasionally. It often causes me to pause and wonder what the deal is but yesterday was the first time I’ve been on foot and really had a chance to do anything more than wonder.

The deal is that it’s a fabulous historic church that is teetering on the brink of ruin but that is in the hands of good people who are doing their best to save it. Here’s the short story: It’s called Mount Zion Baptist Church. The congregation was founded by African Americans in the late nineteenth century and this building was dedicated in 1906.


mt zion church insideIt enjoyed years of prosperity but a declining congregation forced the church to close. Years of neglect and lack of use have been incredibly damaging. You can see the signs of damage from the street but you can see even more from the interior pictures posted online by the group working to save the church. The picture of the inside shown above is not mine but the exterior shots are.

The Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is doing its darndest to raise money for the repairs that will save this piece of Athens history. They even have the help of RVC Architects, the leading architectural firm in Athens. They have already replaced the roof, the first step toward stabilizing the structure and preventing further damage. But it’s a lot they have to raise and the amount of work needed is intimidating even to a stranger just walking by.

But look at the bones. Isn’t it fabulous?

Want to know more? You can read about the Preservation Society on their website where you will also find information on the church’s history as well as a place where you can donate if you feel inclined.