Monday, July 18, 2011

Detour to the Past

Has this ever happened to you? You are traveling with your family and you spot some place you want to stop.

A roadside fruit stand, an abandoned barn, an antique store. 

You mention this to your darling loved ones.

There are exasperated sighs and eye rolling. They proceed to tell you "Of course if you REALLY want to stop we can go back..." Your husband probably says "go back" the same way mine does. Apparently in the official MANual backtracking to do anything is listed on the same page with asking directions and reading Jane Austen.

But no, they assure you that if YOU really want to "we can stop"...You doubt the sincerity in their voices...because you know them. And because they are saying this with the amount of enthusiasm they could summon for cleaning out the garage or eating tofu, or cleaning out the garage WHILE eating tofu. 

For several years while traveling on Alt 45 in Mississippi I would longingly point to an abandoned school on the side of the highway as my husband pressed the accelerator and my kids turned up their i-pods to drown me out. But recently I traveled with a friend (we are reinventing ourselves from mothers to real people now that everyone is grown up) and I told her about the school. We watched carefully for it since I wasn't exactly sure precisely where it was. Mid day we rounded a bend and it appeared.

 It seemed ghostly and I wondered about the children who attended it, what happened, why it closed. The curved walls and glass tiles with their art deco sleekness seemed like they would have been out of place in rural Mississippi so long ago.

Nothing about rural Mississippi says art deco.

 We walked around and I shot some photos while 3 black men casually eyed us as they played dominoes under a big oak in the heat of the day. I got the feeling they were use to trespassers.

My fearless friend suggested we try to go inside.
I declined. Letting my overactive imagination conjure up snakes, hornets nests, and spiders. No, outside is fine. This is all I wanted. It took all of ten minutes.
 When I came home I tried to google the school because that's what we do now, isn't it? I came up with this site: Abandoned Places.

I so don't need another addiction, but this site is fascinating. If you've ever wondered about those places that call to you from the highway, those houses that look like they were loved once upon a time, those forlorn barns or ruins in foreign countries, then check it out. Apparently there is a community of people who wonder about these ghosts of brick and stone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Slipping Away From Shore

A couple of weeks ago  I headed to the Gulf of Mexico with a friend for a small getaway before the serious wedding countdown and all that goes with it begins in earnest. I was fortunate that she is a companion willing to get into the water and stay there, languishing in the healing saltwater for hours at a time. The waves were big and rough and neither of us being great swimmers we lingered along the shallows, being pummeled by wave after wave. Being tossed by a series of powerful flaps of water that lifted us and then slammed us onto the sandy bottom, holding us there while conspiring with the one that followed to catch us just as we arose unaware only to be dragged like rag dolls across shoreline again, eventually caused us to head for deeper water, past the foamy turmoil.

It was a little scary at first. Our feet didn't quite touch the bottom. The next series of waves came, and they were huge. I thought we'd made a mistake as I saw how they were towering over us, but then ever so gently we were picked up by a huge undulating swell and let down again. It felt momentarily dangerous and exciting, then fun, safe...relaxing even. We watched as it slammed the swimmers just a few yards from us who felt safer in the shallower water.

How often is life like that? Often times we  hug a dangerous shoreline that is giving us the illusion of safety. We fight to gain sure footing in the turmoil because we cannot imagine that sometimes in risk there is, not only the giddiness that comes with the unknown, but also peace in the deeper water.

We nurse our skinned knees and complain about them; we rub our sore shoulders,   yet stay where we are because from a distance the deep water looks ominous. Our minds find it impossible to imagine that a gigantic wave might gently lift us allowing a different perspective from new heights

How often are we missing what we long for and could easily move toward were we not blinded by the crashing waves obscuring all other possibilities? It is counter-intuitive to think that more control and not less may be available to us in such conditions. We take comfort in the fact that all our friends are right there with us in the knee deep water, it's crowded. We like that. We take security in it.

Is all we want out of life to hang around with our heels dug in the sand, our reasoning defined by fear of the unknown, settled safely in the patch of shore we've claimed? Are we going to stay there forever, or are we going to wade out beyond our comfort zone and see what happens?