Roads less travelled…….

I had a couple days off last week, and in the spirit of cramming every spare second before intern orientation starts with meaningful activity (and not being bored), I decided to take an impromptu road trip to see two of my besties one last time before I leave.

I also took my camera (naturally), and for the first time I did everything I could to stay off the interstate while traversing the (pretty much the entire) state. Turns out, The Adjacent State is really quite beautiful once you get off the interstate.

Who knew??

For the first time I was completely entranced with my surroundings instead of numbly following the dotted lines to my destination with only a succession books on CD to ease the boredom. (Though I did listen to a little of Amy Sedaris’ I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence. Note: The only way I would ever be interested in an instructional book about ‘hospitality’ or ‘cooking’ is if it is written by a Sedaris. Hilar.)

Though I enjoyed my trip very much, even the misguided (literally) attempts at ignoring my GPS in favor of navigating from an 11 year old U.S. Atlas (Look at me! Eat your hearts out Lewis & Clark! Wait. Where the h*ll am I???), I can’t help but feel bad that any outsider who drives through The Adjacent State, stuck in interstate ruts, must think it is The Ugliest Place On Earth. But, as I theorized with one small town gas pump jockey (Yes, apparently there are still places that offer full service and pump before you pay. I know, what!?), I guess that means more for The Adjacent Staters. Or as the jockey said, “It keeps the riff raff out, dontcha know.”

Anyway, here’s just a little bit of what they’re (I’d been) missing……






Note: I am not a particularly religious person, but I seem to be (obviously) kind of obsessed with country churches. I can’t help it. When you’re driving for miles in the middle of nowhere and all of the sudden, out of nowhere, a gorgeous, perfectly preserved, early 19th century church just pops up in front of you, (often with an accompanying centuries-old graveyard and/or school house) reeking of history and incongruous architectural majesty, a person is pretty much obligated to take notice. (Right, well I am anyway.)










Note: The above angels were captured in a (very) rural country cemetery. When I told Nurse NICU this, she thought it was morbid. I just thought they were beautiful. *Shrugs*




Below are critters from a country garden. Once again, I love how wielding a (sort of) fancy camera makes you look at things differently. Not long ago, in my pre-(sort of) fancy camera days I would have passed this little garden by without a second thought. Now, I see possibilities. Magically, everywhere……





In addition to country churches, I kept noticing little town halls every so many miles along the rural highways, randomly appearing on corners of deserted sections. I’ve never seen these little buildings with such profusion and regularity in my own state and I’m assuming it must be an Adjacent State Thing. (Every state around here has a ‘thing.’ *More Shrugs*)

Anyway, after I’d passed at least a dozen of them, I realized I probably should have been stopping to take pictures so I could do a series or something. Because they were all different and unique, some brick, some white clapboard, some with bells attesting to their former uses as town hall/country school, all interesting and charming in their own way.

I had to share a few that I did get. The first one in particular caught my eye as the outhouses are still prominently preserved, attached, and (I’m guessing?) still in use (at the back of the building there). But you have to bring your own JC Penny catalog. Love it.





This week I am on a mini-Indie Rock tour of the Middle States, versus the big festival I had been planning on attending, having done the grown-up thing and relinquished the big festival tickets (with the big festival price) in the name of fiscal responsibility (i.e. Moving Funds. So I don’t have to resort to hitch hiking to residency. Not going to say I didn’t consider it. I really wanted to go to that festival.)


So far, the mini-tour is Totally Awesome.

Cats + Slammin’ Indie Gurl Rock? How could I not love Best Coast??


Soul Food

I was super grumpy when I set off for work last night.

I had gone over to The Writer’s in the morning after another busy night shift, hoping for a more decent quantity of quality sleep than I’ve been getting at home. Because, since I started working (pretty much) full-time nights until I head off for residency, the hound has decided that her job while I’m trying to sleep during the day, is finding new and exciting ways of waking me up every two hours. Such as, curling up all cute-like right next to the head of the bed and passing rank “I like to eat garbage, lots and lots of garbage” gas right in my face until I wake up gagging, or, patiently, persistently licking whatever exposed part of my body happens to be hanging over the edge of the mattress (face, hand, foot, knee, elbow) until I wake up yelling incoherently.

I snuggled down into the man cave that is The Writer’s basement apartment/dungeon yesterday morning, after eating enough McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches to feed seven post-nighter RN’s and two Tylenol PM’s, anticipating at least six, solid hours of dog-free snoozing. And then, I heard the tribe of big-footed pygmies(?) that has apparently moved in upstairs stampeding across the ceiling. And then stampeding back. And then back again, until they broke into some sort of unholy Riverdance routine (?).

Personally, I thought I showed remarkable restraint by tolerating this racket for the three minutes and 14 seconds the Tylenol PM kept me drowsy enough to tolerate it. And then I very (very) huffily got the H*ll out of there and went back home. Where the dog let me get a whole three hours of sleep before I headed back to work again.

Super. Grumpy.

On the way to work I had to drop the hound off at my friend’s farm where she will be living while I am living at the hospital during intern year, for a ‘sleep over’ to see if she can actually manage to behave herself on a farm. The GPS took me the back way to the farm, and pretty soon I was driving like I stole it down dirt roads. I couldn’t help but notice how brightly the sun was shining, how startlingly blue the sky was, smattered here and there with fluffy white clouds, and how verdantly green the countryside was after recent rain showers.

Next thing I knew, I had the windows down, the radio cranked up and I was relaxed back into my bucket seat with a huge smile on my face, singing along with Bob Seger, reveling in the view.

Bobbin’ dog approved view.



I might be a little bit older and a lot less bolder, and weary when the work day’s done, but nothing fails to feed my soul and pump me up again like driving fast on the back roads and losing myself in the music and the countryside.

Here are a few images I’ve collected from other recent sojourns, so that I never forget.















I also seem to be on roll with pictures. I took a bunch before I relinquished the camera, and I’m sure I’ll take a bunch more now that I have it back. I was actually going to give the camera to my brother to take home with him. I want him to have it. We already have unbreakable bonds of blood, intellect, humor and shared experiences that run deep and defy rational explanation, but I’d like to share this bond with him too.

He was actually a photographer long before I even considered something as impractical as picking up a camera in the name of something as fluffy as ‘art’ or ‘self-expression.’ (Hmph!)  When we were growing up, he was the sweet, reckless, daring, rebel dreamer, in perfect counterpoint to my overachieving, perfectionistic, practical, rule-abiding, authority figure pleaser.

As we’ve grown, the reckless dreamer put down his camera and has matured into a hard-working, responsible Man, while I’ve tapped and learned to appreciate my inner artist. My inner artist really wants to take up the local camera shop on the (unbelievably good, yet potentially not acceptable to my inner Fiscally Responsible Adult) special package deal for a new DSLR and three (three!) lenses they have been slobbering over wanting for some time.

And I want to give this camera, that has opened a world of joy and beauty, and wonderfully fluffy self-expression for me, to my brother. So we have something else to share, so the wonderful, conscientious, hard-working man, who dropped everything and flew across the country to be with me when I needed him, might remember his sweet, wild, also wonderful, inner boy.

In the meantime, my inner artist is happy to share…uh…our latest work with you……

Okay, the next several pictures are duplicates. When I asked The Writer which ones he liked best, he liked the color pictures. Naturally, I preferred the black and white’s with color extraction. I am really like the black and white’s with color extraction lately (obviously). So, I’m putting them both out there and you all can be the judge of which you like best. Also, it’s just cool how many ways there are to take pictures of one scene, etc. Love it.




Where the heart is…….

I remember being all sorts of traumatized when I first moved here. I was used to being surrounded by mountains, forests, rivers, lush, green vegetation, and people. Then I moved here. A place where there are no mountains or forests to be found, where you can drive a hundred miles in some places without seeing any evidence of the existence of other human beings. I remember sitting in a Perkins with my dad, sniveling, after I’d first arrived, “We’re living in a wasteland [Hoo hoo hoo]…..”

After a few years, I was in the middle of undergrad and I started taking drives in the surrounding country. (I said I was practicing for my eventual escape.) My mini-road trips became a habit. I’d grab a huge fountain pop, my favorite mix CD of the moment, jump in my car, roll down the windows, turn up the music, and lose myself, my worries, and my cares in the sights and sounds, the openness, the solitude and serenity of the back roads.

Eventually, after I’d spend time away in more populous places, I’d find myself craving this place. The long, flat, empty, eminently drivable stretches of two-lane highways and gravel roads. The relief I’d feel when I’d return from elsewhere was palpable at times.

A few years ago I saved up and bought myself a starter DSLR kit for Christmas. I started taking it on my drives, stopping every few miles to capture images of this place. A place I realized, I’d finally come to love and think of as Home. It is a unique place, full of traces of pioneer history, evidence of the relentless Midwestern work ethic, the hardy, sparse inhabitants’ love of God and Country, and their need for and abundance of open space and independence.

I was waiting for a surgery one day and I started talking photography with an equipment rep. I told them that I mostly like to take pictures of this place. That I just drive around and try to capture images that embody all of those things I listed above. Oh, you must not be from around here, they said. Because most of the people that are from this place don’t necessarily see it the way I have come to. I was road-tripping with Nurse NICU in the last few days constantly, excitedly pointing out interesting and scenic views. Look!, I’d say jabbing out my window at some vista, or farm, or scrum of spotted ponies, isn’t it beautiful?? Until she laughed and said, Yeah, I grew up here, I just sort of take it for granted.

I am taking it less for granted every minute as my departure date for the Big City rapidly approaches. After the road-trips this week, my heart aches at the thought of leaving this place, and an encroaching sense of claustrophobia sets in at the thought of leaving the freedom of my beloved backroads for the confines of urban life.

I am sure I will eventually find beauty to appreciate there as well. Getting a (sort of) fancy camera, and constantly looking for photo-worthy images, tends to do that for you. In the meantime, I’ll be burning up the miles and disc space, searching for scenes to take with me. So that I can remember this place, where I found beauty and freedom, and lost my heart. This place that became my Home.