The Toll Booth


I use to drive long roads with toll roads and then turn around and head home. I did this with no destination in mind and no purpose.  My only goal was to drive a lengthy distance and go through the toll road.  How is that for jacked the mess up?  It is funny and sad all at the same.  Now, that I’ve typed it to be read, I kind of wish I was lying.

 I was a mere 19/20?  I was a young buck for all purposes.  I was out on my own; my parents had long gone off to Indiana.  I had a falling out with the only friend that I had regular contact with (that lived close) and for all sense and purposes, I was alone.  That was when I first started traveling.  Well, if that is what you can really call it.  Like I said, I drove long roads just to go through toll roads.  Pathetic, but for some reason it gave me a sense of going somewhere.   I desperately needed to feel like I was going somewhere.

 At the time I was running away, but  even now I am not sure from what. I tried to convince myself that I was running towards something, but I wasn’t. I was trying to escape whatever life it was that I had.  Or maybe I was actually just feeding that desire of a spirit within.  There is something about traveling and an open road that fulfills me. At least it use to.

 I took some trips as a kid, but my first trip as an adult was to Houston for a baseball game.  That was my first and only live baseball game or at least as of right now.  It was also the first and last time I would/will purposely travel to Houston. Not a fan, but that is kind of besides the point so I will move on.

 When I left Oklahoma and moved to Indiana, my traveling would increase, but I had a destination by then. We have family in Illinois and so I would go over there and visit. Eventually, that traveling grew into more personal destinations.  I call them personal, because they were destinations that would suit a need for me.

 I would really start to travel in 2002. I went to a concert in Missouri and then I followed that up with a trip to Iowa. Over time I would also visit Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.  Doesn’t really seem like a lot, but it was a lot to me.

 Traveling to all those places was an adventure to me. I had destinations and I was exploring new things.  It released this sense of freedom and I felt like I was something more than a speck in the air. It brought something out in me. Traveling to places I’d not seen before, or even places that I had and finding new things to see while there, was like a spark to the dying fire.  It wasn’t about running away any more and it wasn’t about running towards something. It was more like it was about being true to who I am.

 I am a traveler and an adventurer.  I love exploring and seeing places.  I love learning new things and finding those historical places. I love the thought of experiences all those rarities that so many of us have taken for granted.  There is this need in me to make memories and fill this space within.  I guess a wandering soul maybe. I don’t know how to explain it.  It is like one of those connection things that I keep rambling about.  It is an uncontrollable urge that I just cannot seem to kick.

 At least that is what it seemed like until a couple of years ago.  I hadn’t traveled much since I moved to Ohio, but I still have the uncontrollable urge to run.  Now I’m just kind of seeking that place where I belong and that one to settle down with.  It is amazing how things change as we grow older and maybe just purely grow.

 I took a trip to Missouri in Sept 2011.  It was my first trip in three and a half years. I was bound and determine to make it the best that it could be.    I visited Route 66 and Meramec Caverns. I checked out a ghost cave and went zip lining. I saw my bull riders and my favorite bull rider (in which I finally got a picture that he looked like he actually wanted to be in) and I just had an adventure.  The whole trip was mapped out and outside of rain and getting sick on day 2 it was flawless.  At least compared too many of my other trips it was flawless and yet it still seemed as if something was missing.

 It would take me a little bit to realize that it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy traveling.  I still do enjoy traveling, I’m just a little tired of doing it by myself. I’m ready for that one to share my life with and to go adventuring with me. It just isn’t the same as it was when I was 26 versus 36.  Now, where those open roads use to take me to new places, I hope that it takes me to the place where I belong. The one where that cowboy is waiting to sweep me off my feet and everything starts to fall into place a little bit more flawlessly. I’m ready to find out where that open road ends.

 That seems silly I know.  It even seems a little sad, but it isn’t. I know that all roads we travel are for a reason.  There are lessons to be learned at every turn. Provided my roads have been a little longer than I would have preferred, they have all still been a reason.  I’m still a wandering soul that loves to travel the open road and find that off the beaten path trail to hike.  Definitely still that girl and I’m always a little restless and needing to run.  It is just that now, I’m a little bit more opt to making one last trip down that lengthy road and through that toll road without having to worry about turning around and going back to that life I’m ready to leave behind.


Copyright 2013 (photography and writing)


Old Stones


I know that not everyone gets or likes cemetery pictures, but I have a thing about old stones. I love exploring old cemeteries and photographing their most antique of headstones.  I guess that is no odder than those that do those rubbings of headstones.  Back in the day, people photographed their loved ones after they were passed. I’m only photographing the stones placed in memory. 

 I cannot honestly say what my fascination with headstones is.  I kind of love the Civil War era and the older time eras so maybe that is part of it.  There is something about these headstones and the mystery they hold.  There is almost a sense of peace within their vision, but not all of them.  Some of them can feel quite hostile, which probably requires a completely different blog and a little bit of therapy, but that’s a different day.

Today, it is just a need? That doesn’t really seem like the right word.  I often think of death, my death.  For a long time that has haunted me.  I use to have these attacks, almost like panic attacks, about not wanting to die.  I’d often wake up after dreaming of my own funeral, which tended to be quite lonely actually.  It was a strange period in my life.  I didn’t know what caused the fear at first.  Death isn’t really something to fear, because it isn’t something we can control.  THAT is definitely another blog and another time and probably A LOT of therapy. 

I forgot my point.  Me and my tangents, they often get the best of me.  Anyway, I often reflect on death. Maybe it is because it always around us.  There are so many premature deaths and so many who have lived a long life. This could be part of it.  I also have a high regard for life and it makes me sad when someone’s comes to an end.  I cannot help but wonder what their life was like and if it was fulfilled.  I cannot help but ache a little more those that lost their life because of something out of their hands.  Life is just such a blessing that when it ends…I don’t know.

One time I was driving to a western store.  I know, BIG WHOOP, but this story has a point.  I was driving to a store that was two hours away from my home.  I did this as a treat to myself. It gave me a few hours to think and travel as well as shop for the thing that I love (or that I’m addicted to. Potato, potata).  Anyway, this western store’s route allowed me to take back roads all the way.  There was not but country roads, small towns and serenity.  This was my kind of heaven, but on this road there was also a cemetery. This cemetery seemed to play a large part in changing my perspective.

Most people cannot deny that at some point in time they have felt drawn to something. There doesn’t have to be a reason (and there often isn’t), but they are drawn to something or someone.  When we find this, we have this uncontrollable need to do something about it, explore it, or something.  This is what this cemetery did to me.  How jacked the mess up is that? 

On one of my first trips to this western store, I passed by this cemetery.  It was an ordinary cemetery and there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.  There were no old time headstones to be seen.  There were no fresh burials to be noticed and there was nothing about it that really should have made it stand out.  So, why on this green earth I was drawn to it is beyond me, but I was.

In this cemetery, about two or three rows from the road, there was a pinkish marble headstone with flowers.  The flowers for this headstone had fallen over and were a big scattered.  A normal person probably wouldn’t have noticed and I’m not sure why I did. I mean truth be told, I shouldn’t have but I did.  Noticing that the flowers had fell over, I had this uncontrollable need to go set them up and put them back in there place.  I tried to disregard it, because I mean, I didn’t know this person and it wasn’t really my place.  I lost that battle and went back to straighten them up.

I didn’t pay mind to the name on the headstone or the other three that I ended up setting up their flowers.  I just felt that it was something that I needed to do.  It was bizarre and to this day I am still not sure why I felt the need to do that. I still don’t know why I feel the need to give a moment of silence to the headstones that really seem to attract my attention.  I don’t know why I’m drawn to them. It is just one of those things that I have just kind of accepted.  It is an oddness about me that I just hope others don’t hold against me.

Today, as I was photographing and admiring the headstones in this cemetery that I have passed many of times, I was drawn in by a marker.  I cannot call it a headstone, because it wasn’t. It was a cross marker. It was the kind of marker that you usually only see in places where someone lost their life in a car wreck or motorcycle accident.  A cross marker with décor left to show love and remembrance of the person it was meant to honor. I found it odd that it was places in the back of the cemetery where the only other item was one single headstone several steps away.

It was obvious that the headstone had nothing to do with the cross marker and I was torn as to which one to explore first. The headstone intrigued me, not only because it was old but because it was all by its lonesome.  It was in a portion of the field all by its lonesome. It was so far from the other headstones that it was reminded me of a Catholic cemetery where they bury the sinners away from the other burials or a Civil War cemetery where they buried the non-whites away from the other soldiers.  I was intrigued by the fact that it was by its lonesome.

I couldn’t help, but wonder why.  Had this person disgraced his family?  He couldn’t have been unknown, because he has a pretty prominent headstone for that time period.  Had his family moved away before they passed and there was no one else to bury in that area?  I don’t know. It did make me wonder a bit about my future and what my burial would entail. I won’t go into detail, but I couldn’t help but wonder and fear a little that I would be a lonely headstone out in the middle of a field away from all the rest.

After a few minutes of wondering about this magnificently mysterious headstone, I made my way to the cross. The cross bared a name and a date.  It also donned flowers, pictures, wind chimes, and a note.  It was apparent that someone still often visited this site. Most likely a mother lost, having lost her child and not ever truly being able to move on.  There was such pain and sadness that is still making my heart ache a little bit.

The pictures were obviously newer than the headstone was old, but they had faded from time and weather.  Still the image of a beautiful young woman was visible.  The hair curly as would be in style for that time period and a smile that may or may not have been pure at the time. The flowers were faded, but also had not been there as long as the cross. Another note, plain and clear, stating that the girl’s who name the cross bared had been killed here.  The pain became more evitable at that point.  I stood there mourning her for a moment. This stranger I did not know, but that had lost her life tragically and unnecessarily. So much unnecessary sadness.

I would find out later, because I was intrigued and looked it up (her name seemed awfully familiar), that she had been raped and murdered at the mere age of 16. It would take them many of years to capture the animal that did and he would eventually get life in prison. Still it would not replace the pain and lost that I’m sure the family and friends still feel. That I feel for them. It is moments like that I am reminded how precious this life is and I respect it a little bit more than the moments before.

I don’t know why I am drawn to the things that I am drawn to. I do not know why I find serenity in the old headstones that grace the cemeteries. I just know that those headstones hold details to someone else’s life and I know that this life is the one and only one that we get. Or at least the only one we get to remember and that is worth making note of.



 Copyright 2013 ~SMH~

(picture and writing)

Jury Duty and the Forgotten


 All day I kept picturing this image above.  I was summoned for jury duty and there is a lot of downtime.  I don’t do well with downtime and my brain just started wondering off into a world of its own.  Oh what a world it is.

 This picture is actually of a room in (I believe) a historical  State’s building in Illinois.  I know that is in Illinois.  I know that it is in a historical place and I know that I snapped the picture.  Beyond that my memory fails me.  This was many of years ago and I was in tourist mode so I was stopping at almost anything that struck my interest.  Anyone that knows me knows that isn’t something that I really do.  I do get in moods and this was one of those trips, but that is neither here nor there to the point.

 Anyway, back to hat point. So, I’m sitting there in the jury room bored out of my frickin’ mind. They made us watch this video about jury duty and how they did it back in the days of King Arthur.  And when I say that this video was about jury duty, I mean it was about jury duty.  I felt like I was an 8th grader sitting through the judicial system in social studies.  This video broke down everything.

 So, as I’m sitting there watching this video I start thinking about this room in the State’s building.  I could see all of the middle to old aged men sitting in the chairs and behind the desk.  They were all decked out in the black robes and wearing their white, curly haired wigs with these frowns of seriousness on their faces.  Each man would present his case and the others would listen attentively. There were no interruptions and no whispering.  It was an honor to be elected back then and they took the deed seriously.

Things have changed greatly since then.  During my time today they asked how many were excited to get that summons in the mail.  Out of 140 people, maybe 10 raised their hands.  Believe me, I was not one of them.  It is not that I have anything against jury duty, I’ve served before, but getting that summons is always an annoyance.  It is always one more thing that I have to do that I do not want to be forced to do.  However, at least I know what jury duty is. 

One of the jury managers told us a story about how she had to literally sit on the phone with someone for half and hour explaining what jury duty actually was. The girl told her that she had never heard of such a thing before.  I was taken back.  I learned about jury duty back in elementary school.  More in depth learning of the judicial system came later in years, but back in the day we were taught those things.  Curriculum has lapsed greatly.

 I was speaking with a woman next to me that was elected for the same jury as I was.  She private tutors for extra cash and was telling me how cursive and complete sentences are truly not part of the elementary curriculum anymore.  She asked this information of a teacher and was told that it just can’t be included.  The budget just isn’t big enough to include half of what they already do teach.  How sad is that?

 It made me begin to wonder just what is in store for our future. People that not only do not know what jury duty means, but they also cannot comprehend a summons that for all sakes of the meaning is in laymen terms.  Our future will be in the hands of those that have not learned to form a complete thought, because they were not taught how to form and convey a complete thought.  Now, by no means am I perfect and heaven knows that my writing is often in need of help.  The sad part about that is, they taught all of this when I was in school and my knowledge has just faded over time.  It has faded, because we are not always put in the situations where we can use it or we are not held accountable for it. Now, we’re just purely not teaching kids these things?  That scares me.

 How do people make decisions that affect others when they don’t have the proper education to even understand the decision that they are going to make?  How are they going to properly represent when they cannot even properly form the simplest of sentences?  What happens when technology is down and we have to rely on our brains to help us decide for something? I don’t know.  I think the curly headed guys of the past would be a bit disappointed in the fact that in some ways they were more advanced than we are.  They were forced to use their brains in their entirety and not just “get by”.  At least that is the way it appears to me.

 I don’t know what is about jury duty that makes people cringe besides that annoyance of having to clear our schedule for something that is not our decision, but I do know that is a learning experience that we could all take to heart. Not just in experiencing something new, but being reminded of the things that people just do not know.  I think maybe it is time we got back to the basics and start teaching some of those lessons that have long been forgotten.  I mean in reality no one should have to ask what jury duty is. Maybe what it entails, but not what it is.  More importantly, writing a complete sentence should be second nature (even if we don’t always do it, but we should at least know how).

Copyright 2013 ~SMH~ (writing and photograph)