I wonder...

It amazes me when Hubby and I spend time out on the Harley, which we do quite often, the difference in the neighborhoods.  Where we live you go from suburban, to urban to country in a fluid motion, the changes are often jarring and highly noticeable.  Yet, I don't really understand it at all.

It seems like in suburbia it's all become about shopping. There are stores, shops and more stores and shops on every corner.  Everyone is in a hurry to get to a store, because evidently that is where one finds something that is missing in their lives.  I can't tell you how stressful it is traveling through our little town.  We have almost gotten hit several times, by people that refuse to turn their heads before radically changing lanes - their eyes solely focused on whatever shop they are heading to.  There are tons of restaurants and fast food on every corner, they always have their parking lots filled and a constant din of noise radiating from within. Suburbia seems to be on a constant pulse, no time to appreciate all that is around us, no where to take the next breath.

Hubby and his family used to go to this drive in theater

Slowly falling into rest

The urban areas are far more dark and shocking.  All around there is decay and loss.  That is simply the overwhelming feeling.  I often ponder these areas in particular.  I am fascinated by them. They are hauntingly beautiful, the architecture of the past is breath taking.  I wonder what caused the people that live in these areas to simply stop caring.  Maybe they didn't stop, every now and again there is a snippet of that past beauty still thriving.  But it is rare. The buildings are often barred and blocked.  Decaying where they stand.  It is not unusual to see a tree growing beside a carefully carved gargoyle, nature taking back over what was once its domain.

Smoothest brick roads ever! Found in East St. Louis


Hubby often tells me stories of  these places from their heyday.  He was born and raised here, he remembers when the main street of East St. Louis was thriving, filled with gardens and graceful beauty.  I have seen pictures of it from long ago.  They are such a sharp contrast to the ones I take today. Hard to believe that in the course of a lifetime a city so dedicated to beauty and quality could become a shell of it's former self.  I rarely find any gardens on our journeys through there.  Although every now and then I do find one of the beautiful old homes maintained with love and care.
That's something to be proud of!
Last weekend we were out enjoying the day, while my cousins were at their program.  We stumbled upon a treasure.  We had stopped for a train and I wanted a picture of the sign for Brooklyn.  It was proudly proclaiming the oldest incorporated black community, I don't know why I like to record these signs.  It's a quirk I guess.  A I got off to stretch my legs a bit, I noticed an overgrown area across the street from a huge industrial site. Curiosity got the better of me, where those headstones that I'd seen?

They were, there on the side of the road was a long forgotten, unloved and uncared for cemetery. I personally will not wander into a cemetery like that, it was in a complete state of upheaval.  Over grown, stones moved this way and that.  I don't know if it is fear or respect, maybe a mix of both.  Hubby does not have my qualms and he boldly strolled through that sad beautiful place.  Both of us paying respect to memories long forgotten.


left behind...

Another place, another time we are riding through the past up in Calhoun and Jersey counties, this is pure country up here.  These are families that came centuries before and stayed. Here the signs proudly proclaim their existence since 1847 and older.  These were the original families that settled these areas.

caught him sampling!
The old hotel in Brussels has been there since 1847, just a wide spot in the road.  It's had many lives in the past 167 years, it's provided food, shelter, and many basic needs.  There was a time the grand old girl served as part of the "Underground Railroad" providing shelter to slaves as they made their way to freedom.  It's just inside of Illinois (a free state), not too far from Missouri (a slave state) and many black American's made their way to freedom in its cavernous basement.  Today it simply provides a cool beverage, a small antique shop and an amazing meal family style in the restaurant.  Where the tables still have real linens and you actually have crystal servers on the tables.  The Hotel itself is long since closed due to threats of lawsuits from ADA proponents.  It's heart breaking that something historic and of value for what it was is not safe from that kind of governmental intrusion.

As you ramble through the flowing hills the beauty of the fields, the farms, the communities will steal your breath and transport you.  There are barn quilts proudly displayed everywhere you turn.  Some are bold and easy to find, some far simpler and slightly hidden.  Rare is the faded out one.  Most are bold and bright. Many have the farm name and established date written there for the world to see.
Odd snippets of nature in between the towns

Frightened the little duckie...
As we roam, none of this is more that 50 miles in any direction.  I am always struggling to understand why the difference exists.  Why do some communities that are so old, precious and rare, work so hard to retain the very essence of who and what they are to the world around them. They aren't wealthy areas, the people in some of these communities work sun up to sun down to barely scrape by.  The pride they have simply shows.  Life moves at a slower more consistent, more intentional pace.

beauty that they own...
The urban areas seem blighted.  Like a horrible disease has come through, robbing them of the will to fight back.  To hold on to the gracious beauty that is decaying around them. It is hard for me to truly understand this.  I am often curious as to what could make proud, kind, caring people simply stop caring.  I pray all the time that someone will be brave enough to make the change in that community that it so desperately needs.  Even if it is simply planting flower and vegetable gardens in those vacant fields.  Sadly, it cannot be an outsider, it cannot be a corporation or a benefactor.  It will have to be organic, it will have to come from within. Unless you can understand what has broken the spirit of that great city, you cannot hope to give back what's been stolen from it.

In my suburban areas... Life is moving too fast.  There is nothing in all those stores that will fill the holes.  Cookie cutter houses designed to make developers rich and big box stores filled with trinket and toys do not fill the voids.  They were never meant to.

As I head out to work in my garden this morning, to harvest some dandelions for both my lizard and myself (my cousin sent me a recipe that has my head spinning, I feel I must try it) I wonder if suburbia is not just the stepping stone to the next decaying urban area.

Some of the areas we travel through at one time were thriving industrial areas for us.  They were responsible for manufacturing the items we needed for this country.  Most of the manufacturing is outsourced to other countries now.  In our quest for more and cheaper have we sold our soul? Have we sold ourselves into a far more vile form of slavery than the type we defeated so long ago?

Our food is not local, we don't have backyard gardens any longer.  If we did those vacant lots would be producing the food that many in the urban environment live without.  Our families would be healthy and well-fed.  We wouldn't always be searching for the next great deal at the local discount store, for items shipped from the far east.

The difference I noticed, was that no one in those flourishing old communities were reaching out to the government for help, I did see one "government housing" area in one town.  It was sad, people were broken, the area was broken.  When you take away a person's pride you leave ashes of that person.
Maybe we shouldn't count on a government that is only for itself...
The things I see from the back of the Harley, make me proud to be a "different" kind of person. Make me glad that I am dreaming of my garden, the lotion bar I am going to make with those dandelions, they make me glad that I am strong enough to not give in.

I pray for our country, I pray that those folks I photograph sitting forlornly midst the ruin of their communities will stop, reflect and realize that they are the solution.  They can't wait for another solution to come, there isn't anyone, any thing, any entity that can bring what they have lost.  They have to do it themselves.  Take back their pride, show their skills, and don't let anyone subject them to less.  And for those of us in suburbia - STOP IT! Go home, cook, garden, create, do something, but stop the mindless, endless shopping.

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