Chapter 1: Fresh Air
I took a deep breath, breathing in the crisp cool air. It felt like this day would never come. Every year as the winters seem to get more harsh and last longer, I often wonder if one day they will just never end. I will be stuck in a never ending winter and wonâ€™t get to enjoy the few months of summer that North Dakota offers. Itâ€™s funny to hear the older generations talk of the harsh winters we have been having and how things were, â€œback in their day.â€ That is one phrase I feel I could die a happy person if I never heard again. It was finally here though, spring. It kept pretending to show up, it would get to be warm, then quickly cool down and snow again. For the most part it didnâ€™t impact city life but it was torture when all I wanted to do was explore the country side.
I grew up in North Dakota all my life, living in the city. I do love city life. I love the convenience of everything being available when I need it. I have family that lives in the country and I would frequently spends weeks with them during the summer. It was exhausting and I couldnâ€™t wait to be home. I had to work for everything, food, clothes, and entertainment. I knew the value in doing it but I hated when my parents told me I was going. I tried every excuse to get out of it, but in the end I always lost. I always preferred to get my steak from the grocery store and not be told the name of my dinner. It was hard to enjoy dinner when you saw Doris in the morning and then ate her at night. I would stop eating meat those summers and no one could understand why.
It had been warming up over the past few weeks, however, this was the first time that the country roads seemed to actually dry up. For the last few years I found the one past time that really helped me forget about work and the stresses of life, photography. In high school and college I always took photography courses. I preferred black and white photography and playing around in a dark room. Taking the pictures was always a chore, but being able to manipulate them into amazing black and white photos, thatâ€™s where I always had the most fun. However, it wasnâ€™t practical to have a full dark room in an apartment and I finally gave into the digital craze. I bought a really nice expensive SLR that I knew nothing about and started to take pictures, to just forget about work and everything else that would be bothering me.
It always amazed me how this hobby evolved. I just started taking pictures of random things around town or go on walks. Friends and family would hear that I had a nice camera and have me take pictures of events and such. Which was fun, but turned into work. One day I was driving out of town on my way to a family reunion in a small town and I decided to take the road less traveled. As I was driving and looking at the scenery, I noticed a beautiful tree standing alone on the hillside. The light pierced the branches and made it look surreal. It was picturesque, there were not power lines or other houses to obstruct the view. It looked untouched and natural, like a scene from the past. I immediately stopped the car and took some photos from different angles and with different settings. Before I knew it an hour had passed but it felt like only minutes. Later when I uploaded the images, I realized how truly breathtaking they were. It was my favorite photo, and I had a large print made. Everyone who comes to my apartment sees it and asks where I got it, they never believe I took it and that it was taken so close to home. It seems like the presence of man is everywhere and has destroyed all natural beauty. It is always nice to come across something natural or from the past that few have seen before.
From that time forward, I always take the road less traveled and explore the countryside.Â It is my escape from the fast paced city life and the demands everyone places on you.Â I can think clearly and hear nothing, but birds sing and crickets chirp. Today was finally the day, the day I felt that the country roads would be dry enough to drive on without getting stuck.Â They would still have huge divots and be messy because the roads would not have had a chance to be maintained by the county yet, but that just helped me find the roads less traveled.
It was weird how I always felt a sense of excitement when I would drive the country roads, like I was an explorer finding something that hadnâ€™t been seen before or had been abandoned for years.Â I always have my favorite photographs displayed, and people who saw them would comment on how thatâ€™s the Thompsonâ€™s old barn or Metzerâ€™s old pickup that they left in the field.Â Â Â It always amazed me that everyone still remembered these places and buildings. How could something so old not be forgotten by everyone? Then I would remember that there had to be memories somewhere that someone had of the building. At some point someone used to have to use it for its intended purpose. Someone would have had to play in that barn. Everyone knew that barns and old buildings made the best hiding places when playing with friends. With every photo I took, I always wondered the story behind the picture. Sometimes during the winter when I’d get bored, I’d research the photos and see if I could figure out the back story of the building. I usually only found who it belonged to. I never really went any further than that. I usually lost interest as it always seemed to be owned by familiar family names and I knew the real history would never be as exciting as the one I’d imagine.