Tag Archives: Illinois

Of Houses and Time

Countless vacant and abandoned houses are scattered over the American prairie and plains, headstones marking the passage of a rural way of life nearly gone as the face of agriculture has changed.  Each house has stories to tell, imprinted in front porch wood, kitchen walls, or the stones of an empty hearth.  A faded curtain moves in the breeze, and for a moment, murmuring voices are heard.  In the arid southwest, homes carved into cliffside ledges mark the presence of an entire civilization.  These Anasazi ruins speak of the passing of “The Ancient Ones,” a people whose origin and fate are unknown.  Stories live here as well, told in voices so old they are part of the land itself.  The Anasazi stone houses, empty now for about a thousand years, are likely to outlast the abandoned rural home of far newer vintage.  When this prairie house is torn down or burned, what will become of its stories?  Photos: Livingston County Illinois, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County Arizona.

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Shadow of the Equinox

As today’s Autumnal Equinox passes in silence, and daylight stands in balance with night for one day, golden fields of corn and soybeans are but days from harvest. The land yields to open space without windbreak or cover for pheasants and deer. A darkening sky will soon foretell snow instead of rain as a primeval chill settles upon the land. Autumn will reluctantly give its domain to winter as colors fade, sunlight contracts, and the spirit of the land retreats into itself to wait for spring. As it bids a brief greeting, fall exclaims its essence in vibrant symphonies across the prairie.

 

 

The transition of autumn is glorious and inspiring, yet it is laced with endings. Perhaps that is why it seems to be the shortest season. Photos: Kane County, Illinois and Jo Daviess County, Illinois.

When the world was young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a time when many of America’s children gained their education in one-room schoolhouses.  As much a fixture of rural life as the horse and plow, the schoolhouses vanished as the number of farms dwindled, as people migrated to cities and towns, as the agrarian dominance of the country’s workforce passed away.  Most have been torn down, but here and there an isolated and empty schoolhouse remains.  If you listen closely when it is quiet and the wind is just right, you can hear the voices and laughter of children, carefree and young and full of delight at knowing the world was limitless and it belonged to them.  Ogle County, Illinois (left) and Stephenson County, Illinois (right).

Sic Transit Gloria

Many years ago one could travel nearly anywhere by train.  The journeys could be long, sometimes involving connections with other trains and different railroads, but the process was reliable.  That era has passed, as impatient travelers of today think only of destination and little of journey.  Railroad stations, the portals at the beginning and end of the train-travel journey, have slowly disappeared from small towns and big cities alike.  Now empty, the stations wait along abandoned tracks for trains that will never arrive. Weeds grow where passengers once stood. The travelers have gone elsewhere and the portals have closed.  Lee County, Illinois.