Steeple Chasing

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I’m a Sagittarius. The need to travel was given to me by the stars. I need travel like a plant needs water. Without it, I’ll wither up and die.

The last time I had a real, honest to goodness vacation was a trip to Arizona two and a half years ago. Since then, I had a three day trip to Colorado for Christmas and two trips to Alabama to see my dying father and attend his funeral. The last two, I don’t count.

I used to go on one good vacation every summer. I’d usually go to Colorado to climb a fourteener with my brother. Sometimes, I’d go by myself. I went to Yellowstone two summers in a row, once by myself and once with my niece. I absolutely love western Wyoming in the summer, so it was worth going twice.

I feel the lack of travel withering my soul. I watch as other people post photos of their trips on Facebook. I follow a lot of photojournalists and professional photographers on Instagram who are constantly going to exciting places. Even their not-so-exciting trips fill me with a terrible yearning to hit the road.

There are many excuses I use not to travel right now. Since losing my higher paying job almost two years ago, I haven’t felt comfortable spending money on anything extravagant like a trip. I didn’t want to use credit and I clung to every penny I had to get me through the lean times. I’ve been unemployed now for four months since quitting my last job, so travel is completely out of the question until I remedy that situation. Even when I get a job, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get one that pays grown-up money, so traveling may not be in the cards anyway.

I love my house, but it has become a prison the last four months. I go to yoga a couple times a week. I go to the gym. I go to the grocery store. The rest of the time, I try to keep myself occupied with little projects, so I don’t go crazy.

I hated working at the lab. I hated the production-like responsibilities. I hated that they weren’t happy with you unless you devoted your entire life to that place, which I was never willing to do. The money was good enough, though, that I couldn’t make myself leave because who else was going to pay me that much money, right? I felt as trapped as Aron Ralston (you know, the guy who got his arm trapped by a boulder and had to saw it off to survive). Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but it FELT that way. I was afraid to unlock the door to my prison even though I had the key in my hand the whole time.

I feel exactly the same way now. I see no way out of my current predicament. I see no way that I’ll ever get out of here, even for a week long vacation, much less permanently. And I was okay with that when I thought it would give me the time to take all the classes I needed to become a decent enough designer to start freelancing.  Now that appears to be off the table as well, because all the jobs that I can get want me to work weird midday shifts that leave me no time to work in a class. Besides, taking one class at a time is taking too long.

I used to jump in my car and go on small road trips all the time, too. That was before I leased a car which keeps me limited on the number of miles I can put on it. (I’ve built my prison really well this time, haven’t I?)

Well, today I took a little road trip anyway. It wasn’t anything fancy. I just needed to see something different. I drove for about six hours through rural Nebraska. I shot photos out the car window as I was driving. I call it drive-by photography. It’s hit or miss, but sometimes I get a good one. It’s hard to stop on those rural highways.

I also decided to continue steeple chasing. I just made that term up–pretty good, huh? Trademark. According to the internet steeple experts, time was rather arbitrary until recent years. Most people set their watches according to the sun, so everybody’s watch was set a little differently. It was difficult to say “Church is at nine,” when no one’s watch was set to the same time. Churches used bells to announce services and since the sound needed to travel quite a distance, they had to be built into a very high structure, like a tower.

With the advent of modern timekeeping, the bells are no longer necessary. They’ve evolved into steeples, usually with a cross on top. Next time you’re out in the country, keep an eye out. You’ll see a steeple long before you’re able to see the actual town. It’s the same even in the cities. Look for high points in your city and you will probably find a church up there.

So that’s what I did. I looked above the treetops and found church after church. In one town, population 494, there were three churches all huddled together on the high point of town. I’m very interested in the architecture of churches, especially old Catholic churches. Churches built before the 1950’s are usually very beautiful architecturally. Anything built after that time has no real personality, in my opinion.

It’s also harvest time, so I got a few photos of combines in the field. Harvest time is busy season in the lab. They will do over a million soil samples within two to three months. It’s incredibly insane the amount of hours that people are expected to put in and I’m grateful to never have to endure another soil season again.

My little day trip didn’t take care of the yearning in my soul, but it did keep me occupied for a bit and made me wonder if perhaps I should try to unlock my prison door. I do hold the key, after all.

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