Sometimes the most beautiful moments rise from the deepest of wounds. in 2014 my father passed away in March, and then on October 23, 2013 my ex-husband’s brother lost his life-long battle with depression, and took his own life, which you can read more about here. Brian was only 35 when he died. On the first anniversary of his death, it was important to me to do something with my daughters to honor their uncle without focusing on his final act, caused by an ugly disease. We visited his grave-site first, relatives next, and finished the day visiting some of my favorite places.
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
― Walt Whitman,
The first house has been featured on the site previously.
The next location is another abandoned farm, also previously on the site. This is a house I love to photograph because all of the elements are there for magnificent pictures, but the location the roof is caving in, the broken glass shards jut out from the grass, and hang off of the windows.
The instant my boots touched the grass, goosebumps rose on my arms, my heart hammered behind my ribcage, as I scanned the property for the invisible eyes I felt watching me. Boards creaked, foundation groaned, and doors slammed from inside the house, as I crouched in the yard snapping photos. Just one more shot, I whispered to myself. A loud clang erupted from the front room, and the boards swung precariously beneath the balcony. The knot in my gut twisted furiously, telling me it was time to go. Whatever lived in this house has always made itself known to me. I have always respected it, never crossing the line. Not to mention, structurally, this house is very dangerous. When we left, all of the batteries in all of my electronics had been drained again, just as they were the previous visit.
Driving down the highway, inhaling the clean air of the storm on the horizon, I noticed a boarded-up house hidden behind a grove of trees. Over-grown weeds surrounded the house, shooting little barbed stickers, like little plant security guards. An old couch and some other furniture littered the porch, and the large crimson words spray painted warn onlookers to stay out.
None of the windows were broken or boarded, and the house itself is quite remarkable. I only hope one day it is treated with the love and time it deserves.
The Lunch Bucket was once a restaurant outside of Plattsmouth, Nebraska. I took a few pictures if it last summer, which I will share. As we drove home on October 23, watching the sun plunge over the horizon, casting it’s brilliant colors upon the storm clouds, we passed the Lunch Bucket. I pulled over. I could not remember the last time I had watched the sunset with my daughters.
We stepped out of the truck into the buttery light, all of us silently watching the sky. When I first moved to Nebraska from New Mexico, I remember thinking, how will I ever learn to like it here? There is nothing at all here to explore. With mountains, the Native American ruins, deserts, and canyons there were endless opportunities in New Mexico to explore. As I stood there with three of the people I love most in this world, thinking about two other people we have lost, gazing over the other side of the road, I realized I am right where I belong. I have learned so much in the last several years.
The photograph above is titled, Brian’s Promise. Brian would not want to be remembered for his final act, but rather the kind, creative, caring person his friends and family knew him to be. It is the promise of no matter what, the sun will set and darkness will settle, but the light will always return. If we cherish those we love and wait out the shadows, the sun will rise again.
“If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good help to you nevertheless
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you”
― Walt Whitman,
People ask me all the time why I photograph these decaying structures, and I struggle to put it into words. The entire ritual is an emotional process for me, just as with any creative endeavor. As I drive around searching for them, scanning the Nebraska countryside, I blast music, belting out the chorus, laughing or crying -depending on my mood. If I’m alone, I am deep in thought, processing everything. If my husband is along for the ride, we talk and joke. Once I scout a possible place, my heart races, and I can hardly contain my excitement. I imagine the family who once inhabited the home and what they might have looked like. I think about children scampering around the yard and a Golden Retriever nipping their heels. I consider a death or a bank foreclosure causing them to lose their home. Months turn into years as the seasons change; chipping the paint, ripping away the splintered wood, blowing off shingles, and shattering the windows. I imagine their ancestors driving by, slowing down as they pass the house, remembering who once lived inside the house. I photograph every angle, appreciating its beauty, even as nature reclaims it. I remember what might have been, and what someone intended it to be. I try to capture all of those emotions into my photographs. They are not just abandoned buildings and houses. They are people’s stories long forgotten. I want to be certain my photos speak volumes without uttering one single word. They continue speaking to me long after I leave, through my memories and my photos. I only hope they reach others as well.
I take these pictures to tell those stories, and to share them with the world because I feel they are important. Like those of use who are broken, imperfect, scarred, and flawed, these abandoned places are not truly abandoned.
The house below was on a working farm, so I grabbed a few quick snapshots from my truck window. I plan to go back when I can ask for permission. It was a beautiful old limestone with completely hollowed out windows and doors, so I will be back!
Trish Eklund is the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, and Family Fusion Community, an online resource for blended families of all types. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over and Pocket Abandoned. Check out the new Bonanza Store for AFD merchandise! Follow on Instagram and Facebook. Trish is regularly featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Divorce, and Her View From Home. She has also been featured on Making Midlife Matter, and The Five Moms, and has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz.