The Narrows, Sunbury, Pa.

Speaking of home, timauman over at Flickr has uploaded a bunch of scans of old postcards and photos from Sunbury (and surrounding towns) and they are fantastic.

I wanted to share this one, a particular favorite of mine. It is strange and wonderful to see a place so familiar depicted in such a picturesque way. The way those towns look now is so enormously different than what is depicted in the images. The Opera House and The Trolley in Northumberland are absolutely amazing.


So, I Visit.

Center Road.

Center Road.

I can trace the way back to my birthplace over the worn asphalt roads with my eyes closed. Finding my way through the stretch of Pennsylvania that separates me from there is a second nature, like breathing or sleeping, now in my 24th year. I inhale the warm air pushing through wide open car windows, blink against the sunlight and listen to the groaning hum of my car's engine in it's impaired state, later to be found out as a misfiring 3rd cylinder. The language of traveling here is laden with numbers and sharp turns in small towns; the long left off of 309 to 54, the sharp right off of 54 to 61, the steep hill where 42 begins it's long journey over the Blue Ridge and down into Catawissa. This is what I love, what I am, who I am, what I look for in other places around the country as beauty, as home.

Stacked Wood. Clothes Line.

Stacked Wood, Clothes Line.

I have said this time and time again but the landscape of central Pennsylvania is who I am. My heart is the rise and fall of the smooth Appalachian mountains, my veins the neglected back roads, my skin the fields. I cannot talk of myself without speaking, conflicted, about this place.

Front Porch II. Front Porch.

Front Porch at Amy's.

Yet, when I am here, I am an outsider, a foreigner. I know better than to think, to pretend that I belong here. I see the short comings of small-town life and the darkness of my personal history stings like a fresh cut. The memories of growing up here rise out of the back of the mind without much evocation; the corner at 8th and Orange, the building where I went to elementary and middle school, the long hill up to the development I played in. They are there, thick and real and vivid and living. I could not live among those ghosts, those formative years as a person in the present.

Amy & Dan's Garage. Amy's Kitchen Window.

Garage, Kitchen Window.

So, I visit. I drive down Market Street in Sunbury and stop at the local hippie shop for moccasins, visit my grandmother on Orange Street in Northumberland for conversation, meander around the life I lived here in my Volkswagen and head out to Amy's house for laughter, beer, food, and dusk.

Amy & Dan's, At Dusk.

Amy & Dan's, at Dusk.

Dusk at Amy's, my aunt, has the type of long light that I have trouble finding where I live now. The shadows get long and parody the objects that they are and the light turns purple and flat as the sun disappears slowly over edge of the soy bean field. Here, in the garage or the warm kitchen or the softly lit living room, I like to watch the sun's light diminish and listen to the sounds of night come up. Here, the fireflies blink randomly in numbers than border the thousands and the quiet is expansive.

Locust Treet

Locust Tree.

I am always reluctant to leave. The force that it takes to get me into my car and drive away is all that I can muster against my will to stay.


Unsurprisingly, I have been watching, like everyone else, the slope the American economy has been sliding down the last year or so. I am disheartened and worried and cynical and terrified about what the future holds for this country; I fret about my money as well as my future on a regular basis, even though I am relatively gainfully employed. I have seen and benefited greatly from, in my brief 24 years on this planet, a hugely prosperous upswing in the economy and watched, wide-eyed and stupid, as the foundation of the American way of life in late 20th and early 21st century fell out from underneath everyone. It is obvious to cite the 65 banks that have closed since 2008, note the bankruptcy and failures of GM and Chrysler as well as Ford's shortcomings, the deflation of the housing market and the joblessness that is reported back to me everyday.

It's all beating a dead horse, really. I can't say anything about the economic situation of the last 2 years that hasn't already been articulated and explored better than I can.

What I see in times of seemingly endless struggle, however, is re-examining the way Americans have been living the last 50 years. We have been ever-expanding outward; bigger, better, faster, newer without considering the consequences of the precious land and the vast, gorgeous history that has been sacrificed for our culture of empty, mindless buying and the inherently American need to own a piece of that land for ourselves.

I see the shift when I work out at the Rodale Institute, watching the expanding interest in organic, sustainable and local food. I hear about it when wind and solar energy is slowly starting to be the new go-to for powering our country, as opposed to fossil fuels.

So, when I read about Flint, Michigan's plans to shrink itself in order to save it, I was amazed. It sounds so counter-intuitive to what Americans think of as a means of prosperity and yet, by making a town (especially that has struggled so notoriously as Flint has) smaller makes so much sense. By bringing the town back to a center and making it more concentrated around that center, it becomes more sustainable, accessible and and economically viable. While I am not saying that decision to give up the house that one has worked so hard to make home is an easy one, to let go of the idea that "This is mine and it will always be mine" for the larger good of a failing community seems like a strange and refreshingly good idea.

Big Box Reuse is a photography project by Julia Christensen about the ways in which people and organizations have taken closed Big Box stores and re-imagined them into places of worship, art, community, health and learning. It is well known that the construction and openings of such places as Wal-mart and Home Depot kills local economies and businesses and to see the space that such places of huge consumerism once occupied reused and remade into a places of purpose is refreshing and inspiring.