Under the Weather

Standing at the base of the school in the shadows of the towering ruins, the vegetation took on the feeling of a tropical jungle as I gazed up at the beautiful Victorian Queen Anne construction. A set of ominous clouds were settling in overhead, darkening the sky and unleashing claw-like shadows from the branches which slithered across the sculpted stone. Powerful thunder shook the ground beneath my feet and I stumbled in surprise as the sky opened up and delivered a heavy rain of torrential proportions. Within seconds I was drenched and as the wind kicked up I turned my attention back to the jungle before me and took off running in search of a way in. I followed the wall along the front of the building and as I rounded the corner I swept the drenched hair from my face as I spotted a small hole that resembled an entrance to a cave. Very dark and somewhat creepy, I blinked the rain from my eyes as I looked further down for another way in but the next round of thunder brought intense lightning and I dove inside.

Assembly (2)

Soaking wet and disoriented, I pulled the flashlight from my backpack and scanned my surroundings. I was in the basement, standing in front of two elevator shafts holding the mangled remnants of birdcage style cars which had crashed to the bottom long ago. I moved quickly toward a glimmer of light off in the distance and as I pulled open a heavy steel door, I was relieved to find a stairwell which offered bright light at the top. Ascending from the depths of darkness, I emerged behind the stage in the auditorium. The rain was pouring in through the rotting roof and I was careful to avoid the disinigrating wood as I made my way to the front of the platform. Balancing on the remaining beams I looked out over all the seats and thought of the students that had once occupied them as they pursued their studies in such areas as music, dance and drama.

I hopped down and sloshed through the puddles as I made my way up the right isle and through a set of rusted doors as the next round of thunder shook the building. I followed the darkened hallways as they twisted and turned until the low ceilings opened up into the main hall. Upon its opening in 1890, the boarding school attracted many prominent families whose daughters left home to obtain a high end education on these once gorgeous grounds. The master staircase which escorted these ladies stood in all its tired glory within the streams of light showcasing it as they cast down from above. Its solid oak banisters and exquisite craftsmanship were covered under forty years of dust and debris and I stepped onto the bottom step to test its strength. The wood cried out beneath my feet as if acknowledging the presence of the long departed students and as it held my weight I cautiously began my ascent.

new york trip aughust 2011 092_1_wm

With each step the light became brighter until I was flooded with it as I came to a stop on the top floor. I stood in awe at the view in front me as it was not simply windows which let the light in, but the absence of the roof overhead. It had caved in, taking this floor with it to the one below. Curiosity fueled my actions and adrenaline coursed through my viens as I grasped the nearest doorframe and inched my toes to the end of the splintered wood to have a look. Holding on tightly, I leaned over the edge and followed the path of destruction which had become a wasteland of fractured doors, crumbled drywall and shattered glass below.  As I stretched just a bit more I felt my fingers slip ever so slightly and my heart stopped. Taking one swift step backwards, I swung back into the safety of the doorway and took a deep breath as I waited for the pounding in my chest to subside before heading in the opposite direction.

new york trip aughust 2011 100_1_wm

As I made my way through the halls I found the rooms empty, left to Mother Nature as she laid claim to them with the Ivy imploding from the windows. I quickly moved to the end of the hall and took the stairs to the floor below where I discovered yet more empty rooms. The sound of my steps echoed throughout the halls as I kept my pace until something caught my eye halfway down. Just inside the door a teacher’s desk stood solemnly with its chair slightly pulled back as if waiting eternally for her to return. But she never came as the school closed its doors in the mid ’70s after losing the struggle to compete with the gaining popularity of co-education.  As I stood in the doorway I watched as the room began to brighten and I looked to the windows to see the storm had died down and the clouds were dispersing, moving on just as the students had done. It was time for me to do the same. Turning on my heel, I left the room and took the last set of steps back to the ground floor where I came upon a broken window and took the opportunity to reenter the outside world.

Coming out at the back of the property into a small overgrown courtyard, I followed the cracked asphalt back to the main road, tossed my stuff in the car and drove along the border of the property. As I approached the front I noticed a car had stopped on the side of the road and I pulled off behind it. I got out and joined a young woman who also had the notion to take pictures of the place and I brought out my camera and did the same. “It certainly is beautiful, isn’t it?” She asked as I snapped a few shots. “Yes it is.” I agreed as I looked up at her. “I’ve come here for years to capture this place before it completely falls in on itself.” She looked dreamily through her lens as she spoke to me. “If it’s this stunning from the outside, can you imagine what the inside is like?” I smiled over the top of my camera as she happily clicked away. “I can imagine it would be amazing.”

Advertisements

The Wolfe’s Den

Mine

 

Hello all, according to my last post it has been almost a year since I released a new story! So much has happened in the past ten months and I am just so excited to have logged back into WordPress and put my eyes on my blog again! I have been extremely busy learning and growing as both a writer and a photographer and, although it is something that I absolutely love doing, it has taken me away from my blog for some time now. Last February I embarked on the journey of writing a novel and it is this which consumes my time. In one year’s time I have completely outlined the storyline, written my first draft (In just six weeks when it takes the average writer up to six months!), edited it and I am now in the process of preparing a complete rewrite. In addition to this I have continued with my explores, collecting countless photos and story ideas to share with you all. I have even spent the night in an abandoned asylum as research for my novel and it was an experience that I will never forget! All of this on top of a full life of raising five kids and going back to school!

Having so many responsibilities has kept me from my blog but it has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I love writing my novel, but it is a huge project which will most likely take me the better part of another two years (especially once my classes pick up). Writing short stories has always been fun and rewarding for me because it challenges me to keep my writing tight and seeing something finished in a matter of a week’s time is something I miss since writing my novel. I work hard on it each and every day but such a big project leaves me longing to see something completed. Which brings back here, where scanning through pages of my stories and seeing unfinished drafts has me excited all over again. I will be continuing work on my novel, but I have decided to set one day aside in the week to work on writing short stories. I am looking forward to completing the stories I have on hold and to create more. I have been to some amazing places in the past year and made some awesome memories…..it’s time to get to work. Watch this space for new stories and thank you for spending time among my adventures even in my absence.

 

~O

 

 

The End Of The Line

Railway

It was only mid morning but the summer heat had already consumed the day. My skin glistened with sweat and the hair that had escaped my ponytail stuck to my shoulders as I slowly balanced my way along the tracks. I was thankful for the short reprieve from the scorching sun as I passed under a railroad bridge and I slowed my pace almost to a halt to lengthen my stay beneath its cover. The cement structure created a short tunnel and my eyes were drawn to the brightly colored graffiti crawling up the walls, coming together at the top of the twenty foot dome. As I wondered just how the artists accomplished this feat I came out the other side and as my view opened up once again I caught a glimpse of something in the distance. I squinted to see better and saw the shimmering metal of the train dancing like a mirage in the desert.  A smile crossed my lips and I kept an eye on the cars as I came off the railing and picked up my pace. The gravel crunched below my feet, kicking up as I ran, richocheting off the rails with a tinking sound as I closed the distance between me and the train. I had been told there were some cars left on the tracks, but I had no idea what was waiting for me and I stood in awe as I came to a stop and gazed upon my find.

Together Forever

Standing before me were two trains stretching as far as the eye could see, looking sad but not lonely while in the company of the other. I gave my best effort in an attempt to see where the cars ended but only investigating would satisfy my curiosity so I slipped into the shade they provided and began my quest to find the answer. Though these titans had been decommissioned I could still feel the power emanating from their impressive undercarriages as I moved passed them, the faint smell of axel grease hanging in the air as I looked upon the rusted metal and faded logos. Walking in and out of the heat I wondered where these cars had been before this fateful stop and what they had been carrying so I came to stop at the back end of one of the cars and, by instinct, I looked over my shoulder before reaching up to take hold of the corroded ladder in front of me. Hoisting myself up I brought my foot to the bottom rung and climbed up the side of the train, out of the shadows and into the sun again.

Westbound

As expected, when I swung my leg over the top and peered in, the car was empty. The only thing left behind was the coal residue that was now all over my hands and I wiped it on my jeans as I looked around from my bird’s eye view. Looking back I could only faintly see the entrance where I had come in and the tracks ahead showed that I had about the same distance to cover before reaching the end. As I sat on top of the car I could feel the sizzling heat of the metal through my jeans and squirmed from its sting. Way too hot to stay where I was, I swung my leg back over the side and descended the ladder, dropping the last few feet to the ground. Turning to the path ahead of me I wiped at my sticky skin and debated whether I should go the rest of the way or just head back since all the cars looked the same. Reentering the airconditioning sounded amazing right then but I knew better; there was no leaving without satisfying my curiosity as to just what lay at the end so I took a drink from the water in my bag and started walking.

All Aboard

It was another 150 yards before I finally emerged back onto the empty tracks and I could see imediately that my decision to continue on had been a good one. Up ahead roughly fifty yards, the track split off to the right and I could see another train. How long was this one? I couldn’t quite tell, but I could see that these cars had something in them so despite the heat I fell into a light jog. Getting a better view as I approached, I could see that the train disappeared around a bend but my attention went upwards at the sight of its contents. Curiosity brought my hands to the metal and once again I scaled my way to the top, stopping mid-climb in awe as my eyes came over the ridge. A slight breeze stirred among the trees, bringing forth the smell of freshly cut wood as it swept past, and I blinked my eyes against the saw dust being kicked up as it went. Piled haphazardly before me were car after car full of brand new railroad ties and I climbed inside and balanced myself on two of them as I took in the sight before me.

BeFunky_IMG_0315

Beautiful pieces of wood almost glowed in the sun and I climbed from car to car, wobbling precariously near the edge as I balanced on the beams watching my shadow mimic me as it followed on the tracks below. I could hear other trains, active trains, off in the distance but I was alone here in the woods, free to feel the rush as I teetered my way to the front of the train. When I could go no further I found my footing, looking back at the cars behind me and to the amazing view before me. The engine was gone. Detached, it had left its load here to wait for its return and I wondered how so much material could just be abandoned, vulnerable to the elements that would prove distructive over the passage of time. As I stood contemplating their fate another breeze came through the trees, a humid wind that only accentuated the heat of the day, leaving my skin ignited in the summer heat. Though I didn’t want to leave my perch, the sun had become too intense to stay and I knew it was time to head back. Tired from my workout I chose not to head back over the pilings and instead descended the train from where I was. Back on solid ground, I took refuge in its shade and kept my hand on the cool metal until I made it back to the main tracks. Though I was not quite ready to go home, I was satisfied with my discovery and gave one last look over my shoulder before setting off towards home.

Learning Curve

I have been feeling a hinderance with the stories I’m trying to write lately. Not because I don’t know what to say, but because of my photographs. There are many locations I would love to write about but I find myself skipping over them because it’s extremely hard to find decent shots to share when going back a few years. This is not because I’m being a perfectionist but because, sshhhh….I used to take really bad pictures. I cringe when I scan through my old albums, deciding there is no way I can write a story if these horrible pictures are what I have to choose from. But the writer in me always wins out and I returned to the stories time and time again, forcing myself to look hard at what I have and in doing so I slowly  began to realize that I wasn’t facing failed attempts at all. If I take a photo from today and place it next to one when I first started out I can’t help but see success in the knowledge I have gained and the skills that I have fine tuned. I do not claim to be perfect or even good enough to run with the the best photographers but I can say I’m happy with my accomplishments and it’s time I embraced  them. Welcome to my Learning Curve:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Stage One: Random shots of nothing

Although I have been exploring for over a decade, the decision to take my camera along wasn’t made until just two short years ago after I returned to my favorite place only to discover that the land had been cleared. Although I can still call on my memorires, even those will fade with time and I never wanted this to happen again. So the next time I went out I brought my Point and Shoot along and as I snapped photos they fullfilled the sole purpose of creating memories, a permanent imprint which could never be erased. There was no rhyme or reason to them, no creative thought or artistic gesture….simply documenting.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Stage Two: Developing an eye

I was satisfied to have taken something away from the explore, but it wasn’t until I got home and looked through my photos that I discovered I had captured something more. Within the chaos and destruction I caught a glimpse of something I thought was so pretty and it struck me how one could capture beauty in such places. This thought stayed with me each time I went out and, although it took quite a few attemtps, I developed my eye and was thrilled with the results over time. As my pictures began to take on more of an artistic quality I began to think about photography on a more serious level. There was still so much out of order within my shots and I quickly learned that my abilities could only go as far as my camera’s so I made the decision to upgrade.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Stage 3: Learning My Settings

To be honest, when I got my Canon I hated it and wouldn’t even touch it for the first week or so. Being faced with a professional grade camera threw me off with all its options and settings. Of course I could have stuck it permanently in the Auto setting but that would defeat the purpose of having the camera. Auto is nice to have for every day picture taking but when using your creativity it can only restrict you. A brief thought to return to my old camera took hold until I thought of what I was producing. I struggled with focus, I couldn’t succeed at capturing images in low light and every sky included in my shots was completed whited out. I was frustrated and discouraged but I am not a quitter so I picked up my new camera and took advantage of the vast array of Photography Friends which surround me. From those closest to me to mere aquaintances, I listened to what each of them had to say and slowly it came together. I must admit that I don’t know nearly as much as I would like to but I am always eager to take the advice and teachings that others have to offer.

resized1

Stage 4: Pushing My Creativity

Now that I am comfortable behind the lens I love to push my creativity. I know what I see in my mind’s eye and determination helps me to attain what I am after. Am I perfect? Not even close. But have I achieved? You bet I have, and because of this fact there’s just no way I can be ashamed of what’s hiding in my albums. It’s time to embrace these images and look on with pride in myself as I see just how far I’ve come in such a short time. So I will write the stories which are begging to be told and accompany them with the products of my undeveloped skill, for everyone has to get their start from somewhere and this is where I come from. Cheers to all the horrible pictures one takes on the way to success.

(Copyright) Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013

Beyond The Corridors

This article appeared in Issue 1 of UEmagazine
© ~ Olivia Wolfe 2012

The Long Walk

Beyond the intrigue of the corridors and empty rooms lie another aspect to your explore. The very buildings and ground you sneak around in hold a story filled with history from an era long since passed and most are accompanied by a darker, more sinister side to the tale with mysterious urban legands which have formed throughout time. Both lie in eternal wait for those inclined to listen.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Built in 1934, this collective group of 23 buildings were constructed in the Colonial Revival Style, offering beautiful woodwork detailing both the columned porches with their elaborate doors and the sunrooms extending the length of the buildings for a relaxed experience reminiscent of the period during the Revolutionary War. Resting on 216 acres, the now crumbling bricks and dilapidated buildings were introduced as a Tuberculosis Sanatorium and although nearly all remnants of furnishings and equipment have been stricken from the premises, one can easily slip back in time imagining the halls alive with the daily hustle and bustle of the nurses in their starch white uniforms as they made their way through the patients and orderlies who occupied these once active vestibules and work stations.

Nuses' Station

With Tuberculosis being a highly contagious disease which few were fortunate enough to recover from, the men and women who cared for the infected were kept away from society as well, residing in Nurses and Doctors cottages which are scattered throughout the grounds, returning to work every day in one of two monstrous hospitals seperating the children from the adults. Although these buildings sit almost 100 yards apart, they all remained accessible through a spiderweb of underground tunnels invisible to those topside. These tunnels were used for many things including maintanance, storage, fallout shelters and the transfer of patients. It is this last use that has stirred one of many urban legands surrounding this location.

Home Sweet Home

It’s said that the dead were transferred underground so as not to upset the residents with the sight of death passing them in the halls and with this knowledge a trip through the pitch black tunnel system warrants an occassional look back over your shoulder as you try to cast off the chill brought on by a cool breeze and dismissing the echoes from behind becomes impossible as you move just a little quicker to get to the other end where it feels safe to enter the light once again. But if you’ve done your research, your brightly lit safe haven of medical stations and isolation rooms dissolves into another feeling of tension as more to the legand surfaces in your mind. The clouded history on the care of the residents has allowed suspicion to form in just what went on behind closed doors. Rumors can be heard pertaining to the mistreatment of the facility’s patients and even go as far to speculate on the validity of the claims at medical staff performing human experiments on those vulnerable to their hidden agendas.

Echoes

Years later when it sought to make renovations on the aging buildings, the hospital was sited for countless fire hazards and the presence of asbestos which forced the doors closed in 1981. The legand goes on to state that near the end of its days of operation, the hospital was used to house the criminally insane. With no family and nowhere else to go, it is said that the patients were simply released from the grounds when the hospital locked its doors, and that the insane made their way back inside the eerie walls to live out their days in abandoned solitude, hiding in the shadows and wandering the decay. Are these stories true accounts, or are they just…stories? That’s for you to decide. So the next time you’re feeling adventurous and find yourself on the outskirts of any abandonment, remember that there’s more to a place than just its sweeping views and deteriorating passageways. These places are saturted with history, both real and conjured up and the other side to the physical explore is when one takes the time to explore its past.

Best Moments Award

Best-Moment-Award[1]

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

To receive an award of any kind is always a blessing, but to be presented with one under such a title means so very much to me. You see, I believe that our lives are made up of special moments, strung together over time offering us a unique and exciting journey. These moments do not only present themselves in extraordinary places but, rather, surround us as we move along in our day to day lives waiting for us to recognize them, seize them and recieve the gifts that each one reveals. My moments have created laughter, memories, experiences and a passion for life that can never be stifled and I thank you for presenting me with one more moment I will never forget.

RULES:

Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech. This could be written or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a NEW set of people/blogs worthy of the award; and winners notify them the great news.

RESOURCES:

  • What makes a good acceptance speech?
    • Gratitude. Thank the people who helped you along the way
    • Humor. Keep us entertained and smiling
    • Inspiration. Make your story touch our lives
  • Get an idea from the great acceptance speeches, compiled in MomentMatters.com/Speech
  • Display the award’s badge on your blog/website, downloadable in MomentMatters.com/Award

Those who I wish to Acknowledge:

1. The Bookshelf of Emily J.

2. Sun and Glory

3. The Heart of Art

4. Sugar and Cloth

5. A Year of Reading the World

6. California Pixie

7. The Image Maker

8. Belopotosky

9. Amaryllis Log

10. Roam About Mike

11. Pinky Binks

12. A Big Life

13. Bridget Ehemann

14. nomadruss in words and photos

15. Picturette