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.

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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.

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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.”

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

 

 

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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


The Cottage In The Woods

FML Moment

As the jaggers pierced my clothes and scratched my face, I winced from the pain but pushed on, keeping my eyes on the clearing that was just out of my reach. The beautiful patch void of things that attack me. I struggled the last few steps and as I brought my foot out of the jungle, it seemed as if the vegetation came alive in one last effort to pull me into its depths as I twisted and pulled and yanked myself free, spinning out of its clutches with a victorious smile. But as I straightened my clothes and picked some leaves from my hair, something caught my eye and I looked to my left. I wasn’t standing in a clearing at all, but rather a stretch of a beautifully manicured path that wound through the woods and disappeared off in the distance. Seriously?? That’s just awesome. But my irritation was only short lived as my attention turned to the battered building on the opposite side of the path.

Nature Wins

Nestled among the lush green trees stood the withering remains of a cottage and although the sun was shining brightly, dark shadows danced across the brick, causing me to hesitate as I peered up at it. Built in 1886, these cottages were once part of a reform school for boys and served as the living quarters for its students. But this one, standing seperate from the others, had been reserved for the school’s worst offenders and research had revealed a most disturbing fact. I was about to enter the very place in which Albert DeSalvo, Known better as The Boston Strangler, had spent his youth. The thought brought a slight chill despite the horridly hot weather as I looked to the blackened windows but I shrugged it off, gave the path one last irritated look, and set out in search of a way in. The windows and doors on the ground level were boarded up but as I walked the perimeter I came upon a busted window which revealed a slight drop into the basement. I took hold of the rotted window frame, stepped onto the sill, spun around and sank into the lowermost part of the building. Taking one last look at the outside world, I turned around to take in my new surroundings.

Solo

Before me stood a makeshift cubby and in it were what was left of the boys’ shoes, laying dusty and filled with cobwebs scattered among the shelves. As I looked at them the musty smell of the basement crept up on me and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. Deciding it was time to head upstairs I looked for an exit but only found a doorway which disappeared into an endless darkness. I dismissed an eerie feeling as I reached for my flashlight and walked to the doorway, stopping just before my shoes disappeared into the abyss. Peering inside, I spotted a faint light on the opposite end of the room and knew if I wanted to continue on I had to pass through the blackened pit. Stepping into the void, I kept my mind on the light as my flashlight washed over broken dressers with their drawers littering the floor and discarded metal bed frames huddling in the corner. Hearing the scurrying of animals that I’m sure weren’t thrilled with my intrusion, I picked up my pace and quickly made my way to the stairs, climbing my way back into the light.

On File

On the first floor, the rooms looked as though they had exploded with paperwork, quickly suggesting this floor had belonged to those who were in charge of the boys. Among the mess stood a disheveld pile of file boxes extending at least five feet high. Some were opened, most were closed and although my curiosity wanted to read the contents, they were covered in a thick layer of white, dusty mold from years of neglect. As my flashlight’s beam washed over them I couldn’t help but wonder which files belonged to Mr. DeSalvo. Though he was brought to the reform school when he was only 12, his offenses already spanned robbery, assault and battery. As he went on to fullfill a lifetime of crime sprees, I wondered what kind of behavior made it into the repremand sheets within these offices and just how miserable he made his classmates who stayed here with him. My eyes lifted to beyond the files where a once-brilliant and beautiful wooden staircase led to the living quarters and I carefully climbed the discintergrating stairs to the second floor.

Wash Up

The first room I guessed to be where the boys had slept. At either end of the massive room stood two small bathrooms looking tattered but somehow still graceful with their claw foot tubs and artful radiators shining in the light of the day as it streamed through the broken windows. Although the main room had been stricken of all the beds, I could envision them lined up and positioned perfectly for optimal capacity. As I scanned the room my eyes fell on the walls and a closer look revealed the faded paintings of children’s murals just high enough to have been above the boys’ heads. As I stood before them, waiting for the shapes to take on a recognizable form, a shiver went down my spine. I wondered what it must have been like when nightfall crept its way inside the windows, swallowing the light and taking with it the comfort that it held. To spend hours under the darkness of night with the likes of a troubled soul such as DeSalvo. My guess was that the nights spent here weren’t as fun and care free as the fading murals depicted.

Game Time

The next room offered the same vast emptiness, only here there was a door on the opposite end with discolored writing on its wood. The floorboards let out faint snapping sounds and echoed throughout the room as I made my way over to investigate. As I got closer the words became clear and I stopped in front of what had been The Game Room. Standing slightly ajar I could see in, my shadow disappearing into the dakness as I looked around. There were no games here. The only thing left was peeling paint. Suddenly the walls took on a saddened feel to them as my thoughts returned to the boys once again. No parents. No one to care about them. Abandoned for such menial crimes as being truant or strong willed, left to stare longingly out the dirty windows at the lives they once knew. I couldn’t help but wonder if these boys, deemed the worst offenders, were just that or had they been meerely acting out due to the way they were treated. It was a sad thought, one I wanted to escape from so I gladly backed out of the room and slipped through a doorway leading to the top floor.

Today's Lesson

I climbed the tight stairwell, following its sharp turns until it stopped in front of a closed door. As I pulled it open the hydraulics hissed above my head and as the room opened up I found myself in front of a set of perfectly positioned desks, forgotten and frozen in time, as if the boys had just left class. The sun shone down upon them through failing parts of the roof, and after a moment of contemplation I stepped into the first row. I walked slowly, taking in the names of both students and past explorers which were carved into the wood and when I got to the back I couldn’t help but take a seat. I envisioned the boys gathered for their daily lessons, passing notes, whispering when the teacher had her back turned, ultimately wishing they were any place but here. As I reflected on the students I gazed out the window entertaining the thought that, unlike them, I was free to go, to leave this place and return to life.  A priviledge not granted to most and one which ended horribly with DeSalvo as he went on to begin his streak of terror on his unsuspecting victims. Suddenly my seat took on an ominous feel as the idea of him sitting in my chosen desk brought terror to my mind and I quickly stood up to escape the evil. It was time to leave this place and as I made my way back to the warmth of the summer sun, I did so with a quickened pace, anxious to leave his memory behind.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013

The Great Debate

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

Ask any fellow Explorer about their preference for the best season to explore and you’ll recieve a wide spectrum of answers, each coming with their own lists of Pros and Cons to venturing out in the Summer vs. Winter.

~The Summer Season~

Farm Land

Pros:

The warm Summer months are, undoubtedly, the most preferrable time to explore and with so many advantages it’s easy to see why. Who can complain about the beauty the outdoors offer when needing to trek through the wooded area standing between you and your location? And it’s this lush green vegetation that works to our advantage, both in the event we need to stay undercover and its ability to add life to exterior shots left desolate and alone. Once inside our beloved subject the possibilities abound as there is no feeling of being rushed to get our shots. The days are longer, allowing the casual strolls down hallways and the stops along the way to investigate, letting us pause to acknowledge the little things. The day is complimented by the the sun’s bright rays that play off of the camera’s lens, completing the trip with exceptional photography.

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Cons:

But perfection is lost on the sudden knowledge that you are not the only one the warm weather has enticed. Summer increases the chance for run-ins with other people and security, and who among us has enjoyed the need to crouch and hide from unexpected visitors? The heat of the day slowly sets in, making you tired and the necessity of water in your backpack makes it feel as though you’re carrying a ton of bricks on your back. Wiping at the hair that has permanently affixed itself to your face with sweat, you curse your sticky bug spray-laden skin for attracting not only mosquitoes who have returned for their next meal but every bit of dust and cobwebs the place has to offer, and you’re thankful for the decision to end the journey. Hot, tired and sweaty you sneak back down to your chosen entrance. The opening which once beckoned you to come in offers a view of the wooded obstacle course you must drudge through. Tangled branches along the dirt floor trip you as you run along, jaggers and thorns tearing at your clothes, determined to pull you back as you make your way to the safety of your car. The explore may be over but time to breathe easy only comes after the need to search yourself for any ticks that may have found their way onto your skin. It’s time to go home.

It’s this side of Summer which makes us anxiously await the changing of the seasons as the temperatures cool off, the days grow shorter and the leaves fall away. Soon we are met with Winter as we venture out again.

~Winter’s Wonderland~

Dam!

Pros:

Winter is an interesting season because the cold climate offers more challenges for the adventurer. With the exception of the brave explorer, the dead of winter keeps most people indoors. This works to our advantage as it lessons the possibilities of run-ins with other people as everyone’s main focus has become to stay warm. We can take advantage of the stories that lie within the fallen snow. With a little attention one can conclude whether your location has been recently visited by any footprints that may exist or the fact that the plows have neglected the area means it is not one of high priority. The exterior shots come into perfect view as the location has broken free of the confines of vegetation, adding to the essence of desolation and abandonment. The chill in the air tends to keep you alert and you’re satisfied at the end of the pursuit by the brilliant way the sun has cast off of the snow, illuminating your photography.

Anyone for a Swim

Cons:

The lush plant life has fallen away taking with it nature’s hiding spots, causing the need to move quickly. Your second challenge lies within the forecast as snowfall means contending with the fact that you can’t escape your footprints, which can not only alert others to the presence of someone in the building, but the tracks can lead them straight to you. Your freedom to move easily around has become restricted by the need for all your layers and the bitter cold causes you to play the game of trying to keep your fingers from freezing beneath warm gloves and shedding them so you can operate your camera. By the time you’ve captured your last shot your ears are burning, your nose feels as though it might actually fall off, your feet almost refuse to move and you’d like nothing more than to hide under a mountain of blankets until you regain sensation in your extremities or face the world for the next week with a notable cold.

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So whether it’s Summer or Winter when you grab your gear and car keys, it seems our love for the chosen season only lasts as long as it does. By the time we are met with the opposing season we have had enough of what the current one has to offer, but we misss it dearly when we’re in the midst of the other. We carry a Love/Hate relationship for both Summer and Winter but we will forever dawn our cameras and face them eagerly as adventure always awaits.