Sketchy Factory Tour

When you’re 13, its cool to go to sketchy places. Maybe its always cool to go to sketchy places. Finding something memorable in an abandoned space is an adventure that’s hard to turn down. So, when my 13 year old asked, “Can we go to the abandoned factory district?” I said, “Let’s go.”

We threw the scooter and the camera bag in the back of the truck and recruited a friend to join in the fun.

There is something rich about riding a scooter in a blighted area. I’m not sure what that’s about, but these photos demonstrate that it was done and people enjoyed it.

Definitely, it is glam to model-pose around vines and decaying walls.

Having a best buddy along makes the experience just perfect.

Near our place, there’s an area of broken down, burned out factories from a bi-gone era. Back when this town used to be a manufacturing hub for textiles and furniture, before that work was sent overseas, this area was thriving. People punched a clock here. Products were made, sold and shipped from these concrete slabs. Folks made a living working inside these once functional walls.

That is all gone now. Nothing left but vines, broken glass, trash and graffiti.

All that is attractive to a 13-year-old bored on a chilly, blue-sky kind of day when the rain stops for the first time in a week and the sun finally comes out. When that happens, doing anything outside with a friend sounds mighty fine. In the shadow of a decrepit water tower the sun feels warm on your cheek. And, inside the concrete grave of this once burgeoning mill, a weed bears fruit.

Ana, Gabe’s friend noticed, “Its interesting to see how all the buildings go back to the earth over time.”

In the dead of winter, through this sketchy space, with these teens, hope abides.



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When you think about it, boyhood is fairly short.  There’s little kid-hood, that time when you are out of diapers and you can feed yourself, but you’re pretty reliant upon your parents.  Then, there’s boyhood, those years when you are mostly independent, but not yet bogged down with academic and social pressures.  It’s a time to create, dream, talk a big game, emulate, and be.  We’ve had three boys accomplish boyhood here.  Now, we are onto the fourth!  This is a powerful, exciting, wonderful time in a kid’s life!  As the observer – mom, I am enjoying all that evolves from these boyhood days.

With this boy, there’s scootering (verb-noun) which involves hours a day grinding a bar and jumping curbs. And, there’s coolness. “Wait Mom!  I have to fix my hair,” is called out each time I try to leave the house. Or, “Where’s my black jeans?” he asks.  “Oh! The same ones you’ve been wearing for 4 straight days?” I retort, knowing he wouldn’t be caught dead in any other pair. So, we wash a lot.

Recently, I was able to spend a day with three boys that are all as I have described above. The day began as an adventure to find an old abandoned warehouse for shredding.  We found the warehouse and an underground pipe… all great photo locations.

There’s nothing like shredding on a bright early spring day, especially at a deserted warehouse with graffiti and weeds and railroad tracks.  An old plywood scrap was found for a ramp and the shredding began.  Graffiti words sprayed on a garage door provided a nice backdrop for a recount of the day’s activities and a moment’s rest.  The tube was a bonus and gave mom a chance to test out the new light sponge lens.  It worked.  These tube photos were taken in pitch black with the only light coming from the sunshine pushing through on either end.

These are lovely times and I’m savoring.  These boys are all growing up and I’m observing and admiring, along for the ride.  It’s really quite a good situation.


Slice of Life: Day 30

Like a pink petal which draws the honey bee to nectar, so the concrete pilings bring the captain to the center of the passage.  We approach simultaneously: train, water, boat and clouds.

Wind, current, double containers.  All come together at this intersection.

We shoot through the narrow way.

The clacking, metal on metal, is overpowered by waves and Evinrude.

On the other side,  spring, sunshine, freedom.


On the Lake Bed

On the upper reaches of Lake Hartwell, just south of the mountains where the lake gives way to river and the city gives way to country we have a house.   In this remote section of the lake, even during seasons of high water, we seldom in a single day see more than a handful of boaters.  Duck hunters frequent these river banks as do white tailed deer and Canada geese.   Tales of Cherokee ghosts, brave pioneers and small gauge railroads are told about these surroundings by local historians and naturalists alike.   Except for the occasional flock of flying geese or an air-boat propelled carp hunter, it is quiet here.


Yet, beneath these green waters lurk secrets and treasures and even creepy things.

These things, usually covered by the shadowy waters of the Tugaloo, rear their heads when the water recedes.  Tiny, living seeds lay dormant waiting for an opportunity to burst forth into life.  Huge, old stumps hide their past, clutching the river banks as if still waiting for a rescuer to retrieve them from the rising waters that flooded these shores more than 50 years ago.   Hidden household items from the 1980’s, dumped from some boat or washed away in some flood are now ensconced in mud and grass.  Their glinty edges catch the eye of a passerby demanding to be picked up and pondered.

Around Thanksgiving, we ventured out into this strange land that we call the lake bed. Mournful children, so saddened by the encroaching mud at Labor Day, were now mesmerized by this peculiar beauty that awaited them.

Launching ourselves from the dock, we tip toed across the soft mud toward the river.  A good 10 pair of shoes were heavily soiled in the process, but eventually all of the family plunged forth into the straw colored meadow.  A drone came out of its box and buzzed overhead.   I heard a child yell out, “It’s amazing!  It’s so soft.”  I peered  50 yards across the prairie and saw my 10 year old making a grass angel!

“What are these mom?” asked another as he picked a tightly packed bud from a tan colored bush.

“Not sure,” I mumbled as I noticed the fall leaves on the South Carolina side framing a backdrop to our activities .

A quick glance north and my black dog came into clear view, her shiny coat juxtaposed against the monotone grasses.


We lingered here a bit and then walked on toward the water’s edge.  There we saw several, old craggy stumps, remnants of days when this was a fast flowing river winding through a fertile corn field.   Downstream we saw symmetrical ripples in the sandy bank,  formed when the water drained out bit by bit, like a bathtub needing a shot of Drano.



Suddenly, I was startled away from my amusement with the ripples by a thud to my left.  This was the sound of my teenager whacking autumn toned bushes.  Each whack produced a cloud of tiny, poufy seeds dimly lit by the late autumn sun.  We took a few minutes to whack some more of these tender bushes and take photographs.  How did these shrubs grow so quickly?  Wasn’t there water here just two months ago?





Next, we moved a hundred yards down river to a flat, sandy area on the shoreline.  It was the perfect slate for practicing cursive.  It’s much easier to form capital letters in the damp sand!


After handwriting, I found myself sitting in the supple grass for a few more minutes, taking in the autumn colors and the stumps.  So many stumps!

“They’ve been down there this whole time,” I told my boys.  “We just swam over these giants a few months ago!”

“That is creepy, mom, ” a boy announced.

“We’ll have to remember where they are when the water comes up,”  I noted.

By this time, like the lake, the late afternoon sun was running out.  It was time to get home.

As we shambled back toward our dock, the most amazing hues of a pink and blue sunset caught my eye.  “Probably the affects of all the smoke,” I mused, remembering the fires just north of here up in Rabun.  The big sky, without trees or water, gave a vast, open feeling, like being out on a Montana ranch.  We North Georgians don’t typically get big openness,  I figured.


At dark, we arrived back at the marooned dock;  that stark reminder that things are not as they should be.

“You certainly can’t have a lake without water!” my husband maintained later on the phone.

“Yes! But, you can have a lake bed!” this nature nut retorted.

Out on the lake bed, we’d been given a consolation, a little silver lining to an otherwise very disappointing situation.  Nature was there, all around;  and it was lovely.




Dam Break in Georgia

“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away…”   Song of Solomon 8:7


dam break in georgia

On November 6, 1977, 176 million gallons of water plowed its way from a broken earthen dam to a narrow gorge. Between the dam and the gorge lay Toccoa Falls, a 186 foot drop into a small canyon. It is said that the water may have raged over the falls at 150 miles per hour! Once inside the gorge, the funneled wall of water reached 30 feet high, moving between 30 – 60 miles per hour.  Between the volume and the velocity of the swiftly moving water, the flood decimated a college campus, killing 39 people, half of which were young children.

This amazing story of the Toccoa Falls Dam break in November of 1977  is chronicled in the small book Dam Break in Georgia by K. Neill Foster.  This short read is amazing not because it tells the story of the horrific events of that forsaken tragedy, but because it tells the story of how a community of Christian believers responded to that calamitous event.

I picked up this book in a thrift store in Dahlonega, Georgia, not far from where the tragedy took place. Recognizing the cover, I thumbed the book and immediately came across the letter  from Rosalynn Carter, who visited the disaster site within hours of its happening.  What I read in this short letter made me take pause:

“The miracle of Toccoa Falls confirms what I believe.  God loves us and will help us always.  He gives us unlimited strength when we trust in Him.”

letter from Mrs. Carter


Today, would our First Lady make such heart-felt comments about faith in God?  I immediately bought the book and started reading.

The pages, while filled with the narratives of so many of the flood victims, told another story:  Faith in Jesus Christ gave each person an other-worldly peace in the face of death and tragedy.  One married student lost his wife and small child.  His response?  “My greatest responsibility as a husband was to see my family come to faith in Christ.  My family knew Jesus.  They are with the Lord (104). ”  Another mother who lost her infant child whom she was grasping tightly in her arms as the raging waters swept them both away said this, “God gave us Jaimee long enough to teach us how to love one another (122).” Finally, and the most difficult to imagine, was the man who lost his wife and four of his five children in the flood!  He responded like so many of the other victims, by singing and giving thanks unto the Lord!

As I read page after page, the message was loud and clear:  Absolute trust and faith in God is the most important thing a person will ever do!!

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As Orthodox Christians, we are taught that Christ trampled down death by death when He willingly died on the cross.  We believe that death has lost its sting, because Christ enabled us to join with Him in His heavenly kingdom.  Do I live every day like these Christians of Toccoa Falls College?  No!  But, I need to and their faith teaches me even today, almost 4o years later.

Of course, we had to visit the site of this great flood and see it for ourselves.  Today, you will see life and love and activity all around this campus and the falls.



a photo shoot at the falls


families visiting the falls


If you can get your hands on this short read, I would encourage you to do it.  It will change the way you think about faith.