Spring Photo Walk, April 22

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I had the day off from work. I tried to resist the urge to document the unfolding of the season in favor of catching up on housework, but I failed, as those who know me best could have predicted.

As I cropped these pictures at home, I decided that some Air Supply songs would be the ideal soundtrack for that task. The name “Russell Hitchcock” floated to my mind, and I considered that it may possible that I have problems retaining new information because of the trivial old bits that have clogged my memory. Wherever Russell Hitchcock is these days, I wish him well and hope he can still hit the high notes in his songs and fit into those Sergio Valente jeans.

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Spring Photo Walk, April 6

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Today I discovered that our woodland wildflowers aren’t blooming yet, but I did see some spring bulbs in flower this morning. I was happy to see the delicate blue and white petals of Puschkinia, a flower which blooms so early in the season that I often miss it.

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Jamais Vu

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Winter has returned for a brief encore, offering me a bit more time to mull over what has been a huge change in my life: my return to church.

The first thing I’d like to mention is a matter that has distressed me several times since my return to church. I don’t like the “Christian right” stereotype which implies that Christians are Republicans by default. There is no political party that conforms to the gospel. Although I’ve renewed my faith lately, I have been a Christian since the 1970s, and I continue to be mystified at how Christians can be exposed to the same text (i.e. the Bible) and develop such different political values. I’ve noticed that the Bible mentions caring for the poor so often that I can’t in good conscience for a candidate that wants to cut programs for the needy. I also don’t buy the idea that helping the poor creates poverty.

Onto why I titled my post Jamais Vu . . . Now I am going to approach my faith from the opposite of the idea of being a Christian for decades. I encountered the concept of jamais vu in the writing of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. Jamais vu is the opposite of déjà vu, and it is the experience of seeing something familiar as if you’ve never seen it before. Since I started reading the Bible again in December, I have approached the text with purposeful jamais vu: I am going to read this book as if everything is new to me. I’ve discovered that there is precious fruit of the Spirit to be gleaned from this approach. It reminds me of how Christ said in faith we must become like children (Matthew 18:33). The word of God never loses its freshness or vitality; only our ways of reading and hearing it can become stale.

As for the picture I’ve used for this post, it reminds me that it is much harder to suspend one’s familiarity with the physical world. No matter how hard I try, my mind can’t make the buildings in that picture look like something I haven’t seen before.

I feel a consolation beyond description in reading the Bible as if it is new to me, for it would be impossible for someone to read it enough to make it old news. As I read the words of the Bible, it is like the Holy Spirit fills me with the complete opposite of the pain and despair I’ve felt in the past.

Church Near Collapse, Downtown, Lima, Ohio, 3/16/19

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My city closed part of a downtown street this week because a church is falling apart. Yesterday The Lima News ran a story summarizing the building’s history and its imminent demolition.

This morning my husband and I ventured downtown to take some pictures of the church before it, like so many other downtown buildings, disappears. There’s something about demolition that messes with my memory. Once a building is gone, I have a hard time remembering it, to the point where I might not remember what sort of building used to occupy a particular empty lot. Was it an apartment building, a defunct store, a school? Give me a few years and I won’t recall, unless I actually spent time inside of that structure while it still stood.

Before my husband and I finished taking pictures, a crew had already arrived to drop off equipment for the demolition that is slated to begin on March 19:

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The workers seemed very familiar with this part of Lima, almost like the downtown had acquired that home-away-home feeling that seems to develop around a long-term workplace. So many buildings have been knocked down that demolition contractors and heavy equipment rental companies indeed know this area well.

As my husband and I walked around the block where the church is located, I noticed how empty the south half of downtown has become. While the abandonment and demolition of a church is sad on its own terms, the building has persisted longer than many other structures in the downtown. Here is the view from the church to Town Square, which sits two blocks away:

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When I first moved to Lima in 1981, those fields were not empty. Grass grew only in the margins between the sidewalks and the street (if there was room for any grass at all). Now there are plans for an outdoor amphitheater to be built across the street from where the church is (of course the church won’t be there for much longer):

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There are also plans for an expansion of Rhodes State College’s Division of Allied Health in the empty southeast corner of Town Square. Also, an aging bank building is near completion of its conversion to apartments. There are signs of growth in the downtown area, but this cityscape will cater to a demographic that is decidedly younger than that I’d notice downtown when I myself was young. Back in the 80s and early 90s, downtown Lima seemed full of people who looked old to me at that time: aging patrons of the Lima Symphony Orchestra and blue-haired women shoppers of the stores that survived the retail collapse of downtown.

There were also the crumbling half-old men who spent lots of time in bars where every drink could be the last, either due to climbing back on the wagon or getting shot outside the bar. My maternal grandpa was one of those men (I wrote about him my blog entry called “A Dutchman“). Every time another downtown landmark disappears, I feel like another piece of Grandpa Bob has been lost to time, the setting of scenes from his life we never witnessed and don’t know for sure whether our absence was a blessing or not. At least this time the landmark reminds me that one day we will be united, with all wounds healed.

I will close this post with more pictures of the church that will soon be gone. The first picture has an oddball outbuilding that looks like it could have hosted a security guard or an anchorite. The notion of a hermitage downtown may seem outlandish, but downtown Lima has certainly hosted enough of the holy and the mad . . .

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Late Winter Photo Walk, March 12

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Today is a vacation day for me because my daughter is taking the ACT. The test has become a Ohio graduation requirement for most high school students, so this is her chance to take it with a couple bonuses attached: no testing fee and a day excused from regular classes. She didn’t seem nervous at all about it, perhaps because this is actually her second time taking the test. I’m not sure which post-graduation goals she has in mind at this point (she will graduate next May). Her scores on standardized tests are consistently great, but her enthusiasm for school itself is lacking. She has mild autism and has had a few too many negative interludes with her classmates over the years, so at least there’s a rational reason why she doesn’t like traditional school much. She’s finishing school in an IT program at a local vocational high school, a setting which has been much more tolerable for her.

Her test left me free for the morning, so I took a walk around my neighborhood with camera in hand. There’s work crews on several blocks replacing gas lines, so I focused on some of the sights on the margin of our subdivision.

Everything was still frozen, but spring-worthy sunlight lit up the dormant plants nicely.

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