Missed Opportunities, Lessons Learned, Fond Memories
Once you’ve been doing something for a while, no matter what it is, you start to see how it parallels other aspects of your life. Of all the images I’ve taken, this is one that moves me deeply, no matter how many times I look at it. Like listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue for the umpteenth time, it never loses its effect. The image itself moves me because of its haunting beauty and the history of the place. But the lessons I learned in the process are ones that I carry with me to this day.
Sunny Acres Sanitarium was built in 1913, and closed before I was born. I didn’t live far, and subsequently ended up driving by several times a week. I’ll admit that as a child it was pretty spooky, a feeling that carried over well in to adulthood. But I was always intrigued by the place and wanted to explore it. One Saturday morning in the early 90′s, I finally took the chance. My dog Miles and I, along with my camera spent the morning walking around the grounds and snapping photos. The architecture, the ‘vibe’ of the place, the feeling of finally doing something I’d only thought about for so long, all of it was just plain incredible. I only left because I didn’t want Miles to cut his feet on all the broken glass that was strewn about, and I was out of film. I promised myself to return in the following week or so to photograph the place some more.
I never made it back. Life, as it always does if we let it, got in the way. I’d still drive by a few times a week, each time reminding myself I had to return. Then one day while driving by, an army of wrecking balls was tearing the place down.
I always drove by on the way somewhere else, to do something else. Thinking about it now, I can’t for the life of me remember what the ‘else’ was. But I can recall almost every instance I drove past Sunny Acres. I was devastated. Here was something that had been a part of my entire life, albeit an odd one, and it was being destroyed. The handful of frames I shot are now the only physical memory I have of the place. I really don’t have anyone to blame except myself for not visiting again, but I do have that handful of images along with some of Miles taken after that long walk together.
Every time I’ve looked at this image since, I’m reminded to never miss an opportunity when it presents itself. Ever since then, I fiercely treasure the special moments I’ve had, no matter how brief they might have been. And above all, I deeply value every new experience I have, no matter how ordinary it may initially seem.
As weird as it may sound, a decrepit old hospital taught me a valuable lesson that I’ve carried with me through all my dealings with the ‘else’ in life….friends, family, career, etc. A special thanks to all of you with whom I’ve had conversations about the ‘else’ lately. Those chats inspired me to dig up this image and enjoy it again.
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