PHOTO ESSAY: A weekend trip to small towns, communities, and land in East Central Indiana

On Friday afternoon, Puppy Shadow and I drove up to the Oakwood Retreat Center, near Selma Indiana — again. I had signed up to help with spring cleaning, but when I got there was told that I didn’t have to clean, but instead could travel with Ted to a Native American history event 45 minutes away, in tiny Portland, Indiana, where four tribal leaders and historians would share the awful and long-lasting details concerning forced migration of various Native American tribes out of and through InDiana.

This heartbreaking all-day event was put on by the National Center for Great Lakes Native American Culture — which has such a gorgeous logo that I purchased one of their T-shirts.


One of the speakers emphasized how the sly, gentle American Indian sense of humor has been in part, what has allowed them to keep their cultures at least relatively intact through all the hardships. He told one joke, that to me, epitomizes this remarkable aspect of Indian tradition.

An evangelical Christian missionary was speaking with an old Eskimo man. All fired up, he said he’d better make sure he converts to Jesus Christ, because that way he’ll go to heaven and otherwise he’ll go to hell!

The Eskimo stood there and thought for a minute. Then he said, with his usual mild manner, “But I didn’t know that before you told me. If you hadn’t told me, does that mean I would still go to hell?”

The evangelical, caught off guard, answered, “Well, no.”

“Well then,” the Eskimo mused. “Why did you tell me?”

I retold this joke to my podmates, and Rebecca said that actually, the evangelical would say yes, he would still go to hell. . . Because, said Rebecca, who used to belong to such a group, that’s what drives the missionaries to work with such zeal to “convert the heathens.” Yuck. So, was the Indian who told the story being kind to evangelicals?

After the conference, Ted and I went to Muncie to purchase organic wine and beer at a the Downtown Farm Stand

all organic, even wines

— a sweet little store that for eight years has been selling ONLY organic products in one of the thousands of rural towns in America set in the midst of GMO corn and soy fields. Ted, who used to be a farmer himself, tells me a farmer might farm up to 5000 acres, which may be spread out over several counties. Most of the farmsteads we pass sit abandoned, an eerie reminder of times gone by. Most of the really small towns are either dead or dying.

In the car on the way there, we visioned the provocative idea of “intentional communities” locating to dead or dying small towns. Ted: “But they’d have to figure out how to make a living. That’s why they die. There’s no jobs left in these towns.”

“Yes,” I replied. “To make it work they’d have to let go of money and participate almost completely in the gift economy.”

Here’s Ted, in the aisles of the Farm Stand, joking, “This (picture) better not end up on the internet!!”


Late that day, Puppy Shadow and I took a walk, one of several walks during this wonderful weekend that featured him running pell mell with no leash. Here goes, a few of the little places we visited on this campus of ( think) 20 acres, that sits adjacent to Red Tail Conservancy land of (I think) another 110 acres, bounded by the White River on the west, and GMO soy and corn fields on the north, south and east. Truly an oasis in the Big Ag wilderness. No wonder Oakwood features tiny goddesses on the grounds. Over and over again, we pass by tiny goddesses, holding resonance with the land. Here are a few that we encountered on Saturday’s walk.


goddess.6goddess.5goddess.3goddess.4goddess.2Here’s a view of the old, iconic barn from the west.

barn in distanceWe walked right next to the barn (note Shadow way out front) . . .


And peered between the old silos . . .

between silo and barn

And hung out with the goats. Here they are curious about Shadow who, in turns, happens to be focused on a freely ranging chicken.


Lots of old structures that speak of another day. What are their stories? This one with a sign that says”Tea Room.”

Tea room

Everywhere, so much care given to specific features on the land. A wonderful stone with flowers . . .

flower and rock.jpt

Wow, a rogue toadstool! Might a tiny faerie take shelter underneath?

toadstool!A giant crystal toadstool!

crystal bouquet

Inside the winding grass path of a tiny woodland with goddess sculpture and circle beyond.

beautyThe main building where meals and retreat events are held.

main structureSome features speak to coming events. The maypole, and fire circle . . .

maypole bonfire prep

But here’s how we actually started our walk.

shadow walk.2Which quickly evolved into . . . (Shadow in distance.)

shadow walk.1

One cloud called to me . . . .

cloudDusk set in soon enough . . .

duskAnd we returned to our little weekend refuge in time to get ready for dinner and organic wine. The trailer is one of the most ancient structures on the land, with new windows and new bright interior paint. I hear that this trailer can tell many stories. I want to hear them.


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4 Responses to PHOTO ESSAY: A weekend trip to small towns, communities, and land in East Central Indiana

  1. Kieron says:

    Thanks for sharing your jaunt with us! It’s inspiring, to say the least. 🙂

  2. Susanne says:

    Thanks so much for the magical tour around Oakwood, complete with your sweet Shadow! What a treat to see the land coming alive, especially since I could not be there in person myself this weekend. Thank you so much, Ann!

    Susanne from Madison

  3. Charles Heald says:

    Thankyou for the post, Ann, this ones a keeper! Awsome Great Lakes Turtle logo, May pole very cool. 🙂

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