Photo by Ella Arrow
Exploration, Photography, Tiny Stories

Schoolhouse of No Return

One of the things I’ve been promising to do once school was back in session is to go on a photography safari. Not to shoot wildlife, just take a drive for an hour or two and stop when I see something that strikes me in the right way. While I probably could have done this with kids in tow, I worried too much they would have gotten bored, making me feel rushed instead of meandering.

The first place I wanted to go had haunted me for a while. On the way out of Stoughton, almost to the highway, there’s an old one-room schoolhouse perched on a bit of lawn between the road and a golf course. I’d always found it charming and a bit mysterious. What was its history? Was it still in use for anything? Could I park and hop out and peek in its windows without annoying golfers or the owners of their club?

I parked across the highways to be a bit less obvious and used the golf-cart viaduct to cross under the road to the schoolhouse. The paint is peeling more than I expected, as if whoever owns it has forgotten about the little historical building. A few windows are broken. You can see right into the basement through a square hole in the stone porch, as if a hatch or bunch of bricks are missing. The cellar is piled with lumber; the main room houses old furniture and flags.

I tried to capture the melancholy of the broken windows and fallen slats. I tried to catch the charm of the past in the familiar shape of the building. Many photographers find the same bittersweet beauty in shabby vintage vistas these days, so I mimicked the close-ups for texture and the wide shots for structure. After years of passing it on the road out of town, I was not disappointed.

I wish I knew its name.

I wish I could take care of it. It could be an art gallery, a quiet retreat, or a tiny coffeehouse. There’s an ache about such decaying beauties, an unspoken desire to imagine the heyday, and a slippery slope of enjoying the varying grayscale of weathered boards while wishing you could polish life back into their bones.

Do not disturb the spiders.

I live in a house built in 1885. The dining room slopes decidedly toward the windows and none of the doors are straight. I know how to love time-worn buildings and their glorious wrinkles.

I had no destination after the schoolhouse. I drove through a few little towns I knew, and followed some country roads I didn’t. My other find of the day was a few barns on the verge of collapse, on the edge of otherwise healthy-looking farms. A few years ago my son dubbed these “Jenga barns”, as if the loss of one little piece of wood could cause the whole thing to tumble. I didn’t want to creep around someone else’s property, but I got a couple of shots I liked from the side of the road. I love that you can see the sky through the ribs.

There was a Jenga barn on the road to turn in to my last office job. I loved driving by it every day, thinking about not only what it must have been, grand and wide and sturdy and useful, but admiring the way it sloped and shrugged, losing its shape to the weight of time. Someday I’ll head back there and get more than a snapshot on my phone. Some future safari, maybe.

Anyway, I decided to anthropomorphize the nameless schoolhouse in the photos’ one-sentence story. Hope you like it.

School’s Out… forever.

The dilapidated one-room schoolhouse stands despite flaking paint and broken windows, wondering when summer will finally be over.

When will summer end?

As usual, prints and products of the images are up on my Society6 artist shop, and you can get digital versions on my Etsy store for less than five bucks.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author
Fairy Tale, Photography, Tiny Stories

Fairy Creek – a FREE Gift!

I took this photo in Killarney, Ireland, on a trip that was extremely magical for me. I’m happy to announce that any reader who subscribes to my mailing list will get access to a free download of the image above, Fairy Creek, and exclusive access to the flash fiction story that the image inspired.

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You can also buy prints on Society6 or get the full digital image package in several sizes on my Etsy store.

Fistful of Summer Flowers
Magic in Nature, Photography

Wildflower Vagabond

Most people don’t need to be told to Go Play Outside as much as they can in the height of summer. My pre-teen son, maybe, when he’s eyebrow-deep in videogames and YouTubes of other people playing videogames. But otherwise, we all know July is a playground, don’t we?

Example: When you find yourself free for half an hour while your kid is in drum lessons (in person again, thank God and Goddess), walk up the hill so steep you have to zig-zag in switchbacks to spare your ankles.

Find an intriguing path through unfamiliar woods.

Follow the path as it loops around a park, empty but for an ancient swing set, made of wood and rusty metal, replete with one broken swing.

Count four varieties of butterflies. Pause at mossy trees, like twisted skeleton hands, among the riot of green life. Get scolded by a blue jay. Startle from an animal crashing through the woods, across your path and into the bushes on the other side, so suddenly and loudly that for a moment you aren’t sure what it was. A dog, surely, as you are surrounded by neighborhood and farmland. But those woods, that whip of a tail, that speed….

It was a dog, chasing a rabbit. Must have been a dog.

Stumble across daisies. Dare to pick a few, hoping no one in the neighborhood that is not yours will notice, or mind.

Find a complicated purple flower bubbling up on fountains of green leaves. Learn by a Google Lens search that this has the romantic name of “crown vetch”.

Wonder what a vetch is, and whether it’s some sort of curse or blessing.

More daisies, glorious daisies, all the daisies you could dream of picking. No neighbor would scold you for collecting them, for no handful could be missed in this vast galaxy of white and yellow stars.

With your fist gripping your bounty, recall that summer, and wildflowers, are free.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author
Books, Fairy Tale, Magic in Nature, Photography

Ella on Etsy

This week I’ve opened my store on Etsy! For a long time, I debated whether the effort to open one would be worth it, since I have other venues where my art and book are sold, but it answered two important needs I’d been pondering for a while. Plus like most things, it wasn’t as complicated to execute as I’d imagined.

Signed Books

I can easily offer signed copies of The Flight of The Starling paperback on Etsy. If you want an autographed copy of the book, personalized for you or your favorite fairy tale reader (or simply signed), you can now order one from directly me. To prove it, here’s a photo that includes my book, my hand, and my library wallpaper.

I ordered a bunch of paperback copies in March 2020, anticipating a book sale at the local writer’s conference, and then 2020 was all PLOT TWIST! So since I have them on a shelf, and people have asked how to get signed copies before, this feels inevitable.

Downloadable Digital Images

My Society6 storefront is an awesome tool for printing art on anything you can imagine (coffee mugs, notebooks, and tote bags are my favorite), but currently they have no option for simply buying a digital image. Etsy to the rescue!

As someone who has done a lot of layouts, desktop publishing, and just plain switching up my computer wallpaper, I love digital art. You can print it and put it in a frame, tack it to your office wall, make it into a birthday card, or set it as a pretty background on any of your screens. It’s quick and easy and if you lose it or scratch it, you can download another copy, forever. It’s also a lot cheaper than buying physical art – the online equivalent of buying a print at the art fair.

A new store deserved a new artwork, right? Cue the trumpets.

Sea Spiral – Digital Art on Etsy

This close-up photo shows the perfect pink spiral at the tip of the fierce-toothed chicoreus ramosus shell. Delicate and dreamy, sharp and unique, this image invites contemplation on nature and its beautiful contradictions.

One digital art purchase includes 5 files, sized to fit various standard frames. If you buy it and somehow it doesn’t fit your needs, just contact me and I will adjust and send a brand-new file, free of charge.

Buy Sea Spiral

Now that I’ve got the store open and figured out the finicky process of resizing to make the files, I’ll start adding more artwork in the near future. Have any advice or suggestions for running an Etsy journey? Leave me a comment.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author
Photography

Schoolhouse Rocks

The rocks at Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island, Wisconsin, are so smooth they feel almost soft. The unique silky texture makes the rocks precious; you’d get a $200 fine for removing one! On a chilly day, visitors built rock stacks with these smooth, flat stones well-loved by the waves, instead of swimming. This stack was ours.

I worked hard in post to get separation of color in the individual rocks. Plus doesn’t that swirl of cloud at the top look a bit like an eye? Look out for the VFD.

Visit my store at society6.com/ellaarrow to find art prints, canvases, and other cool stuff made from my art.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author
Magic in Nature, Photography

Oak Tree Canopy

Oak tree paths twist and turn above our heads, on a walk in Stoughton, Wisconsin.

My son and I got up a plan to walk the whole town, since we were doing a couple blocks every day with the dog, and we’d walked every block near our house so many times it was boring. I searched online for a detailed map, printed it on several pieces of paper, taped them together and posted them on my bulletin board. When we walk somewhere new, we mark it with a highlighter. My son especially likes the mapping part of it. This means we may need to drive to our starting point, whether a couple blocks or a mile, and then walk our dog together on a few new blocks. It’s still houses and sidewalks, woods and lawns and driveways, but there is novelty in it, and in a lockdown, your brain needs novelty to keep alert and break the unbearable sameness of the day-to-day.

We have not completed our goal of walking every street in our small city, which only covers about 4 square miles, because some days we just go around the block to get the dog (and us) quick exercise without fuss. But whenever we do, we discover something new. Stoughton has a great number of Victorian houses, for instance, and the architectural details never bore me. Plus we observe chicken coops and gardens and all sorts of unique choices. One block had no less than three large houses painted a very similar pink of the “dusty rose” variety. The vast canopy of an oak tree was one of those finds.

Visit my store at society6.com/ellaarrow to find art prints, canvases, and other cool stuff made from my art.


All the best,

Ella Arrow Author

Photography, Tiny Stories

Dive In

My toes curled over the pier and gripped the underside of the platform. The wind rippled along my dorsal fin. This was it. If I retrieved the Pearl of Onakai from the Cave of Tears, I would be queen. Assuming I survived the Gauntlet of Terrors first. My knees wobbled. My fingers gripped my mother’s knife. My second stomach churned, but my brain whispered, “Dive in.”

Visit my store at society6.com/ellaarrow to find art prints, canvases, and other cool stuff made from my art.


All the best,

Ella Arrow Author
Fairy Tale, Photography, Tiny Stories

Snow Apples

It was the snow that made the apples irresistible. The icy glaze obscured any hint of discoloring poison, and heightened the longing for the last sweets before true winter gripped the forest. Now a sprinkle of magic to make the crabapples grow. There. Three of them in an old woman’s basket. White as her skin, red as her lips indeed. The girl would never suspect a gift so perfect, so like her fable.

Visit my store at society6.com/ellaarrow to find art prints, canvases, and other cool stuff made from my art.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author