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 freeway, 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 highway 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.

Ella Arrow Author
Ella Arrow Author
Entertainment, Exploration, Joy

The Wonderful World According to Jeff Goldblum

The World According to Jeff Goldblum is a thing to behold.
Find magic in the everyday through Jeff Goldblum’s wonderful series.

I’m always on the hunt for other people who create joy around them and explore the world with an eye for wonder. The Disney+ show, “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” is a short-form series that basically lets the actor and connoisseur run amok while exploring a singular topic in our modern world.

Denim. Ice Cream. Bicycles. Tattoos. He picks a subject and seeks out its history, its evolution, the makers and gurus of it, and the ordinary people devoted to it. He gives an overview, he deep dives, and he tries his darnedest to get to the bottom of why people love whatever the thing is.

The documentary and human interest stories are charming, but the real star is always Jeff Goldblum himself. Quirky, curious to a fault, game for anything, he brings the perfect combination of gravitas and whimsy to his interviews and narrations. He takes everything seriously and nothing too seriously. He deals out thoughtful interview questions and hilariously unexpected comments with equal ease. He never, ever mocks an enthusiast, even when they seem bizarre or over-zealous, but respects them and genuinely tries to understand them and their passions. His commentary is unique and highly specific, and I can’t help but watch, mesmerized, with the feeling that no one else could stand in his place.

I feel like Jeff gets it, that quest for magic in the ordinary. Here are a few examples.


On a “denim safari,” Jeff explores an old mining camp with a curator and merchant of vintage denim. Their infectious enthusiasm plays off each other, until Jeff says they’re like two sticks about to combust. At the end of the adventure, he declares, “This is the most fun I’ve had in my whole life!”

In his eyes, cotton is “cheeky”, and each pair of jeans tells the story of the individual who wears them. At a weekly line dance held by the Dallas Pride LGBTQ group, surrounded by fabulous be-denimed cowboys, he meets someone from Kansas and begins a spontaneous sing-along of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

He makes his own ice cream flavor and shares it with active military troops, asking them to close their eyes and describe the memories the ice cream brings. “Ice cream is like a time machine,” bringing back fun memories with family and friends, perhaps from simple joys in childhood.

“Studies have shown that nostalgia can uplift feelings improve self-esteem and make us feel connected to people for whom we deeply care. It gives comfort. A torch that lights the way to a brighter future. Lady Ice Cream, I say,” – Jeff sings – “I love you, tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you….”

On that final note, Jeff skips off along the beach.

My favorite episode is Bicycles.

Jeff gets his own bike custom built and brings it to a weekly event called Slow Roll Detroit. This community bike ride drew 3-5 thousand people every Sunday to ride through the streets of Motor City. The effects on the city have been astounding: residents along the route throw front-yard barbecues, children come out to cheer, and more importantly, people are moving back to the city because of Slow Roll. They stay in the city more once they get there, going to local shops and restaurants and bringing the community together.

Jeff Goldblum is moved to tears as he concludes his opus on the bicycle and the way they make cities feel more human again.

“Community unification – that’s no small thing. The bicycle is mechanical, it’s a machine, but you know, I – I felt it was an extension of my body. It allowed me in a unique and subtle but profound way to be in connection with everything around me. The potential of me and that bike has allowed me to connect with something in me that is – can I say real? Well,  it feels like, in some way, I’m home.” Choking up, he repeats wistfully, “I’m home. Gee.”

The World According to Jeff Goldblum is uplifting every time. I watch it whenever I need a treat and a smile. Two seasons are out now on Disney+.

Ella Arrow Author
Ella Arrow Author