In southwest Indiana, there’s a small town lush with trees, landscaped gardens, and historic buildings. It's quiet there, and it's not unusual to see the town's hotel guests using their preferred method of transportation: the golf cart. In this town, there are no chain restaurants, and some of the locally-owned businesses prefer cash over plastic. Sometimes, the community feels a little exclusive, but you can sense its devotion to nature. Sometimes, it feels like an escape.

This small town is also a twice-failed utopia.

As the historical marker toward the center of town says, New Harmony is the location of "two attempts at communal living: the Harmonists under Reverend George Rapp, 1814-1825, and the Owenites under philanthropist Robert Owen, 1825-1826. New Harmony remained an important cultural center for many years thereafter."

True enough, New Harmony is popular with individuals who seek both solitude and historic culture. There are nearly three dozen buildings from the 1800s, a significant number for a town of just 915 souls. Some of the architecturally significant buildings include the opera house, the library, the Granary, and the Roofless Church.* New Harmony was even the site of an installation by Patrick Dougherty, an artist who specializes in building sculptures out of tree saplings. The New Harmony installation, which was titled Just Around the Corner and was featured on the cover of Alessandro Rocca’s book Natural Architecture, is no longer standing. (As Dougherty’s sculptures are made of natural materials, they decompose after a few years.)

It's worth a visit, New Harmony. There is a farmers and artisans market every Saturday, and the second floor of the Working Man's Institute features an art gallery and a museum (one with fossils and oddities, including an eight-legged calf). There are antique stores, cafes, and even a self-guided architecture walking tour. And just south of town is Harmonie State Park, a place of entangled trees and walking trails. So although New Harmony may have been unsuccessful as a social utopia, it is certainly a utopia for historic architecture and quiet nature.

* Visit New Harmony is currently using one of my photos of the Roofless Church on its website! They contacted me a few months ago and asked if I would allow them to use it.


I think, sometimes, that this is where I'm supposed to be. You know, in a neighborhood with white picket fences, yellow front doors, and lush ivy. My eyes search for the quainter aspects of this historic district--for porch swings, for cats without collars. Curious as a kitten, they say, curious as a kitten. And, really, I have to agree with them, because I am that girl--the quizzical one, the explorative one, the one who doesn't hesitate to take a shortcut through the alley. I'm looking for familiarity, I say. Every day, I try to dirty my jeans with the air and the dust and the people of the city. I wish there was time to explore everything. And I wish I were a bird--a fleeting creature who takes the updraft to the forty-eighth floor of the Chase Tower. Who, hidden in small niches, shields herself from sudden summer storms. And who watches, with a curious eye, as neighbors wave to each other, walk their dogs, mow their lawns, and tend to their cozy bungalows. You know, the homes that are painted purple or teal and whose yards smell of lilacs and honeysuckle. It's like what you see in movies, like what you hear about in happily-ever-afters. Oh, those picket fences. Oh, the dirt on my shoes on this walk, on this walk through Holy Rosary.


Two weeks ago, I ran a mile. Just one. To a lot of individuals, one mile is no fancy accomplishment. I know this. But on June 4, for the first time in my life, I was able to run a mile in under twenty minutes. In under fifteen minutes. In under ten minutes.

In high school, my awkward body and asthmatic lungs were never impressive. I could barely slog through a quarter of a mile. Athletically, I was good at nothing, and--when we used to pick teams--I was, at times, picked last.

That hurt, I'll be honest. Sure, I had grasshopper legs and triangle elbows and orangutan arms. I was a tangle of limbs and slow reflexes. But it still hurt.

Eight years after graduating from high school, I'm still awkward, klutzy, and terribly uncoordinated. And I'm okay with that. Really. Because, two weeks ago, I ran--I finally ran--a mile in under ten minutes. I found a way to keep breathing. I found within me a motivation I didn't think existed.

A year and a half ago, I started gaining weight. I started feeling like someone else; my clothes--clothes that I had worn since I was seventeen--no longer fit. My back hurt. My shoulders hurt. My knees hurt. My sides hurt. And I was bloated. Bloated and swollen and sore. I found my appearance--of which I was already excessively self-conscious--appalling. At times, my abdomen was so inflated that co-workers asked if I was expecting.

I cried.

I didn't understand. I didn't know why certain foods would cause my stomach to balloon within fifteen minutes. I didn't understand how I could eat strawberries, but not bananas. I felt ill constantly--I was bloated, nauseous, and suffering the pains of indigestion.

I came to dread mealtimes. For a year and a half, I cried over my inability to fit into tried and true articles of clothing. For a year and a half, I avoiding eating, if I could. For a year and a half, I hated mirrors. For a year and a half, I hated myself. And, for a year and a half, I worried about all of the similarities between I and my mother, and wondered if I, too, had MS.

I was finally brave enough to visit the doctor in May. We talked. They took my blood. They sent me a bill. I bought some pills.

It's been a month and a half since that first appointment. I've had follow-ups since then, where I was encouraged to take more pills and was required to pay more bills. However, after a few changes in diet, exercise, and determination, I'm losing weight. I'm eating vegetables. I'm running. And I'm not afraid of the mirror. For the first time in my life, I don't turn from my reflection. Sure, my arms are still gangly, and my knees are still knobby. I'll always have a handful of unexplained bruises, and, at my smallest, I'll always be a size 10 (hips, ahoy!).

But when I look in the mirror, I don't see who I was eight years ago--an awkward teen judged for her disinterest in sports. And I don't see who I was a year and a half ago--an insecure twenty-something who looked as if she were expecting. I don't even see who I was in May. No, I see me.

Me, with curly brown hair. Me, with scarred knees and bruised calves. Me, with small breasts and long arms and crooked teeth. Me--awkward, klutzy, terribly uncoordinated. And I'm okay with that.

Because, after eight years, I can finally run a mile. I can finally breathe.


I'm infatuated with Rainbow Rowell.

Okay, fine. So I'm not infatuated with Rainbow Rowell herself. But I am head over heels for her books, her voice, her stories, and the fact that her stories are set in Omaha


The city where, growing up, I'd spend Sunday afternoons with my family. We'd go to church and then head downtown to eat at Spaghetti Works. Omaha was the city where I learned to love baseball and got disastrously sunburned, two years in a row, at the College World Series. And, while attending community college, it was in Omaha's Old Market that I would spend a free hour or two, before I had to recross the river and go back to class. 

I didn't grow up in Omaha, no. But it was always nearby, a flat nineteen miles from my hometown. When I moved to Indiana years later, and when people would ask me, "Where in Iowa are you from?" I'd always answer, "Just across the river from Omaha." 

So, really, it's no surprise that I practically swooned when Rowell talked about the Old Market in Eleanor & Park, a YA novel about two misfits and "one extraordinary love." 

     "Do we have to go somewhere?" [Eleanor] asked.
     "Well, we have to go somewhere ..." Park said.
     "But do we have to do something?"
     "What do you mean?"
     "Can't we just go somewhere and be together? Where do people go to be together? I don't even care if we get out of the car. ..."
     He looked over at her, then looked back, nervously, at the road. "Okay," he said. "Yeah. Yeah, just let me ..." 
     He pulled into a parking lot and turned around. 
     "We'll go downtown." [1]

On Memorial Day, Ty and I also went to downtown Omaha. We spent the afternoon in the Old Market, a historic district that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. There, the streets--brick-paved and slightly buckled--are as they were at the turn of the century. The old warehouses, also made of brick, have been converted into apartments and condos. This is a neighborhood with used bookstores and cafes, coffee shops and trinket stores and trendy boutiques. It's upscale. It's bohemian. You see mohawks and gauged ears, high heels and tight skirts, suits and ties, and street performers. And there are covered sidewalks, too, and in the summer, flowers and vines cascade from the planter boxes on their eaves. 

     Once they were downtown, Park wanted to show Eleanor Drastic Plastic and the Antiquarium and all the other record stores. She'd never even been to the Old Market, which was practically the only place to go in Omaha. 
     There were a bunch of other kids hanging out downtown, a lot of them looking much weirder than Eleanor. Park took her to his favorite pizza place. And then his favorite ice cream place. And his third-favorite comic book shop. [2]

Ty and I went to Jackson Street Booksellers, one of my more common haunts. And we went into antique stores. And a candy store. And I took him to Tannenbaum, the year-round Christmas shop. We pointed and poked at the tiny snow villages, and Ty caught me as I tripped over myself, nearly shattering glass ornaments and garland. Back outside, we walked hand in hand. 

"Oh, I need to show you something," I said, dragging him past Billy Froggs. "Some people don't even know it's here." I opened a discreet door that faced Howard Street and gestured for Ty to move inside. "It's called 'The Passageway,' and it's basically just a little nook with extra restaurants and shops and galleries." 

Ty nodded with approval. "I like it." 

"I thought you would. Lots of light. Lots of plants. Lots of old brick." We snaked our way down the corridor and to the opposite end. "Look!" I said, pointing up at a skylight. "Look at the silly pigeon. Look at it go." 

From below, we watched the bird's shadow, its narrow feet waddling back and forth, back and forth. It was amusing, in a simple way. 

Ty chuckled. "Birds are goofy." 

"You're goofy." 

"You're weird."

"Let's go back outside."


     They ended up at Central Park. Omaha's version. Eleanor had never been here before either, and even though it was wet and muddy and still kind of cold, she kept saying how nice it was.
     ... They sat on one of the park benches and watched the geese settle in on the bank of the man-made lake. Park put his arm around Eleanor and felt her lean against him.
     "Let keep doing this," he said. 
     "Going out." [3]

[1] Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. Print. Page 268.
[2] ---. Page 268.
[3] ---. Page 269.


* Subtitle: When I get Dizzy, I Confuse Sigourney Weaver and God**
** Subheading: Spectacularly Grainy iPhone Photos, but not of Sigourney Weaver. Sad Panda.

In 1963, an artwork titled Seated Woman with Red Hat was gifted to the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science. The piece was labeled, cataloged, and placed into storage, where it remained, in obscurity, for nearly fifty years. (So, roughly the same amount of time it would take for you to walk from San Francisco to New York and back two-hundred and thirty times.) 

In February 2012, the president of Guernsey's (a New York City auction house) called the Museum to ask about a piece of art. A Picasso, specifically. Museum officials were confused at first, but after doing a bit of research, they realized that Seated Woman with Red Hat had been mislabeled. Whoops.

For half a century, the Museum had been storing, unknowingly, a valuable piece of artwork. In an NPR story published in September 2012, curator Mary Bower is quoted as saying, "All the documentation associated with the gift indicated that this was by an artist named Gemmaux, which really happens to be the plural of the artistic technique." Gemmail is a layered glass technique in which pieces of glass are joined together with clear liquid enamel and then fired. Sometimes, the artwork can appear three-dimensional, but--when lit from behind--the light catches the varying textures, colors, and depths of the glass. (I plan to make my own gemmaux using shards of glass from the alleyway, Elmer's Glue, and a blowtorch. I'll let you know how it goes.)

Unfortunately for the Evansville Museum, Seated Woman with Red Hat was far too expensive to keep. In fact, the piece was worth five to six times more than the museum's endowment. The Museum could not afford to insure the work, and could not provide the necessary security. And so, they sold it. It's a sore subject for Evansville residents, who never had the opportunity to view the Picasso. And though selling the artwork may have been the best decision for the Museum, it's still unfortunate, as Evansville is isolated from the majority of Indiana and rarely receives the spotlight. It's the Hufflepuff of Indiana, I swear. 

In February 2014, two years after the Museum received the call from Guernsey's, an expansion was opened to the public. The expansion included an immersive planetarium and theater that features short films about space, nature, history, and the fragility of Earth. The theater features a 40-foot domed screen and a 10,000-watt digital surround system. In other words, if you're a curmudgeon like me, you'll end up shaking your first at the screen and yelling, "You're too loud!" 

Okay, not really. It wasn't that loud. I didn't actually curse the sound system. I did, however, keep my eyes closed for approximately one-third of the Sigourney Weaver-narrated film Ty and I attended. It was about space. Sort of. I think. I mean, I did keep my eyes closed because, in short, there was lots of zooming, lots of flying, and lots of dizzying panning. It was then that I remembered what my doctor had told me about my hypoglycemia: that it would be best to avoid roller coasters, motion simulators, Jacuzzis, saunas, wave pools, and basically anything that causes motion sickness. Way to go, me.

Immersive Theater: 1
Dawn's Vestibular System: 0

"I'm going to die," I whispered to Ty. 

"No, you're not." 

"I'm going to die, Ty. Right here. Now. In this theater."

"You're fine."

I closed my eyes and leaned back. "I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can hear the voice of God."

"No, that's Sigourney Weaver."

"Are you telling me that Sigourney Weaver isn't God?"

Ty sighed. "Nooooo. I'm telling you you're not going to die."

"Are you sure?"


"Are you positive?"


"Are you sure you're positive?"

Ty hissed. "Stop whispering and pay attention to God." 

Before watching the film, we had spent approximately an hour and a half wandering the Museum, which is quite eclectic. There are hands-on exhibits to help you understand science, a collection of Native American artifacts, various pieces of artwork, an Abraham Lincoln exhibit, a replica of a 19th-century American river town, and a stuffed Alaskan brown bear. Grrrr.

We spent most of our time on the first floor, wandering the "Legacies of World War II" and "Decades of Change: Evansville 1900-1945" exhibits. The latter contained a collection of photographs of historic Evansville, and documented two floods, a major race riot, and other historical events. The World War II exhibit featured uniforms, weapons, photographs, and documents from the War, and, according to the Museum's website, explored "a variety of aspects of humankind's largest and deadliest conflict." (During the War, Evansville manufactured fighter aircraft, bullets, and other war material. The city also constructed a shipyard that produced LSTs.) 

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the Museum. I found it engaging, interesting, informative, and pleasantly air-conditioned. I had never been there before and, actually, neither had Ty. And even though we weren't able to admire a Picasso, we sure as hell made fools of ourselves in front of the anti-gravity mirror. Because of course we did.


Photo by the lovely and incredibly talented Anna Zimmerman.
Hello, new readers!

Fancy seeing you here; I'm pleased to meet you! First, I want to thank you for deciding to follow along. Thank you, thank you. I appreciate your company, truly. I always enjoy meeting new people--whether they be in person or online--so feel free to leave a comment, send an email, or even drop a link to your own blog. I'll be sure to stop by ... especially if you have a blog about cats. 

All that said, I believe a formal introduction is in order. 

The basics
My name is Dawn, and I've been blogging since 2009. I'm twenty-six years old and work as an editorial assistant for the Indiana General Assembly. (This means I edit documents that later become state laws. So, no pressure.) I live in Indianapolis, in the historic Holy Rosary district. I often write about Zoë and Ty, who are, respectively, my best friend and my significant other. The three of us travel together, and are basically old people who kvetch about kids needing to "get off our lawns." Ty lives three hours away, in Evansville, so sometimes I blog about southern Indiana, too. (You can find our story here.) 

The past
I was born in southwest Iowa and grew up in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. My hometown--which falls between a "blip on the map" and "a speck on the horizon"--has a population less than 1,000. I went to community college for two years and later transferred to Purdue University, where I majored in English, minored in theatre, and worked at the student newspaper. After graduation, I worked at a couple newspapers and moved, nomadically, from Iowa to Indiana, Indiana to Iowa, Iowa to Indiana. 

The nitty-gritty
I'm known for my sarcasm, and sometimes I swear too much. Sometimes I talk too loudly. Sometimes I don't know how to wrestle my emotions to the ground and deal with them. I have feelings. A lot of feelings. All the feelings. Seriously. All the feelings. (Anybody else spend half an hour getting yelled at by Jillian Michaels and then eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies because FEELINGS?) My friends think I'm quirky, and I've also been called a hipster, most likely because I wear red pants, bike to work, support local businesses, refuse to wear a bra on most days, and am dependent on Instagram. But ... I also love books, random acts of kindness, historical buildings, True Blood, and the documentation of anything and everything that makes a day worth journaling. 

So, again, it was a pleasure to meet you! Tell me something about yourself! Where did you grow up? What are your favorite books? How long have you been blogging?


On Saturday, we went to Books & Brews, a combined brewery-used bookstore located on the northeast side. It opened only a few months ago, and is owned and operated by former English majors. These English majors--who married each other, by the way--envisioned owning a bookstore. According to the Books & Brews website, the husband "slid a brewery into the business plan when [his wife] wasn't looking." 

The front half of the store is where the books are located. In the middle of the floor are a few shelves stocked with romance, mystery, YA, and other fiction. One corner is dedicated to children's books, and another wall offers a hilarious array of self-help and non-fiction reads, from Country Music Wisdom to Cool Names for Babies. (My name, Dawn, is not cool. It would be cool, however, if I were named the hipsterish Aurora. "Cool old lady names" include Dorothy, Esther, and Geraldine.) 

We spent a fair amount of time in the back half, though, in the brewery. The decor was simple, but each drink and each grilled sandwich features a name with some sort of literary allusion. So, in theory, you could drink a Worst of Times Black IPA while eating an Edgar Allan Po'Boy. Or, like me, you could nurse a Man in the Yellow Hefeweizen and order a Hamlet (ham & cheese).

While the three of us (Ty, me, and a mutual friend) ate, we talked about the business's strange location.
"It took us a few minutes to figure it out," I said.

"Yeah, I didn't expect this place to be in an industrial complex," Ty added, licking his fingers of delicious sandwich grease.

"Yeah, it's a bit odd," our friend said. "I actually came here for lunch one day. A Wednesday, I think? Anyway, I was the only one here."

We sort of laughed. "Yeah, I don't expect them to get a lot of foot traffic here," Ty said. "Also, I'm disappointed that there aren't any shoes here."

 My friend and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. There's a pun coming, I thought.

Ty nodded toward the business's motto, Read. Drink. Converse. "Read. Okay, okay, there's books, I get it. I get it. Drinks. Okay there's beer. Got it." He feigned confusion and threw his hands in the air. "But Converse? Yeah, I didn't see any sneakers here."

Nathan smiled, I rolled my eyes, and Ty chuckled.

"Amusing yourself again, are you?" I asked, throwing a potato chip into my mouth.

"She said disdainfully."


"Uh huh."

"Eat your sandwich."

After eating, we perused the shelves and read each other passages from strange, very strange, books. I ended up grabbing three for myself, and almost purchased a couple of more, as prices are exceptionally reasonable. (Mass paperbacks can be picked up for a mere $2, while hardbacks, at $5 each, are the most expensive.)

As we placed our purchases in the back seat of the car, Ty spoke.

"Well, that was probably the best meal I've ever had at a bookstore that abuts a Home Depot."

I purchased The Historian (which I have read before), Counting by 7s, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Have you ever read any of these?

Do you have a favorite used bookstore?

If you owned a bookstore, what would you name it?


Memorial Day weekend was spent in Iowa, my home state. We traveled there, most importantly, for my cousin's wedding (which was a lot of fun, especially since Ty voluntarily danced with me). I hadn't been "home" since Thanksgiving, so being able to see my mom, my brother, and the rest of my family--and, okay, the cat, too--was wonderful.

On the way to Iowa, Ty and I took a detour to the north, to Ames. I showed him the newspaper at which I used to work, and we drove around Iowa State University for a bit. We spent some time in downtown Ames, browsing the stores and picking up cupcakes from the retro-themed Cupcake Emporium (which has appeared on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars). After an hour and a half or so, we continued westward, to Boone.

For the six months I worked at the newspaper, I lived in Boone, a town of about 12,000. Ty and I drove around town a bit, mostly so I could show him the old Victorian home in which I used to live. We also drove out into the country, to the Kate Shelley High Bridge. But, mostly, we went to Ledges.

Ledges State Park is nestled in the valley of the Des Moines River, and is peaceful and tranquil. Ty and I arrived later in the evening, when the sun wasn't as high, and the wind was a bit stronger. We found our way down to the river, through mud and grass and trees and sand. And, from there, we found our way up, too. To the rocks jutting over the water, to the ones from which we tossed smaller rocks down, down, down and whistled to the sky.

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