When I look back and think about different times in my life that were a turning point for me, outside of marriage and becoming a parent, my last years of college were the biggest shift. Something about being on campus at Miami University in Ohio changed me. It made me work harder than I ever had and step out of who I was, to become a newer version of myself I didn't even know was there. I've never known if it was Miami and the friendships I made during that time, or just me getting to a point in my life that I was ready for change. Either way, being back fills me in a way that other things simply don't - and it's very difficult to explain that to those who didn't live there (my fellow Miamians are all shaking their heads in agreement right now).
So, when I turned 40 this year, and my best friend wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday, we determined that a trip back to Miami together was the very best gift she could give me. My love language is quality time - so it wasn't just about being back at the place our friendship began together, but also simply about uninterrupted time with my best friend while on the road.
While the landscape of Miami is amazing, and shooting it was definitely on the list, the bigger goal was to both experience and photograph the places that made my memories come alive. Annie and I came to understand during our visit that the things that represented Miami to each of us were so different. For me, it was Central Quad and the Sundial. I walked by this piece of campus many times a day and rubbed those little turtle heads more than I can tell you. That space is Miami to me.
Of course, there are tons of other iconic pieces of campus. A visit to Miami DEFINITELY means lunch at Bagel and Deli. And friends, it hasn't changed in almost 20 years; it's still as amazing as ever.
Another uptown stop I was dying for was You're Fired, a paint-your-own pottery shop that opened up my final semester on campus. I took a creative writing course my last semester and our entire class painted pottery as a part of our creative expression. The owner gave the first customers the option to paint a tile to go around the checkout desk and our class was a part of that. Eighteen years later, my tile is still there and the store was even more busy than I remember it! To top it off, we got to meet and talk with the owner (how cool is God?) about our trip and my tile.
After our uptown adventures, we explored more of campus by car, heading first to the stadiums. The clouds that day were incredible and made taking these shots so fantastic. Having been Miami Redskins during the first half of our college career, there is not much on campus that holds that symbol anymore, so getting something with that in it was a must.
Our next stops were towards The Hub for more Miami Symbols: Upham Hall, The Seal, and a walk over to hear and see the glorious Beta Bells up close.
As we continued, we stopped at the new student center, which had an amazing sitting room (thanks to my friend's family) with the most beautiful words: "To think that in such a place, I led such a life." *sigh*
We went for a ride through the ever beautiful Western Campus and I was able to get some more shots there, before we headed back around to Bishop Woods. And even though it was so very different than a couple of decades back, it was still a sweet spot of nature, with a new entrance as a nice touch.
After a little more driving, our final stop for the night was a picnic dinner in Central Quad, where I got one last look at the Sundial and the chance to remember my shady study spot in the quad.
I found on our trip that it was the simple things of this place that refueled me. Time with a trusted friend, wind rustling through the trees and birds singing in the air. It was a beautiful reminder to me to set aside time for myself with no real agenda, so that God can use the simple things in life to speak into my soul. I hope you're able to do the same.
Until next time,