All of the photos of are of the vintage garden apartment where I wrote this post.

For the last couple of days, I have done pretty much nothing.

It’s called a vacation, really, a three-day mini get-a-way. We came to place where there is nothing to do, and are staying in a place has no TV or internet connection. Our abode, constructed in 1877, has two-foot thick, limestone walls, so we hear nothing. It’s tomb quiet in here.

We are surrounded by nothingness. Even the landscape is basic winter bleak, white snow, brown sticks, gray haze. No color. No signs of life. Just rolling hills of lonely nothingness.

Once the tremors from media deprivation subsided, I began to love the nothingness. I took in the rustic and whimsical nature of our weekend home. I read, and obviously, did some writing.

This small, southwestern Wisconsin town, born in the lead mine boom days of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was settled by Cornish immigrants. During the Great Depression of the nineteen-thirties, it hit the skids.

mp2Fortunately, thoughtful entrepreneurs began restoring these amazing limestone and brick buildings, and gradually, various types of artists moved in. Today, the community promotes art forms from pottery to writing to the architectural revival of these noble structures.

However, the town feels deserted on this blah mid winter Sunday. Shops are closed. People headed home after a big community event Saturday. Everyone seems to be hunkered down for the winter.

But, I have only given you part of the story.

We have seen some signs of life. Art abounds in our rough hewn apartment of massive stones and 138-year-old 6×6 timbers. I feel like the beams and stones alone could tell some pretty good stories. But when the stone mason turned this place into living quarters just a few years ago, he imbedded bits of fossils, glass, and marbles in the bathroom wall. The décor includes an old theater seat, a commercial scale, and beat up old trunks. It’s weird, but beautiful.

Eventually, we found an amazing pottery shop that was actually open on this forsaken day. It was built as a brewery in 1878. Now, the potters live upstairs, loving their life in this artists’ community, adoring the huge old stone brewery repurposed into their studio, gallery, and home. I thought the place to be a maintenance nightmare. Yet, I love artists putting it all on the line, fighting for survival, while living out their dream.

Galena is just a few miles from here. It’s a serious tourist attraction for the state of Illinois, just across the state line. There, we patronized a young man’s coffee shop and bakery on his second day of operation. He was nervous and apologetic that everything wasn’t perfect. We had fun affirming him and his dream.

A few art galleries also impressed and inspired us. So, it wasn’t all nothingness.

Everywhere we went, we encountered repurposed materials turned into art. Just about every piece of furniture, décor, and building materials in our little home from yesteryear is very, very old, but has found new life.

The brewery became a pottery studio. The old storefront became a young man’s brand new business venture. Old car parts and things I would consider worthless junk were fashioned into clever creations.

Out of old, discarded stuff, people are dreaming and creating. In the process, they honored the weathered, rusty uniqueness of each piece, while turning it into a beautiful, new creation.

I am going to be honest now. Sometimes, I feel kind of old, dinged-up, hoping for new purpose and adventure. Yes, I am in the process of being repurposed, too.

Repurposing is not just for rusty tools and auto parts that get welded into a clever and amusing creations. It’s not just for people who restore old buildings or make new ones out of seasoned wood and brick. We all face the necessity of being repurposed at different points in our life.

That’s okay. Really, it’s good.

Here’s to a life, in which wonder never ceases, art keeps on being fashioned, and new purpose is continually being discovered.


I wrote this piece last winter in the quiet on our historic stone cottage. I posted it here as a part of a synchroblog on the topic of renewal. Here are the links to the others writers’ contributions.


About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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