From Sunset to Sunrise- A Journey to Graduation

From Sunset To Sunrise On The Way To Graduation- Part 1

A photo essay about healing through my travels across the country on the way to graduation

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In early 2017, I was processing my second divorce and working out frustrations through my accelerator while traveling first from Olympia, Washington to St. John's Arizona then to Key West, Florida in search of escape and further writing opportunities.

During the time it took me to travel down to Arizona for the divorce hearing and then to Florida to wrap up my employment with a national medical magazine, we visited an abundance of beaches. Torn between searching for that perfect photographic shot and allowing the dogs who spent far too much time in the car to run, the combination of sun and water was irresistible more often than not.

I knew I had to be in Manchester, New Hampshire by mid-May to attend the graduation of my daughter, the first in our family from college. I would also be finally walking for my own Bachelor degree that same weekend...if I could make it to New Hampshire from Washington State. I took the long way.

Leaving the snow behind

Cannon Beach, Oregon

M Slighte

When we left Olympia, Washington, on January 11, 2017, it was snowing. Portland was becoming a frozen snowglobe; one that we had no desire to travel through. Instead, we headed out to the coast. It would be a slower route, but it would afford many opportunities for photos on the way down the Oregon Coast.

We watched our first sunset at Oregon's Famous Rockaway Beach

The clouds were magnificent on the coast

M Slighte

Driftwood Beach, Oregon

It seemed like the perfect beach...I could have stayed forever

M Slighte

We started the next day early, but took time to observe the Pacific Ocean from Driftwood Beach, Oregon

Brookings, Oregon

Taken from my friend's porch, it was the perfect place to watch the sunset while the dogs played

M Slighte

We stopped in Brookings, Oregon to visit a friend of mine I hadn't seen since my first wedding. In fact, she had been a bridesmaid! It was great to catch up on the almost three decades we had missed.

The Next Sunrise

Sunrise over the mountains of southern California

M Slighte

As we headed into the mountains, the sun welcomed us towards Arizona. We had no idea it was snowing in the Grand Canyon. Once we heard the report on the radio, we headed towards the park for a minor detour. After all, we were three days early for the divorce hearing.

The Snow Followed us to The Grand Canyon

A Complete White-out HID the Grand Canyon!

M Slighte

That big white area above should be filled with the layers of rock that adorn the Grand Canyon. However, on this particular day it was a complete white-out. Not a hole big or little to be seen. Watch out!

A Storm on the Horizon After the Divorce Hearing

The storm was headed right towards us

M Slighte

The radio and internet warned of an impending storm in the White Mountains of Arizona. If we didn't leave within the hour after the divorce hearing, I could get caught in the one-horse-town where my ex and his new live-in resided. That couldn't happen, I put the peddle down and headed for Texas through New Mexico.

Animals in Texas

I understand the stuffed turkey and deer heads...but who stuffs a coyote?

M Slighte

Throughout our travels, Walmart stores were not only a great place to use the restroom and stock up on important items, but they also provided some incredible entertainment opportunities...like this one in Texas that allowed a local Taxidermist to advertise in the camping and hunting area!

Taking in the Mississippi River in the Early Morning in New Orleans

The morning sun made the Mississippi mud glow orange

M Slighte

I love New Orleans, Louisiana. I have often toyed with heading there for a writing sabbatical. The spirits that reside there entrance and toy with me. Every time I am close, I just have to stop and walk along the riverside.

Making it to the Atlantic Ocean

We slept through the sunrise but welcomed the Atlantic with open arms

M Slighte

On January 28th, we got to Florida around 3 am. St. Augustine's beach was full of shells in the daybreak. The dogs ran and I gathered scattered souvenirs.

Heading for the Keys

The Overseas Highway through Marathon, Florida was full of sights

M Slighte

After stopping for a quick visit with the widower of one of my dearest friends in Central Florida, I headed for the Keys to cry into the sun.

Key West, Florida

Key West captures the mysteries of many minds

M Slighte

I had made it to the furthest point from my home, while remaining in the USA. It was the second time I had driven to Key West. I pondered how long to stay. I didn't have to be in New Hampshire until May, and it was only early February.

At the Key West AIDS Memorial

Prophets spoke... and roosters crowed

M Slighte

Key West, Florida Sunrise

...and I chased the sun around the tiny island....

M Slighte

I'll take a time out here in Key West... and wait for next week to see how long it takes me to leave! See you next week for part 2!

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.
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Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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14 Kentucky Destinations To Visit This Summer

I'm in love with the history and beauty encompassing my old Kentucky home.

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Kentucky has got to be one of the most notable states in the U.S. While it is most known for bourbon, horse races, and basketball, you can't deny the beauty of the history and nature that surrounds the state.

Kentucky natives often take for granted the importance of the locations that surround them. These destinations are easily accessible and should be noted a 'must visit' on your next day off.

For those who are travelers and are looking to tour the land of the "Bluegrass state," you won't regret making these KY places your next summer vacation destination.

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

mammoth cave

This park is open year-round with guided tours through the world's longest cave system. This cave is filled with tremendous caverns which are super cool to see, but the stories that are told about the cave through the tour make it an even more interesting experience.

Even if you decided to skip out on the cave tour, this national park is filled with other things to do. There are trails for hiking and biking, and they even have areas for various water activities.

2. Keeneland

keeneland racetrack

Keeneland is beautifully landscaped and located in the horse capital of the world.

While the best time to go is during racing season, I'd still recommend a tour of this famous horseracing arena.

3. Red River Gorge

red river gorge

Red River Gorge is home of the sandstone rock bridge known as the 'Natural Bridge,' and is also the perfect site for a camping experience. At the gorge, you are able to hike, bike, ride, and partake in a variety of other activities.

4. National Corvette Museum

corvette museum

Home to more than 80 models of America's sports car: the Corvette.

5. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls

A huge waterfall that falls 60-feet before tumbling over sandstone bedding. It is truly a sight to see.

6. Ark Encounter

noah's ark

Located in Williamstown, KY is the massive, life-size ship made to resemble Noah's Ark. It is 3-stories tall with interactive exhibits to illustrate the biblical tale.

7. Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum

louisville slugger museum

Baseball, also known as America's favorite pastime.

Kentucky, also home of the Lousiville Slugger Baseball Museum and Factory.

8. Lincoln's childhood home

abraham lincoln's childhood home

Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th U.S. president. He was an important figure for many reasons, but most remembered for his Emancipation Proclamation speech that helped push toward the end of slavery, and his leadership of our nation through the Civil War.

9. Churchill Downs

churchill downs

Churchill Downs is another thoroughbred racetrack in Kentucky, most famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby. Tours are conducted by the Kentucky Derby Museum.

10.  Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

bernheim forest

Every year, Kentucky loses 50,000 acres due to land development. There are estimated to be over 3 million trees in Bernheim Forest, all of which are protected from development.

Today, Bernheim Forest is over 16,000 acres and will soon be celebrating its 90th "birthday" by revealing a new exhibit entitled "Forest Giants in a Giant Forest." These three massive sculptures, made of recycled wood are expected to withstand for at least 3 years.

11.  Berea Pinnacles

berea pinnacles

A hiking trail with a variety of difficulty levels, and a beautiful view at the end no matter how far you decided to travel.

12.  Woodford Reserve Distillery

woodford reserve distillery

Kentucky is famous for bourbon. So, why not take a tour of the oldest and smallest distillery in the state?

13.  The Kentucky State Capitol

ky state capitol

The KY state capitol is located in Frankfort, KY and is open to visitors/tours. Observe the areas where our chamber of the senate and house of representatives come together for the legislative process.

14.  My Old Kentucky Home State Park

federal hill mansion

Stephen Collins Foster wrote the famous composition 'My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!' which is now known as our state song. Foster's imagery throughout the song was inspired by the house and the land surrounding what was once known as "Federal Hill." It was referred to as "My Old Kentucky Home" once the U.S. entered the Civil War.

Today, you can tour the home that was host to many famous individuals (Stephen Collins Foster, Henry Clay, Aaron Burr, and more) and the inspiration to a monumental tribute to Kentucky history.

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