I've always found beauty in decay.
decay shows the strength of time, the inevitability of the past-tense.
It's not a morbid fascination, though it may seem so on the surface. In
fact, the interest has just the opposite effect. Seeing so many
scattered among so many "are's" gives me a hopeless case of
Disease, and in turn, permission to "sit back, relax, and enjoy the
The "were's" and "are's"
of Riley are most obvious in a front view of the old stone schoolhouse
there. You can't help but notice how the architecture of the building
the mountain behind. The arrangement makes you wonder which one arrived
on the scene first. Their shapes alone seem to be holding up the two
each dependent on the other for the delicate balance that has kept them
standing for many, many years. The school builders must have done this
intentionally, shaping their building to the surrounding landscape,
making both stronger.
It's working. Riley has been
around for over
a hundred years. It started as a ranching settlement and was originally
known as Santa Rita (not to be confused with the now-vanished
of Santa Rita in Grant County, the current site of an open copper pit).
It probably doesn't hurt that the town's namesake was a pretty tough
herself. After a twenty-year marriage to a violent man, Rita joined a
convent. While praying one day, she
asked that she be allowed to suffer as Christ had. At that moment, the
thorns on the crucifix she had been praying to struck her in the
creating a deep wound that never healed. She died on May 22, 1457.
May 22, her Feast Day, a priest leads mass in the Santa Rita Church in
Whether it's the beauty of the
land, the strength
of the architecture, or the toughness of the town's original namesake,
something gives Riley "presence." How else to describe the feeling
that the old stone school building is "proud"? How else to explain
the belief that if the building should ever fall, the mountain behind
come down too? And how else to explain to the folks at the photography
shop why time after time, roll after roll, picture after picture, my
of decay and neglect never fail to make me smile?