[caption id="attachment_885" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="You could walk for miles in any direction in any direction and find nothing other than this."][/caption] Southern Minnesota still showcases smatterings of the bucolic rural ideal: a rushing stream amid snow-laden trees; brick storefronts on a small-town Main Street; German- and Norwegian-built homes that have withstood over a century of punishing weather, still proudly spewing smoke skyward from their chimneys. The general landscape, though, is another matter. The rich, flat farmlands that form part of America's breadbasket in the summer become bleak, barren expanse that stretches into nothingness as far as the eye can see, broken only by the occasional homestead. [caption id="attachment_886" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="Looking east."][/caption] It was at one of these homesteads that I snapped these photos, including the shots of the mystery drawers that I posted yesterday. The home was well maintained, and fairly clean, in a manner that suggested that foreclosure was more the result of unfortunate circumstance than neglect and bad decisions. [caption id="attachment_887" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="A broken portrait and a prayer."][/caption] As always, the photos in this essay were taken during a preliminary inspection of the property as I documented the debris for our records. Nothing has been moved for a better-composed photo; I prefer to express the state of our nation through abandoned belongings exactly as they were originally left. [caption id="attachment_888" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="It could be the Southwest, but it's just a porch in Minnesota."][/caption] Authenticity matters me. In my years as a traveler, I was always searching for the "authentic" experience. I worked to get off the beaten path, away from the tourist traps and into day-to-day life. My preference has been less for the wondrous, fantastic world of glittery attractions and more to the grit of human existence. This may be why I enjoy this job so much. [caption id="attachment_889" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="This bike seems to be held up by cobwebs."][/caption] I get to be a tourist in a deserted land, a ghost town of foreclosure and broken dreams, a period of transition, both for families and for the country as a whole. [caption id="attachment_890" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="Lights and doors in a shed."][/caption] It's a deserted destination that won't last long, though. Usually these images are gone the day after I take them. We dispatch crews to the properties who clean them so well that there is no trace of the previous occupants when we're done. Then the banks and real estate agencies work to sell the properties to new owners, who in turn ostensibly will build their homes there. Every day is the chance to be a phoenix. [caption id="attachment_891" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="An old thermostat."][/caption] While I'm there, though, I get to be a tourist again, camera in hand, snapping photos of all the interesting sights. [caption id="attachment_892" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Binders."][/caption] You can't revisit these destinations in person, I figure. So I might as well share them with you, the virtual garbage traveler. There were dozens of old doors in an outbuilding. [caption id="attachment_894" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="Window on an old shed."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_895" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="Beautifully placed junk in an old barn."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_896" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="A child's plastic sled in the barn."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Looking south."][/caption]        

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