It wasn’t either of our first misadventure, because we are humans and none too lucky. My luck isn’t rotten per say, but Tamrin tends to bring to light the cruel humor of the universe. Separately we’ve experienced the whole gamut: death, heartache, failed brakes, food poisoning – the works. But Jesus in the Hills was our first unfortunate happening together, and quite honestly the birth of The Hive. Because sometimes the best ideas are formed out of sheer terror, and some people don’t let fear stop them in their tracks. We are those girls, not necessarily brave, but defiantly determined.
It was the last day of Winter Break our senior year of undergrad, 2015. The plan was to leave at four in the morning to head south and catch the sunrise over the rolling hills of southern Ohio. I will take this moment to tell any budding (or seasoned) photographer that this was not enough of a plan. If you want to photograph a sunrise or set, you scope out your location beforehand and arrive at least thirty minutes prior to your shot. We drove aimlessly watching the sky light on fire in the most chromatic of fuchsias and didn’t make a single photograph of it. But we were already out and so we continued to drive, the kind of driving where you purposefully get lost. This was the real start of our relationship as copilots, the beginning of us figuring out our rolls as travel companions. Halfway into the day I told her I was driving to Colorado for Spring Break and asked if she would like to come along. For those of you following our journey, you already know that she did, and that the 4×5’s we shot in Rocky Mountain National Park while on that excursion were The Hive’s very first posts.
That Sunday morning we drove, and drove, and drove, made turns for no apparent reason and stopped whenever a pool of light would catch our eye. At one point a sign that read “Jesus in the Hills” came into view and with curious minds we turned the Jeep in their general direction. I will now admit that these signs were sketchy, that anytime an extreme religious billboard pops up, you should turn the other way, but we didn’t, we followed the arrows to what seemed like a perfectly welcoming place. If they didn’t want us there, why would they have signs calling to us from miles away?
By this point the sun was creeping west; we moved southeast. A large billboard featuring the Lord and Savior himself welcomed us in. We drove a good stretch of gravel road through a wooded lane before they appeared: sign after sign that read in stark blue text, “God is watching you”. He wasn’t the only one. We got out of the vehicle, I won’t even say that we knew better, because we didn’t, not then. We wandered, not too terribly far, into the hills, but enough so that the Jeep was out of view. The place seemed odd, but desolate, we figured it was only populated in the summer months when the trees were green and the ground wasn’t dusted in snow.
We got back into the Jeep, no worse for the wear, and drove through the rest of what we assumed was an abandoned campgrounds. Just before reaching the long wooded lane that led back towards civilization, he came out of nowhere. Leathery skin hardened by years of smoking and a life in the sun, in overalls and flannel he knocked hard on my window. I rolled it down. The trach in his throat made his words almost incomprehensible – almost. But I understood the word gun before I saw it, I understood the word Terrorist before he pointed at the gleaming metal tucked neatly into his jeans and I knew that this was not a place anyone other than this man with his gaping trachea and sandpaper voice was welcome. The window rolled up before another word could be exchanged and Tamrin peeled out of the gravel and down the wooded lane faster then the wheezing Jeep was willing to go. Our hearts thudded in our chests, blood boiling and eyes wide. Unspokenly we headed back to Columbus and away from the hills where Tamrin has always sworn “nothing good has ever happened”.