It was early Sunday morning and the only activity at the sleepy crossroads was the Marathon Station: bleary-eyed customers filling their tanks with gasoline and their tummies with caffeine and sugary donuts.
Tiny Bloomfield, Kentucky probably never bustles, but if there’s going to be any action, it’ll be at this intersection. Because on the opposite corner sits Nettie Jarvis Primitives, or as we christened it: Nettie’s Dream Machine.
From the gas pumps the building looked like a normal antique shop, but on closer inspection it had been magically transformed into Nettie’s Dream Machine by the addition of two large, black chalkboards with the simple phrase: Before I Die, I Want To …
The walls and colorful chalk inspired locals and passersby and they weren’t bashful. Before I Die, I want to …
- Live a simpler life
- Go skydiving
- Know what my wife is thinking
- Fly a P51 Mustang
- Start a family
With a population of less than 1,000 people, Bloomfield seems an unlikely place for a community outreach program, but surprisingly, it’s one of 4000 chalkboard wall locations of the “Before I Die Project.” A brainchild of artist Candy Chang, the first wall was created on the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood. Since then, the walls have spread to seventy-one countries with postings in thirty-five languages.
The Before I Die Project website explains that: “Each wall is created by local residents who want to make a space in their community to restore perspective and share more with one another. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life.”
So here’s the question we keep asking ourselves. After all our travel, both in and out of the country, how could we not have known about this wonderful project? And what are the chances of stumbling upon one of these thought-provoking walls at a random gas stop in Bloomfield, Kentucky?
“And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that, in these days of unprecedented political conflict and mean-spirited unpleasantness, it’s a delight to see a wall built for unity instead of division.” –James Vance
It’s a simple but amazingly powerful phrase that can be a catalyst for contemplation, conversation, and change. And this wall in speck-on-the-map Bloomfield, Kentucky is proof that if you look hard enough, every place has an interesting story.
As Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So here goes – We’ll prime the pump.
James: Before I die, I want to …
- See the Northern Lights
- Take a cross-country trip in my self-drive car
Terri: Before I die, I want to …
- Visit Easter Island
- Live in a little Lexington fourplex and wave to the neighbors from the front porch
Now it’s your turn to grab the chalk. We’d love to hear your answers to Before I Die, I want to …
James & Terri