2018 has been a year to remember, and much of that is thanks to our talented contributors who have poured themselves into telling the stories of Jackson in such a compelling way that they become part of our lives. With that, we are proud to share this year's top ten stories from our blog, encouraging you to read any you missed and to high-five the writers, photographers, and subjects featured.
10. Stay 731: The Future I Never Knew I Wanted
“If you told the twenty-year-old me that I would eventually live in Jackson, Tennessee, he would have died laughing. I wasn't even sure I would be living in Tennessee period.
“Twenty-year-old me was an M1-A1 Abrahms Tank System Specialist (tank mechanic, y'all, I was a tank mechanic) that had dreams of completing a twenty-year career and retiring. And then after my retirement, I would launch some sort of startup with the security of a nice, fat check to fall back on if things didn't work out. Twenty-year-old me was married to the first of two ex-wives and had no kids. Every time I think about twenty-year-old me, I shake my head and ask myself ‘What if?’ And then I smile and remind myself of how much better my life is than that pipe dream I fantasized about. . . .”
9. Jackson Grown: Heather Larsen
Jon Mark Walls
“. . . It is this realm of perceived risk or discomfort that we often fear most. For Heather, more so than any geography, this beautifully chaotic space is her true home. Of the tens of thousands of steps she has taken in the air since she began slacklining in 2010, each movement, maneuver, and reaction on the line has represented a physical projection of the flexibility, courage, and adaptability that she has relied on throughout her life. Whether it was stepping into a Jackson middle school as an eleven-year-old outsider from Wisconsin, stepping off of the graduation stage into a difficult job market, or stepping on to a nylon line 1,000 feet above rocky Tasmanian cliffs, Heather has been able to find peace and stability where others would be consumed by fear and uncertainty. . . .”
8. Here to Help
“. . . I realized at a young age that learning basic skills builds confidence and makes you able to better perform. As I got older, I started coaching and training to help other athletes develop their skills early, which is the foundation of my business. I didn’t have that as a young athlete. People always said they would help, but in the end, they didn’t. It was very disappointing. I learned on my own, and I did not have it all down, making the learning process much longer. If I had a coach to teach and show me how to do things and explain different aspects of the game, I would have been a more confident, well-rounded player. . . .”
Get the hard copy version of this story in Vol. 3, Issue 3: Grit.
7. Jackson Grown: An Introduction
Jon Mark Walls
“. . . In looking at the geographic starting points of people’s lives, we tend to explain a town, its people, and its legacy by what is between the 'Welcome to' and 'Come Again' signs. We hesitate to examine the impact or strength of a place based on the folks that have left. There is a fear, perhaps, that this leaving could be sign of deterioration in a community, more of a hasty fleeing from, as Jackson native Brandon Lay would say, a 'Never Look Back Town' as opposed to a purposeful sending out of prepared risk-takers into the world.
“In the case of a handful of Jackson’s own living in places as close as Nashville and as far as the other side of the Atlantic, a group has emerged that is representing Jackson on stages large and small. Their stories represent the best of the community, as well as examples of overcoming some of its biggest challenges. . . .”
6. Bypassing the Bypass
Photography by Trevor Masterson
“Once upon a time, the US-45 Bypass was built to smooth traffic flow on what we all know and love as Highland Avenue. However, even upgrades need upgrades, and one needn’t be a native of Jackson to notice all the recent changes to the Bypass, particularly where it merges onto I-40 at Casey Jones Village. Sure, that’s an area with long-needed improvements (I have lived here seven years and have been scared of those intersections the entire time), but your average Jacksonian knows throwing in new traffic lights didn’t help matters.
“But never fear—there are ways to get around Jackson without the Bypass. . . .”
5. Stay 731: Accepting Limitations
“. . . The discipline of hometown living is that it forces us to look in the mirror without pretending. It forces us to stop seeking a glamorous, distant perfection 'out there somewhere' and to actually do something about what’s in front of and inside of us. More clearly, it’s hard to be fake around people who changed your diapers. The best thing I could do to change the world, as my twenty-two-year-old self yearned for, was to find peace and purpose for myself, lead my family, and maybe—just maybe—eventually extend that to my neighborhood and town. The problem is you can’t do it if you’re always on the move. As pastor Andy Stanley once said, 'Wherever you go, there you are.' Permanently accepting a physical location allowed me to shed my youthful pretense of self-importance and allowed my character to be carefully shaped by the organic but lasting network of family and friends who have made the same commitment to this place. . . .”
4. Stay 731: Now & Then
“. . . Jackson isn’t the same place it was when I was younger. As a child, a summer day was spent going to the three-bottle-cap movie at the mall Malco, putt-putt or the waterslide on Arlington, or splashing in the wading pool at Highland Park. These places may be gone, but now families can enjoy a trip to the ballpark or one of the many restaurants around town. I have seen Jackson grow and change over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that it is home, and I’m proud to continue welcoming new children into it.”
3. Jackson Grown: Josh Miller
Jon Mark Walls
“. . . His artistic superpower comes not from having mastered the matrix of the big stage but rather from his ability to weave the intersections of diverse communities to create a unique hybrid that is, at its core, his story.
“'As a songwriter, I try to see life as it is,' he says. 'I definitely draw from personal experience, but I also imagine the thoughts and feelings of other people I see or meet. I look for inspiration and ideas all the time . . . anything that people can connect with. Without a doubt, I think there is a song in every conversation; we just have to listen.' . . .”
Photography by Cynthia Sipes
“. . . The traditions of Magic Wheels soon became as recognizable as the rink itself. When the lights suddenly went dark and the eerie instrumental intro to ‘Ghostbusters’ began, the place went wild. Arms began swinging like unhinged pendulums to gain maximum speed as Ray Parker, Jr., asked all of us who we were gonna call. We always answered in unison. Why that song elicited the extreme response it did is still a mystery to me. I guess that’s the beauty of being ten years old: things don’t have to make a lot of sense for them to be fun. . . .”
Get the hard copy version of this story in Vol. 4, Issue 2: Sensations.
Photography by Jeremy Rasnic
“. . . 'I’ve seen so many miracles, more than anyone I know,' Nathan said. 'I don’t mean just changes in people’s lives, but also God keeping his promises. I miss seeing them sometimes because I’m in the mess. I get lost in the horrible stories and forget to look up and see just how faithful God has been. There are people in this city who love these women and don’t even know them. That’s a miracle. There are people in this city who give year after year. That’s a miracle. There are people who call and say, ‘What do you need?’ and they bring it. That’s a miracle. The girls pass out the food we have been given. They have nothing and then turn around and give away what’s been given to them. That’s a miracle.' . . .”
Get the hard copy of this story in Vol. 3, Issue 3: Grit.