The Change of Seasons at Ole Miss Inspires Creativity

A collage of photos from Michael Newsom's Instagram page.

A collage of photos from Michael Newsom’s Instagram page. Each photo is taken in a different season.

I moved to Oxford in September 2013, leaving a great job as political editor at The Sun Herald newspaper on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to return to my beloved alma mater and work in public relations. Even though I’d grown to love the Gulf Coast after moving there following my graduation from Ole Miss in 2005, the decision was a pretty easy one.

I thought about how rewarding it would be to work for a university I love and owe so much of my own success to and I also thought about those great football weekends in the fall. I thought about the steady stream of friends and family visiting and the good times we’d have. There was also the quality of life here in Oxford that was a selling point. I thought about how impressed I was with the people I would be working with and how rewarding the job would be. I made a long list of benefits and drawbacks (though there really weren’t many), and decided to leave the newspaper business for P.R. and return to the North Mississippi Hill Country, the region where I had grown up.

Eight months in, this new job and new adventure has been better than I could have ever imagined it would be. But there was one amazing bonus that hadn’t at all occurred to me when I made my decision.

One of the best things about being back home in North Mississippi that I hadn’t considered upon leaving the Gulf Coast was the change of seasons. In Biloxi, it was barely noticeable. You pack up your shorts, Columbia fishing shirts and flip flops for a couple of weeks in December and January, but it usually doesn’t get very cold and the trees are green year round. The pleasant temperatures allowed me to walk along the beach with my Jack Russell Terrier almost every day, no matter if it was fall, winter, spring or summer.

I didn’t really appreciate this change of seasons when I lived an hour south of Oxford near Grenada for the first 20 years of my life. It’s complicated to explain, but it all feels new to me now. It slapped me across the face one day this past fall.

I arrived to Oxford in the late summer and the busy following months when I was preoccupied with a new job, SEC football and visiting friends allowed fall to creep up on me. I didn’t really notice it until one day I walked under a tree near the public relations office on campus and the leaves were a bright orange color. I felt like I was looking through a camera filter used in one of those artsy, obscure movies people pretend they actually watched when someone brings it up in conversation. I had to snap a picture of it for my Instagram page.

Since that November day, I’ve found myself taking lots of pictures of the campus as it has changed from fall to winter to spring. I draw creative inspiration from the beauty that comes with each new season here. There was the beautiful snow we had earlier this year, which was the first I’d seen since my wife and I married in her hometown of Byhalia, and it came a blizzard of about eight inches on our wedding day. I posted those photos to the Ole Miss Instagram page and to our blog, and those pictures were well received. I’ve taken Instagram pictures of the red flowers in front of the entrance to campus and a sunset over Swayze field, among others, since spring has arrived.

All of this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me given that Ole Miss is often ranked the most beautiful college campus in America. I mean the family that invented landscape architecture designed the place.  

But sometimes, I feel like it’s almost a personal responsibility to capture something beautiful I see and post it to social media so others can enjoy it too. I’m no great photographer like Ansel Adams. I just use an iPhone 4s camera and stay mindful of the “rule of thirds” and it’s pretty easy for me to take good photos. I challenge you to do the same.

Go out and capture your own pictures of this beautiful place we’re blessed to be able to enjoy and share them so others can enjoy it too.