Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ohio: "I know Ohio like the back of my hand..."

Hillsboro, OH 1978
I was at home for a little while last week.  Not the home where I live, but the home where a part of my heart still resides.  Though I have been gone from Ohio longer than I lived there, it is still my place.  When I crossed into Ohio under the arch at the Indiana border on Interstate 70 there was an immediate feeling of homecoming.

Weird, huh, considering that I crossed under that arch into Indiana in 1978 and never moved back.

On my journey across the Buckeye state, I saw historical sites.  Not the kind marked with plaques -- rather my own personal historical sites.  Vandalia where some of my cousins and friends lived.  London where I spent a hot Ohio summer landscaping the year my best friend Greg killed himself.  Columbus where I lived until I was 24.  Though I was zipping by all these on the interstate, their neighborhoods, houses I lived in, schools I attended, friends I had, girls I fell in love with, jobs I had all floated by.  Headed toward the eastern border, I spotted the place where Marlon Troyer once stopped the car to scrape up a raccoon carcass for a study he was doing in biology class in college.  Floods of memories washed over me.  The roads I travelled as a young man.  The family reunions.  Church softball games.  Sunday evenings spent in Quaker meeting.

Here past the edge of town,
this one as well as any other
in the Adirondacks, the trees lock arms
and lean into each other like
relatives at a family reunion.
This is some history; listen to the names,
Sugar Maple, Black Spruce, Wild Cherry,
Sweet Birch, the old White Oaks. On and
on into the hillsides until my tongue rolls
and I whisper Ohio, imagining this is what it was
one hundred years ago, imagining this is what
whispered in the ear of Tecumseh, who fought for it
for twenty years, knowing when he started he couldn't
win, but who fought and lost anyway, imagining
this is what whispered to my great grandfather
Marvin Peabody, when he dropped down out of the
Northeast. Who left when he heard his neighbors
unfolding the arms of trees with axes and bucksaws
and headed west, rubbing the fine dust from his eyes.
But came back when he saw that like Ohio, that too
was lost. He came back I suppose because he had
nowhere else to go. Or maybe he just liked the name
Ohio. And why not. Whisper it now, whisper
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, and amid the miles of concrete,
under the culverts dumping waste, around the smokestacks
over by the river, a breeze picks up
sending a ripple, like a litany
through the family of tree.

("Reunion" by Robert Kinsley, from Endangered Species. © Orchises Press, 1989. (buy now))

...maybe he just liked the name
Ohio. And why not. Whisper it now, whisper
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, ...

I do like that name.  I love that place.  It's still my home.  And I still cry when I hear Karin Berquist sing "Ohio"

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