When I was a kid growing up in a medium-sized industrial city perched between the shores of Lake Erie and northwestern Ohio’s corn country, I spent time following railroad tracks and later painting pictures of what I saw there. As a child I was often frustrated and sometimes bored… bored with the monotony of the flat landscape, bored with the alcohol and simmering anger in my own home…and the clean line of the tracks, cutting through the cornfields out into the sunset, felt like a fast road out of there. Eventually I did ride on out of there, two or three times in fact on very long journeys, until I was out for good.
Now, naturally, I miss it. I miss the river banks; I miss the shoreline of the lake. I miss
hiking the remnants of ancient wet flat prairie land, dry oak savanna, and forested ravines. I miss the unique history of that region. I’ve grown into California but, to some extent, I still carry the seeds of northwestern Ohio in me.
Whenever I’ve gone back I’ve been struck by the sense of openness, where you can see the horizon all around from certain spots and everything is green in the spring and summer. One of the last times I was back there was in the early summer. I remember feeling a sense of overwhelm at the green. California has green, even this high desert has its own shades of green. Nothing is like the green back there. The landscape is alternately wooded and open remnants of prairie land, flat. They say there is nothing left of the Great Black Swamp of northwestern Ohio. Maybe not. It’s been filled in and developed over. Still there are zones of wetland, all around. There are forests, and lovely openings in the forest, still.
It’s getting to be time for a road trip.