A sense of place

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now. I think I’ve always been a person with a heightened sense of place. Perhaps its a relic of my farmer heritage, that distant Shawnee grandmother, or just my personal state of mind, but I’ve always felt place, the land, was important. I’ve always found that once I settle, I am fiercely loyal to that spot. When I see those memes about all the astronauts being from Ohio and wondering why our state is so bad that people need to leave the Earth, they actually make me a little angry, but yes, they’re funny. When I announce baseball, and Celina plays Coldwater, I actually feel torn. My kids, whom I love vs my green and white, after all. Now, by the way, at the band fair show, I always hope the Pride blows Celina off the track, though.

On this last trip, I made it back to Southeast Ohio. It’s interesting and I’ve been playing this in my head for several days. I’ve lived in Mercer County literally 37 of my 47 years. It, simply, is home. Mercer County has about 15 feet of difference from its highest to its lowest point, meaning it’s really flat. Our woods are cut into neat little squares every so often to break the wind from blowing the top soil away in the winter. It is a very tamed land.

It may be genetic memory from my Appalachian side, or my Alpine German/Swiss side, but every time I’m in the mountains, with that darkened horizon and trees running right up to the edge of the road, I get an odd feeling of being “home.” It’s not just the four years I spent in Athens or the time I spent in the 7 hills of Cincinnati, it feels like something deeper, like something in my essence that says “you’re home.” My dad did not like the mountains. He liked a place where you can see from horizon to horizon with nothing in the way, so I know that’s not from him, or if it was, it skipped a couple generations before it got to me. My mom was born a West Virginia girl of that good old misunderstood Scots Irish stock, and grew up mostly in Western Pennsylvania, which is still in the foothills of Appalachia, so it well may come from my McCallister side. There seems something noble about trying to eek out a living in a place that’s not all that hospitable. Of course, those who first came to Mercer County faced the same thing, but they chopped and burned the great forest and drained the Black Swamp to make it the flat plains we have today. Appalachia fights back. Those mountains have been pushed up for millions of years and are not going quietly.

When it comes down to it, I think we are all part of a cultural memory. Home is home and maybe some of that sticks from generation to generation. One of the books we read in seventh grade takes place in Appalachia, and one of the things the kids always ask is why didn’t they just move away to a place where there were more opportunities? Well, sure they could, but they would always feel that pull to “home.”

I started writing this not knowing where it was going, and I’m not so sure it do go, but it is okay if it was just a random thought. Funny, a news item just popped up that Lebron James is going to play in Los Angeles. I wonder if it’s going to feel like home to him.


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