Trying Cleveland on for Size

I don’t know where I might be living a year and a half from now, when my boyfriend finishes grad school. I love to chart courses and consider contingencies, but for years it’s been terra incognita, too far out to predict. So we talk sometimes instead about places we’d never move to, and anytime I travel somewhere new, at the back of my mind, I’m weighing if I’d want to live there, not just vacation there. Can I imagine myself showing my friends around those streets? Would we want to choose a new apartment there, maybe even a house?

The answer, reassuringly, is often yes (although serious scrutiny, with real price tags and consequences attached, could easily change the calculations). And even though I know I don’t really want to move farther from my family, it’s fun to imagine new paths, new roots.

Cleveland was never a place I gave much thought to, just a city in nearby Ohio, sitting uninterestingly on the shallowest of the Great Lakes. In high school, I saw an Old 97’s show at the Cleveland House of Blues, but that was the extent of the trip. Then, last spring, I was there with Cooper for his sister’s graduation. There was barely enough time to eat delicious food between ceremonies, enjoy the wonderful “Guardians of Traffic” statues as we crossed the Cuyahoga River, and note how not-empty, building-wise, Cleveland was in comparison to my sprawling rust-belt benchmark, Detroit. I resolved to return and experience more of the city, and on a Saturday morning this April, we drove the few hours there, for a quick weekend away. Continue reading “Trying Cleveland on for Size”

A Privilege to Live in These Woods

I have met Pine Barrens people who have, at one time or another, moved to other parts of the country. Most of them tried other lives for a while, only to return unreluctantly to the pines. One of them explained to me, “It’s a privilege to live in these woods.”

I love that sentiment: “It’s a privilege to live in these woods.” The quotation comes from The Pine Barrens, a slim volume by John McPhee that explores the New Jersey locale of the same name. The Pine Barrens is a large expanse of forest growing in sandy soil, sparsely populated and fairly isolated, which persists, improbably, in the midst of the vast metropolis of the East Coast. People from outside the Pine Barrens, accustomed to modern conveniences and a more urban lifestyle, may find it hard to imagine that the people of the pines—those whom some derisively call “pineys”—feel content and even grateful to live in what seems like a backwards society in the middle of nowhere. But McPhee meets many residents of the pines who would rather live there than anywhere else, and it’s not that none of them have tried. They recognize the benefits of living in their small communities, surrounded by the bounty of the forest and happy with the liberty and harmony afforded by this unusual way of life. They consider it a worthwhile tradeoff Continue reading “A Privilege to Live in These Woods”