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November 4, 2013

photo-211Sometimes I look around me and try to see Ohio through the eyes of friends like ReadersGuide, who is lucky enough to live on the west coast where it never gets cold but who grew up in the northeast U.S. and misses the changing seasons. I’ve been walking around two college campuses and my neighborhood, taking some foliage photos with her in mind, and then I found this poem by Tishani Doshi in a book at the Kenyon library: photo-216


By October the reach of sky is complete.
Everything longs for escape—

The snow geese weaving their way south,
the pigs in the yard,
the leaves.

We are walking that line between the trees,
shameful in their half-foliage,
replete with

Somewhere across the valley
there must be another life—

a woman drawing her children a bath,
a husband returned to this picture of wife.

If we believed in seasons
how easily we could hold to this:

this falling away and returning.

But we, who livephoto-218
with only the heat and rain,

with perpetual dying—

we, who are impervious to birdsong,

we must imagine the sound of love
as something of a deafness—

a single vowel of longing scratched across the sky.

photo-213Usually our sky is “complete” by the end of October–in the sense that you can see all of it through the bare tree branches–but this year the leaves are hanging on a little later, maybe because we had such a long, chilly spring and early summer.
I like the image of the trees being shamed by having only half-foliage, and being “replete,” which only happens when someone is fully fed and loved and warmed, as if the trees are warmed by the flaming colors of their own

Here, we don’t have to believe in seasons; we have photographic proof, at least of the “falling away,” so far in this academic year. Perhaps love of place is, for many of us, a bit of deafness. We talk about what we remember so loud we drown out the quiet pleasures of where we are. Stanley Plumly, when I moved here, told me I’d learn to love Ohio. Maybe what he meant is that I would someday be able to learn to listen.

Have you ever had to live in a place you found hard to love? How do you cope, when you’re not getting photos of roads already traveled from your friends?photo-214

21 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2013 7:47 am

    What I’ve learned in all my years of moving is that asking yourself whether you love where you live is the wrong question. For one thing, it’s not something so easily changed, so if the answer is no, it can often be a frustrating question. But mostly, it’s because it’s not what I think of the place but of what I think of myself in the place and the place in me. This may sound narcissistic. It may be narcissistic. But to wait for a place to grow on me feels like waiting to be entertained — it sets up an expectation that’s almost sure to be disappointed. The places I really love without much work are places where I feel like the physical space reflects me or my experience of that space in some way. The place I’m living now is one one of the hardest places I’ve ever tried to move, but there is still much to love here and if I’d decided that I just didn’t love it, I might miss a lot. I feel like it’s my job to seek out the things that make living in a place meaningful, to find the things that make me happy about it. It’s definitely easier in some places than others, but I’ve not yet found a place that isn’t worth the effort.

    • Carol Schumacher permalink
      November 4, 2013 9:55 am

      This captures my approach to this, exactly. Thanks for putting it so well, Harriet!

    • November 7, 2013 10:28 am

      And that’s saying something, since Carol finds Ohio about as hard to love as I do, at least as far as how long it’s cold goes. It’s taken me a lot of autumns to learn to look around enough to find sights as beautiful as some of the ones I captured in the photos.

  2. November 4, 2013 8:38 am

    I have not. Then again, I’ve never really left. I do love four distinct seasons (though they tend to be scrambled in a hamster wheel and spit out at various times, not necessarily sequentially) even though one of them sucks big time. Autumn always makes me sad. It is very beautiful and the weather is often comfortable but it’s like its distracting you from what comes next. Waving its beautiful red leaves at me, “Look over here! See this!” But I can always see winter right behind it. Coming down the road with its icy scepter throwing frost here and there. I will say that moving to the country has been one of the best decisions I ever made and despite my “otherness” (hard to take the city out of the girl), it fits my need for solitude and quiet (for the most part). Moving elsewhere would mean putting up with either bad, dangerous weather patterns, too much cold, too much rain, too much of the unknown, I guess.

    • November 7, 2013 10:31 am

      Autumn usually makes me sad, too. This year I’m trying to live more in the moment, partly because this year, more than any other year of my life so far, I know I can’t travel much (except by car, to see family).

  3. November 4, 2013 2:52 pm

    I have hated California, but I’ve hated it for a lot of reasons. It’s started to grow on me now, and I think 1) a lot of hiking has shown me what the land really looks like. More than other places (certainly Connecticut) it’s not obvious what the land would look like if people weren’t here, and for some reason knowing that makes me like it better. 2) I’ve know lived here long enough that I can walk by a place and think, Oh, this is where that happened — N burst into tears after breaking up with her high school boyfriend to go to college, or here is the place on campus where a eucalyptus tree used to grow and where K and I parked when we first arrived and I realized that I really hated it here. There’s the bench where I ate so many lunches with Martha. There’s M’s piano teacher’s house, the one with the ducks. It has enough stored memories that I feel at home here. 3) Parts of it are really spectacularly beautiful. So I guess I’ve coped by looking around more and by just living here. Here’s what I don’t like — too far away from stuff that matters. Too full of people who have moved here from someplace else and think it’s just great (too smug, plus I just don’t like boosterism). Not cold enough. I really need a period of hibernation. Too dry in summer. No winter. No transforming snow that changes the landscape. No bleak skies behind bare trees. No brilliant blue skies above bright orange trees. Ocean too cold to swim in, mostly, therefore useless. No peonies. Terrible apples. Too far away, too far away, too far away.

    • November 7, 2013 10:33 am

      As we’ve observed before, your attitude towards where you live is a lot like mine about where I live. It’s taken a while, but for some of these same reasons, I’ve learned to like more of this landscape. (Wait until I send you the photos of week-old snow in February!)

  4. Jenny permalink
    November 4, 2013 6:00 pm

    When I lived in very-small-town Illinois, it was hard to love. I tried hard (called the landscape “austere”) but wound up just loving people instead.

    Now I live in Washington state and it’s a huge, huge relief to be able to really like it here.

    • November 7, 2013 10:35 am

      “Austere” is a good word for small-town Illinois. We used to drive across the bridge into Illinois from Cape Girardeau when I was a teenager, and even then, that’s how I remember the landscape between Cape and Carbondale.

  5. November 5, 2013 6:36 am

    I’ve always thought I could live anywhere – that it is an attitude more than locality that is most important. But we were extremely hesitant about moving to New England – too many people and too many (assumed) snobs and yet we really have learned to love it. On the other hand, I would be open to moving most anywhere. Happy fall!

    • November 7, 2013 10:36 am

      Do you think perhaps it’s easier to learn to love the place you’re living if you feel like you had more of a choice about ending up there?

  6. November 5, 2013 10:39 am

    That’s a lovely poem. I haven’t lived anywhere else, though I’ve been on a few extended holidays where I felt like that. A couple of places we returned to I learned to like, but otherwise I was glad to leave. Your friend is lucky to have the warm weather but I can imagine such a change must feel strange, too.

    • November 7, 2013 10:37 am

      It’s interesting to the percentage of Americans who live a day’s drive from where they grew up–or farther–to see that there are people who live in nearly the same place all their lives.

  7. November 6, 2013 4:34 pm

    Great poem! Our leaves have been hanging on later than usual too and yesterday they even got snowed on. A very strange sight. Love all your photos. that pink tree is really stunning.

    • November 7, 2013 10:38 am

      Snowed-on leaves are a curious sight! Most of ours rained down last night. We were on the road between Pittsburgh and home, and I feel like we watched most of them fall in three states.

  8. November 6, 2013 9:26 pm

    I found it hard to love New York when I first moved here. Not that there weren’t good things about it, because of course there were, but I struggled to find the specific things about New York that I could love and feel secure in. It was hard finding my haunts. Everything gets easier when there are people you love — I had to ferociously buckle down and make friendships happen, and I was lucky lucky lucky to work with a whole bunch of people I wanted to befriend.

    Of course now that I have finally finished learning to love New York, I’m leaving it! Ah life. So many vagaries. :p

    • November 7, 2013 10:39 am

      Well, you’ve broadened your world. Now another piece of it will always feel like home, and you’ll know people you want to visit. I happen to know that some of the people you work with are very sad you’re leaving.

  9. November 27, 2013 8:47 pm

    Blogging and Instagram has changed the way I look at the seasons in Canada. I used to kind of take them for granted, but people enjoy seeing pictures… So, I actually pay attention more!

    • November 29, 2013 8:59 am

      Yes, that’s what it’s been having a friend who lives in a part of the country without much change in the seasons–I pay attention more.
      It’s fun for me to see your photos, of exotic places I’ve never been!

  10. December 1, 2013 1:32 pm

    I find my feelings about where I live to be a bit complicated. After more than twenty years, it is home, but it is not always beautiful to me. Compared to my east coast upbringing, summer can be bleak & autumn downright ugly. Except this year my garden surprised me & my trees put on some exquisite fall color. (they say it’s a balance between amount of daylight and cool nights)

    I live in the reddest part of a blue state, a desert terraformed into one of the top agricultural areas in the world, where intolerance runs right smack up against a beautifully diverse population intent on sharing and prospering by working together.

    The whole world has turned ugly and dangerous for so many people who thought they had it sorted out, even folks like us who thought we’d be secure by now. And the only way we all get through it is to help each other. I live in an area where we have an above average number of people in need (so many ways to be in need) but we also have an abundance of people willing to reach out to them with what little they have.

    That’s where the real beauty here lies. Until I learned to see it, I really never felt at home.

    • December 1, 2013 2:50 pm

      That’s a good point. When we first got here, I found the north isolating (we don’t see our neighbors from November to May) and the people in a small town–many of whom have been here for generations–kind of clannish. It is easier to like a place when you see and participate in more of the kindnesses.

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