At Home in Ohio: Spring 2015

I head to my home state of Ohio a few times a year. I go back to see my beloved family, I go back to stay at the farm where I grew up, but mostly I go back because I have to: it is home.

Home can exist as a state of mind, it’s true, but home as an actual physical place has a stronger claim on a person than any abstract notion ever could. This doesn’t even have to mean that your home is a place you even necessarily want to be, but it is still a place, not just an idea. A place that exists in a specific spot on the planet — one that is unlike any other for you, utterly familiar no matter how long it’s been since you’ve been there. That’s how the farm is in Ohio for me. And not just for me; it’s the same for a lot of people in my extended family, scattered across the continent and the globe. We all converge in this particular spot any chance we get. It’s not that our farm is particularly amazing, though it has plenty of amazing elements, it is that it is ours. When I’m there, I think about my grandpa, who died in 2006, the year my oldest son was born. Just as my grandpa no doubt thought about his grandparents every time he was back on the same farm, their farm, long after they had passed away.

Spring came while I was in Ohio for this last visit. We celebrated Easter and mourned the dead and dying Ash trees that cover the property, the work of an invasive species which showed up  in 2002 and has managed to kill millions of trees in little more than a decade. Death and life, as always, go hand-in-hand and even as dead ash trees are cut out of the landscape, the tiny seedlings my sister planted in anticipation of summer sprang from the dirt and cheered us all up each time we walked past this little field of green.

The days are getting longer, long enough for the kids to run around outside to the point of exhaustion, but not so long that there isn’t time for adults to sit around in front of a fire in the wood burning stove on my mom’s porch, hot tea taking the chill off a late evening in spring, at home in Ohio.

At Home: 3.19.14

Like the snow still lingering outside, right now my house is dirty, grey, and irritating to behold. I looked around this week and realized that being trapped (more or less) in this place for the last several months has become a sort of anthropological experience: signs of small children and the worlds they create are everywhere. Sometimes the signs that children dominate this place  are random, sometimes they are deliberate, little displays set up with care. Until I step on these displays and kick the composition across the room. Which leads me to my biggest surprise as a parent, and it’s not how very terrible potty training has been. It has to do with how much kids love the floor. How much they adore littering the floor with stuff,  taking every opportunity — and where none exists, they create one — to throw things, small and large, on the floor. A large part of my day is picking stuff up: library books (please don’t tell Carol, our beloved librarian, this fact), legos, puzzle pieces, cups, food stuffs, more cups, articles of clothing, on and on and on. But it’s not just the floor, children just generally love a surface, any surface, to spill things on, write things on, leave things on. So this month’s “At Home” photo essay is dedicated to my dirty, end-of-winter house and its small inhabitants. And to the fact that we bid winter goodbye this week, at least officially if not in reality. So long winter, 2014. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you monster.