"A guy from Ohio can make it in life if he works hard enough."
-Woody Hayes

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A portrait of home

Ohio is a unique place. It is considered a part of the American Midwest, and it is also a Great Lakes state. Ohio's blue collar northen cities compose a section of what is known as the Rust Belt, and areas of southeastern Ohio are even part of Appalachia. Yet, despite the apparent incongruity of its many labels, Ohio retains a character and feel that is wholly distinct and unified in its own way. Many places, one land.

I come from the geographic center of the state, right north of Columbus. The town of Delaware, OH (pop. 32,000) is large enough to be recognized throughout the state, but small enough that people from other parts of the country often confuse it with Delaware state. Being a liberal arts college town amidst a sea of rural, Delaware well represents the stratification of Ohio life and culture. We have art galleries, coffee shops, bookstores, and intellectual liberals, but we also have gun clubs, farmer's markets, county fairs, and more than a couple good ol' boys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

Living just 30 minutes outside of Columbus, I have long considered myself a resident of two places. If someone unfamiliar asks me, "where are you from?" I'm likely to tell them Columbus because it can easily be identified. But to anyone who knows me and knows Ohio, I'll tell them I'm from Delaware, because it is where I actually live. Delaware is my birthplace and my hometown, but Columbus is my home city.

Columbus is where we go for art exhibits, fine dining, professional sports, and high-end shopping. Delaware is where we stay when we need CVS, Tractor Supply Co., and antique malls. Together, they are considered parts of a much larger Central Ohio, which encompases both the rural and the urban, the small towns, the big city, and the acres of rolling, endless farm fields that fill in the spaces in between. Central Ohio is what I know, it is where I exist day-to-day, it is the physical map onto which my life is acted out. More than a place, it is my home.

And I find myself fascinated with this place that I call home. This city, this central area of Ohio, and this state itself: it is home, and it is an amazing place to live. I have long heard many natives say that Ohio isn't the most exciting place in the world, but it's got a little bit of everything, and that is why we Ohioans love it. I hope to dig and explore this as far as possible, down deep to the roots of this place that I call home, and chronicle the mundane, the extraordinary, and the everyday in order to paint a portrait of what it looks like to live Ohio.