Into the West

Into the West: My first thought when I heard about the open editor position at Denison Magazine was that it would be a great career move. My second thought was: Ohio?
Talk of the Walk - Summer 2009

My life’s plan never included Ohio. It’s a nice state and all, but I always imagined myself ending up much farther west or even staying in Pennsylvania where I had grown up. To me, Ohio meant farmland and flat terrain that goes on forever. In my future, there were always mountains outside my office window. Or at least hills. Hell, I’d settle for a few bumps in the road. Still, when I was offered the position, it was too good to pass up, so my husband and I started packing for the Buckeye state.

I know, I know. The college stands on a hill–The Hill–and Granville is at the foot of the Appalachians, but beyond the village, just as I suspected, the terrain flatlines. Here’s how to get to my house from Granville: Drive straight for 10 miles. Turn left. Drive straight for 5 miles. Turn right. Drive straight into the garage. And when I go shopping in Reynoldsburg, I can see all the way to Columbus. Dead. Straight. Ahead.

For a few months after we made the move from central Pennsylvania to central Ohio, I’d ask my husband “What are we doing here? Where are the mountains?” And I’m pretty sure my new colleagues in the office were getting sick of my saying “It’s just that it’s so flat.”

The job has been wonderful, as I knew it would be when I started, but life outside the office has taken more getting used to. Without topography to navigate by, we depended on our GPS to get to know our new hometown of Pataskala, to find the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the city in the dead of a Midwestern winter. The terrain looked desolate under ice and snow, and I longed to be back in Pennsylvania, nestled in the valley of the Allegheny Mountains.

But before long, when spring began to make an appearance, this place and all the things this flat state had to offer began to grow on us. We discovered Del Mar (formerly Granvilla) pizza and have to restrain ourselves from eating there more than once a week. We found Easton, all its shops and restaurants, and the cool little arts festival they host in June. We discovered the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, its butterflies and art exhibits. We found a little park near our house with trails where we could walk our chubby dog and a playground for our two-year-old son, Sam. And when we’d ask if Sam was ready leave the park behind and head for home, we began to mean that new house in Pataskala. And I soon realized that Ohio’s flat roads weren’t all bad. They’re actually great for bike rides and evening jogs. And those fields? They’re beautiful in summer when the corn is at its height, and they stretch all the way to Kentucky.

I soon found the farmer’s market in Granville on Saturday mornings and would stroll from booth to booth on Main St., coffee in hand, buying locally grown raspberries and lettuce and fresh-baked bread. And then there was our Whit’s frozen custard discovery. I managed to avoid the shop for more than seven months, having sensed the danger of handmade frozen custard, but I gave in in July, and now the place is a weekly stop for Sam and me. Yep, Ohio is starting to feel alright after all.

On the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend, I was making my usual drive into work, and as I cruised down Broadway, I was confronted with a village set for the holiday weekend. Carnival rides and food booths and people milling about. I’m a sucker for community carnivals, for funnel cakes, and cotton candy, for rides, and games, and kids running through the streets, and I realized in that moment that I was genuinely bummed that we were headed to Pittsburgh for the holiday weekend. As I turned to start up the drag to campus, I thought that maybe I had found my Hill after all.


P.S. All this change for me and my family also means a little change for Denison Magazine. My hope is that you’ll let me know what you like and don’t like, because, though I take great pride in this magazine, it’s yours–I just work here.

Published August 2009