The Things I Carry: Where 36 and 37 Meet

Lock Malta 3
Historic lock in Malta

There are a lot of incredible places to explore in Ohio. Ohio is full of a rich and diverse history thanks to the Ohio River and it’s tributaries, and of course, Lake Erie.

If you scoff it is probably because you have never bothered to get off the interstate of leave your suburbia enclave.

I know because I spent many seasons exploring it by car and by foot. I admit the best memories came over a three year period when I explored Ohio’s backroads in a convertible Miata with my redheaded, Irish consort, Grace. Usually to the judgmental disapproval of others but that is a different story. Regardless, we drove practically every road in the state, visited roadside attractions, natural wonders, back country roads and city streets. We ate lunch in country cemeteries, found abandoned smokestacks and took long walks in the woods. It was consistently the most wonderful time of life – full of love, happiness, joy and laughter. And sunshine. Lots and lots of sunshine.

The world would be a better place if the Irish like Grace ran it.

The goal of our trips is to be lost. We would roll onto an old road and randomly pick a direction. Turn left, right or straight? If it had a centerline the road was to big. We would criss-cross counties and the Ohio countryside. We took joy in the lollygag and meander.

Not everyone loves the consort.
Not everyone loves the consort.

The one constant was Ohio State Route 37 and US Highway 36. You just cannot go anywhere in Ohio with out this constant. We would joke that in Ohio, all roads lead to the 174 mile long SR 37 that runs from the northwest farming community of Findley, Ohio to the dying southeast river-town of Malta, Ohio or to US Highway 36. US Highway 36 runs 204 miles east to west across Ohio, and then runs another 1,210 miles and through five more states to Denver, Colorado. If you are going from northern Ohio to southern Ohio, or eastern Ohio to western Ohio you will probably cross one of these two roads.

For a while, between the historic town of Delaware, Ohio and Sunbury, Ohio, it runs together as the same road…and like US 36 and SR 37, Grace and I we ran together for a while too.

One Easter a neighbor's lamb made our porch home. Until he ate it.
One Easter a neighbor’s lamb made our porch home. Until he ate it.

When we finally parted after eight years of an on and off loving relationship, it had nothing to do with Grace. Truth be told, until a redhead Irish woman loves you, you have never really been loved. When we parted it had everything to do with me. I wasn’t prepared or ready or willing…or something. I wanted some “things” in my life that I didn’t feel I could find in my relationship with her. The Universal irony is that at this point in my life I won’t find those
“things” either.

However, where we ran together it was beautiful and important and meaningful.

Somewhere in our relationship, for a variety of reasons, Grace gave me a leather bag containing the story of our relationship. The poem is beautiful and powerful and I have carried it everywhere for nearly twenty years.

A smooth pebble to represent our love as it grows. Worn smooth by the elements; this is how I hope our love grows and evolves. Worn smooth and beautiful with time, difficulties and joys. A lock of my hair to remember me by and the times we have spent together. Quiet times, passionate times and just playful times. A toy mouse to represent the first story you told me and the fun we have together. I love you.

Through the years, when I felt alone and unloved, it is a touchstone reminding me that everyone is loved by someone. It is one of the gifts I carry.

A touchstone
A touchstone

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