I heard a 30 year old girl on a bus once proclaim to a distant cell phone connection, "Back into Meadville again. It seems like no matter where you go you find yourself riding back into Meadville. I don't really know how I feel about that, but I'm going."
I was also riding a bus back to Meadville. I moved here in 1999, to attend Allegheny College. My dad moved to Saegertown; 6 miles north of here, when I was 4. Remembering the beauty of the fall's explosion of foliage in the long hills of northwestern PA, I chose the college that was renown for teaching its students to learn HOW to learn. However, my 18 year old decision was admittedly influenced by my host of an overnight stay at the college in the spring prior to matriculating. He told my fellow prospective student and I that the ratio of females to males was something like 13 to 1. We knew it was unlikely, but figured that if he was ANYWHERE CLOSE to correct, we were in for a torrid college experience.
After moving here in the fall of '99 and finding the student statistics section of the college's web page, we learned that in fact, there were more females to males at that time, but the percentage was, of course: 51% to 49%.
Our freshman dorm was poised on the edge of one of the area's most distinctive land features. A ravine cut between the ancient glacial pathways was formed when giant boulders of bedrock tumbled beneath ice a MILE THICK and so much closer to the sun than the 1500' above sea level average for the area. Twelve thousand years of trees and plants and abundant moisture since the retreat of the ice mountains, the dirt is thick and black and pungent.
We used to slide down the hills for fun, just to get dirty. Sliding and rolling down hillsides, knocking rocks and plants and rotting flora of all kinds tumbling and crashing along beside. Grubs and millipedes longer than fingers writhed in the air as we grabbed for purchase near the bottom. I've stolen many buckets of dirt from hidden away hillsides over the years. Houseplants love it.
It was five years later and I had graduated from college. I moved back into my adolescent home and quite literally then rested on my laurels. At a local history festival halfway between Meadville and Pittsburgh, I met a beautiful and wonderful woman. By the late summer's festival, I felt wonderfully free of the world (living rent free and partially fed for free as well). This wonderful woman lived in Meadville! I walked by her house many different times and never saw her! Love blossomed quickly in the cool fall and cold winter. We moved together on Valentine's Day, 2006 to a place on the very edge of the city.
It was C-h-O-h-L-h-D the day we moved. Probably 10 degrees F. We were lucky that the snow was only 3 inches deep. This past winter saw possibly ONE day of grass clear of any snow. From Mid-November to Mid-March, snow dotted or covered the ground. The greening process come April reminds me of a childhood romp when another kid sits on your chest and then FINALLY gets up... Your lungs tenderly open up all the way, cautious of the state of your ribs, hopefully all still intact. For a month or so, little flashes of green break through the tired grass and hills and Maples, Beech and Oaks arm their fingers with little red and purple tips - then, all in a rush - BOOM ! - Green everywhere! Sun arise on a brand new day!
I attended Allegheny (indebted myself substantially), to learn to write. I did, to a degree. One thing I did learn was that many writers thrive off of the inclement weather or other wise harsh conditions. While Meadville is MOST CERTAINLY a gray place (just a tiny bit cloudier than Cleveland), I guess I have to say that I've lived a life here relatively free of major problems. Maybe that's why I don't write much. Maybe I'm just lazy.
I hear complaints all the time from people that lack a certain positivity within themselves. Sure, the weather is ugly, the whiners are many (almost as many as the bars and churches), and the shopping is weak, but there is real beauty in the wildlife-filled hollows and ponds and lakes and trees. Camping is perfect. Flora diversity is almost natural (who even counts rhododendrons any more?). But my favorite of all favorites in this bittersweet town are, without a doubt, the bugs that set their hind ends a-glow for all to see their love. I'm not making a metaphor, for those reading from the south or other parts of the world, we have bugs that fly around in the summer AND GLOW!!! For you locals: Why don't we have a party for these things?!?
Love what you have Meadville. For a town that's known victory and defeat, you have so much. All you need is love. Yeah. It's corny. Love. I love Meadville like an antique lamp. I would love to clean it up and scrub all the tiny crevasses to its former luster. But why? When the tarnish shows the strength that it takes to survive the years. The beauty is obvious for all who can see by the light of its experience. If you see only tarnish, beauty will forever remain out of reach. You are beautiful Meadville. Love.