Before: Ohio was forest and wetlands and prairie. Bison shaped the land like elephants built the savannah. There were horses here, once. Not the wild horses we know now, but American horses. There were mastodons, cave lions, giant sloths, short-faced bears. All hunted or undone by time.
Now: Ohio is defanged. The wolves and bears that come here are newspaper headlines and campfire stories, only half believed. The swamps, and the cranes that nested there, are reduced to hunting preserves and sewage treatment plants. A pair of sandhill cranes dance in the shadows of an oil refinery built for a pipeline that stretches like an ugly brown snake around the girth of the world.
Yet I say I belong here. I say I could live out here forever. I can’t even start a fire without help. I can only identify three edible plants: raspberry, strawberry, jewel-weed. Trees are yet unnamed to me, just clustered of tessellated fall leaves on the trail ahead of me.
I do not live here. I am a visitor only. The woods knows this. Does not surrender its secrets. In an hour or two, I will regress, return to the car, drive thirty miles through darkness to a house built on the bones of conquerors and conquered. This town is the remnant of a fort. A reminder that a war was fought and lost and forgotten here. And before that: a town by a river. And before that there was only the river. And before that?