CLE + Joy: The Forest City

I grew up in the trees. Although we started arguing before I could talk, Frank the Forester spent a lot of time with me in the woods.

My first December, I was plopped in the cut greens as he prepared Christmas trees. My puffy snowsuit, patterned with primary-colored geometric shapes, prevented me from rolling away. Soon, I’d be decorating the half-tree in my bedroom, one of three Christmas trees in the house.

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Christmas 2013: My first adult tree

As children, he guided Will and I through our Shaw Road woods regularly, fostering our love for the sublime “Super Sugar Maple Tree,” venturing down to the Black River, playing catch with monkey balls. Sometimes I’d worry that a tree would fall on me, and I’d use that as an excuse to beg to leave. As we left, he’d spray the shaving-cream-like sanitizer in our hands, and we’d pile in three to the bench and me straddling the gears to ride home. Speeding over the tickle bump on Chippewa Road.

One winter, my brother and I were left alone in the Christmas trees beyond our backyard pond. Dad had cut down several dead and overgrown evergreens to make way for new ones. We dragged those trees, at least eight, to make a circular wall, piling the sappy trunks above our heads, warm in that fort of green needles.

In middle school and high school, when my parents guilted me out of laziness, I’d help Dad sell Christmas trees. I wandered through the rows, at home in the dark silence of the snow and green. Sometimes he’d run with me through the rows, always warning me to watch for the holes from already-dug-up trees. When there was enough snow, I’d walk right behind him, still stepping in his bootprints like he’d instructed when I was too small to make my own path.

I felt a little more at home when I recently found out that Cleveland is known as the Forest City. I was also suspicious as, compared to Chatham Township, the city seems far from forested.

I’ve been to two cemeteries since moving to Cleveland. Those and the trees lining the RTA tracks on Shaker Boulevard are the extent of my nature experiences here. My goal in this city is to get in those trees. Not the ones strategically planted in parks but the ones bordering wilderness.

The trees are subject to humanity but always created by God. They are always beautiful, creating shade and color and air and quiet. Where do I find it – that quiet wild, that collection of towers I will always fear? I want to be suppressed by the pure creation. I want to be in that innocent, proclamatory worship.

CLE + Joy: Natural Color

I didn’t expect to find color in Cleveland. And I didn’t expect to find joy in color. But because nature-colors are less present here than in rural areas, I notice them more. Not the colors alone, but the way they contrast with the buildings and roads and everything that is city-gray. I’m on a daily hunt for these intersections. And I am grateful for this fall surprise.

Shaker Blvd. Night leaves Golden walkway Progressive Field Dave's Buckeye-Shaker Fall tree Sunset Shaker Heights

CLE + Joy: Streets

I’m from the country. This pavement and potholes and cars and neglect of turning signals and crosswalks everywhere is new to me. But I kind of like it. It’s the quick-thinking I have to do at 7:45 am when someone cuts in front of me and the old old buildings I pass and the so many new people crossing streets and the traffic safety helpers directing kids across the street to school. It’s messy and chaotic and alive:

Buckeye-Shaker480 BridgeIndians GameCanal Road Warner HillTower CityDriving home

Introduction to the Cle + Joy series

CLE + Joy: Food Culture

I’m hesitant to join the food Instagram-ers, and I refuse to become a “foodie” to combat the Gen Y syndrome. But the spiritual and physical life-giving power of food brings me joy, makes me want to share.

Below are some of my Cleveland food experiences, made beautiful by art, relationship, and adventure.

1. Crepes, delicate, rich, and packaged the same way they are in France:

Crepes

2. Apple strudel at a Hungarian restaurant:

Hungarian Apple Strudel

The Hungarian owner, a gruff but endearing gray-haired man, waited on my table. He didn’t smile at our eager “thank you”s, but he waved from his chair at the back, in between overseeing the tables and ordering the bus-boys, as we exited.

3. Jokes on Shaker Square:

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4. Dim sum bringing cultures together:

Dim Sum

Every time I see West meet East, contrast is revealed. I delight in the conflict/communion/cooperation.

Today I heard that food is inherently good. Genesis 1:29-30 says “Then God said, ‘Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground – everything that has life.” Before sin!

Literal vs. figurative interpretations aside, food was placed here for us to enjoy, along with the rest of the universe. And it creates order within creation. So let’s receive.

CLE + Joy: The Faces of Downtown

The first of my posts on the small joys of Cleveland, this one is more universal than some of the beauties I described in the CLE + Joy introduction. I’ve been a shameless tourist when it comes to capturing downtown Cleveland in my month and a half here.

Being a tourist has allowed me to get a real picture of what downtown is – without letting all of the negative comments I’ve heard bring it down. Today, my boss said to the company, “Cleveland is the country’s best kept secret. We just have a self-esteem problem.”

There is much more beauty than dust in this city, and I want to share it. I can finally pick out the Cleveland skyline. And I love it. The lake sunsets, the intricate architecture, the fresh streets, the Wednesday business rush and the weekend excitement.

From Shaker Heights

From Shaker Heights on a summer night

From Ohio City

From Ohio City on a West Side Market run

From Progressive Field

From Progressive Field before a Tribe win

From St. Clair and E. 6th

From St. Clair and E. 6th on a Wednesday morning

From E. 6th

From E. 6th on 9/11/13

What are your favorite parts of downtown Cleveland? What’s beautiful to you?