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Marietta, Ohio-My Beautiful Town

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sometimes it feels to me that my life is nothing more than an unending search for beauty. I don't know anyone else who spends more time at it. It's really too bad my aesthetic quest doesn't pay, because I could be a billionaire. But then I probably wouldn't keep roaming around, searching for beauty. 

A semi-pro aesthetician like me does very well living near Marietta, Ohio. This little-sung brick-streeted town has a lot going for it. More and more I hear people literally go into raptures about Marietta. That didn't used to happen, but a lot of good things have taken place here since I came here in 1992.

I spent a gorgeous golden November afternoon gabbing with friends at the Local Artists' Show and Sale at the Lafayette Hotel. Then I walked down the levee to visit Mr. Lonely. After that, I crossed the Harmar railroad bridge. 

The new railing smelled sweetly of pine, shone in the late low sun, and lured me onward.

I always stop to consider this amazing sycamore limb. It just goes on and on. I take its picture, and always fail to capture its beauty.

I stood, dumbstruck. 

The river was like glass. Our beautiful "new" Putnam Street bridge sent a graceful reflection across the Muskingum.

Looking downriver, the Williamstown bridge crossed into West Virginia, across the mighty

I crossed into Harmar Village and looked back toward town. Man. Beauty everywhere.

There was an InstaMeet last Friday, a tour of historic Marietta for people who like to post photos of Marietta on Instagram. I should have gone. I need to meet some more people in the area. Most of my friends live in my laptop, and I'm alone too much, I know that.

It would be nice to share this magnificent specimen of Magnolia grandiflora, for instance.


How it's survived our northern winters, how it throws dapples on that white house with its huge hard evergreen leaves. All those things. A miracle. It's so old its bark is shaggy and strippy, like a hickory's. And I love the homeowners for putting up with its terrible clattery drifts of fallen leaves, year round, for it has a tropical tree's habit of shedding leaves pretty much all the time. Clack, clack, clack. And they don't rot. I know, because I lived with a southern magnolia as a kid in Richmond, Virginia, and I hated raking those leaves. So much. But far more than that, I adored its huge white blossoms, the soft-winged orange soldier beetles that clambered around and coupled inside them, and I can still reconstruct every molecule of magnolia perfume in the back of memory's throat. Aesthetician from an early age. 

All these things came back to me as I gazed at the magnolia, rara avis among trees.

I walked a bit and came to Found Antiques, now home of Passiflora Studios. Quiet now, because wedding days are past. But soon enough they will start again. Phoebe worked here from time to time, and I loved to visit her. My, that's a nice blue farm table. But I don't need a table.

As I drove slowly home, I stopped at some favorite trees.

A gingko, throwing off her dress, setting the place on fire.

Throwing perfect little fans like gold coins to the ground below. How soon they lose their lustre!

The mighty twin sycamores of Second Street never fail to stop me in my tracks.

I get out to worship and record them here, most every time I pass. 

I wish there weren't a car in this shot, but it does give you some sense of scale. They are mighty, mighty trees. And people drive by them all the time. See, I can't. Stopped by the aesthetics of it all, footloose and frozen, too. Must say it's good of that sugar maple to kick in with the flamethrower, a meet backdrop for such a titanic tree. 

I headed home on the backest back road I could find, a new one for me, but already beloved for its cattle, its colors, its farmsteads.

The initial rollout, so tantalizing. Come along. I have something to show you...

Cattle set afire by the low sun.

The way that cherry-red pickup sits like a ruby in all the weathered wood; the maple dumping its color everywhere; the last sun stroking the gravel ridges.

A silo, such a rare thing anymore. Who has livestock, who needs to store feed? They are all dying out, the small farmers. You have to hit the dirt roads to find them.

Foxtail grass and a landscape straight from Grant Wood, gumdrop trees and perfect valleys.

My father would have slowed down to eye this tractor, that Chevy pickup, that barn. I, his daughter and made more of him than anyone, do it for him. 

A redtail crosses, of course. 

And the Graces stand naked in a row.


I've never thought of myself as an aesthetician before, but you have described me so well in describing yourself. I despair of catching a fraction of a percent of it with my camera, but soak it up into my soul nonetheless. And yes, most of my friends live in my laptop, too. I am so thankful to have found you through this device!

"Stopped by the aesthetics of it all..."
To my neighbors, it looks like I'm walking the dog, stopping to let her sniff. But I'm really looking at the pileated woodpecker hammering a hole in the sweet gum tree, or listening to the crows make a fuss over the resident red-tailed hawk, or imagining which invasives I would cut out of people's gardens and thinking of what I would plant instead. Hope you get another chance to meet up with the Marietta instagramers. You both would have so much to gain.

The way the sycamores stop you in your tracks to take photographs of them and admire them is just what happens to me with the eucalyptus at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I really can't even stop myself even though I have 100's of other photos. Each time I visit though there seems to be something different and special that I just have to capture. Thanks for making me feel it is okay to take more photos:-) Love your writing!!!

Oh, that was lovely. Thanks for taking me along.

A Magnolia? I never expected that.
Beautiful townie photos too, no sign of rust or belts.

Beautiful, again! ;o)

Such a fabulous start to the morning -- thank you!

I wonder which, if any, other animals are aestheticians at all; which perceive or seek beauty as humans do? (…Maybe Chet knows, but he ain’t talkin’).

I, too, have certain trees which I stop to "visit" when I am in their area. There's a very old oak on a parkway that I remember my mom commenting on long ago. She told me that she always walked by the oak on her way to work, and it was big and old way back then. So I always tell it how beautiful it is when I drive by. (Trees understand "picture language", just like other creatures.) Also an old oak in a state park I sometimes go hiking in, and in another state park, two trees that have grown together that stand by an entrance path. I stop to talk to them and touch them, and people would think I'm barmy, but I don't care.

Posted by Anonymous November 20, 2016 at 3:54 AM

Thank you for the tour, Julie! Loved that town of trees, interesting homes, handmade Putnam Chocolates, Barking Dog Books, artists' gallery, antiques, and sometimes striking glass-like water. I enjoyed it all from 1994-2010. Great walking town and many friendly people but if you live out a bit, people seemed to think you're SO far away (and I was only 5 miles out of town!). Beauty abounds. I miss it. Kim now in rustbelt PA

My mother in law had a large magnolia. It died after big below zero freeze in 70s. But sprouts grew back into a shrub form. I have used this now 50ft tree with 5? Main trunks for Christmas decorating of The Our House Tavern for open house - this Wed 23rd from 6-9. Free admission & live costumed musicians ( hammered dulcimer & lute) in ballroom. Free 1800s recipe cookies & tea. This magnolia still sends up suckers that are lovely fresh leaves & easy to access.

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