Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunset Over Oceola

I never thought much of Oceola. Truth be told, I considered it little more than a speed bump between ''home" and "school" during my college days -- a small village of about 250 people, tucked in the Ohio countryside along the old US Route 30, about a third of the way from Shelby to Bowling Green. The only reason I really took notice of Oceola at all was because of the quarter-mile 45-miles-per-hour zone and the subsequent fear of a speeding ticket. Otherwise, the town just barely passed through my peripheral vision: a small campground, a two-pump filling station, a tiny church with a rickety sign calling out to passers-by, "May God Bless You as You Travel." And God did bless. I never had a break-down or flat tire in Oceola; I never hit a fuel emergency that couldn't wait until Upper Sandusky; I never needed to use the restroom facilities of the town. God blessed as I traveled through Oceola, and as a result I never really had the occasion to stop and think much of the town.

So I am surprised by the fact that I'm missing Oceola on this, my most recent drive from Shelby to Bowling Green. Apparently, the Ohio Department of Transportation has been busy over the last year and a half. And since our last time on US Route 30, the highway has been broadened, diverted, and improved to create a four-lane super-freeway for the entire extent of my old college "commute." Now I can drive an hour and a half solid to and from Bowling Green, without ever leaving the luxury of the 65 miles per hour freeway...

And without ever passing through Oceola again.

Inexplicably, I find this sad. Perhaps it feels a bit like the burial for a town that had been on its deathbed for many years. An unexpected, unannounced, unattended funeral that only happens to be discovered in passing. Of course, such a eulogy is overstated. Oceola will continue -- as it has for generations. In fact, I can imagine that Oceolans (Oceolites? Oceolers? Oceolanaren?) may have even initially rejoiced at the "liberation" of their town from the constant flow of semi-trucks and minivans and noise and exhaust fumes. In re-routing US Route 30, Oceola acheived the peace and quiet that are truly befitting a town of just 250 residents. However, as I drive through western Crawford County on this rose-colored summer evening -- ceremoniously bypassing Oceola without so much as a road-sign pointing toward the tiny settlement -- I wonder if and when the people of Oceola will start to miss US Route 30... I wonder when they will realize that they've become obsolete.

As I drive and muse, the skies above and beyond Oceola (at least where I reckon Oceola to be) are stirred by a magnificent sunset. Pastel gold, shimmering silver, and rosy copper are harvested from the Ohio farmlands -- creating the impression of an eternally enduring beauty that unfortunately lasts for just a moment instead. It's only a mirage. A cursory illusion. Such twilight theatrics seem soberingly similar to the story of Oceola... which is soberingly similar to the story of my own life.

The song on the radio seems to telepathically connect with this mournful reality. Although I'm sure that folks in Oceola would consider Elton John to be much too extravagent, too theatrical, too far-fetched, they could just as easily sing his lines: "Don't let the sun go down on me. Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see. I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free. But losing everything is like the sun going down on me..."

The thing is: I don't know if there's much we can do much about the rotation of planet earth. I don't know if there's much we can do about the setting of the sun. I don't know even what this all means. I just know that I feel sad. Yet strangely serene.


Post a Comment

<< Home