Time to beat back winter

Susan Condon Love

It’s March. It’s depressing. We are feeling whiplash from weather that goes from 57 degrees in the morning to the 20s by mid-afternoon. So now is the perfect time to remember all the wonderful aspects of living in Northeast Ohio. And I’m not being sarcastic. We live in a phenomenal area.

Let us count our blessings:

The Cleveland Metroparks. The oldest county park district in Ohio, the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District dates to 1917, based on an idea from self-taught engineer William Stinchcomb, who had proposed a dozen years earlier the creation of an outer chain of parks with connecting boulevards. At the time, the outside of Cleveland was still largely rural. From a few scattered donations of land in the Rocky River Valley, the park district grew to embrace some of the most scenic areas of Greater Cleveland. Eighteen reservations, which ring the city of Cleveland like a necklace, include the shores of Lake Erie and the rivers and creeks that flow through the region. The network spans more than 23,000 acres, including land in Lake and Medina counties, and includes more than 300 miles of walking, bicycle and horse trails, picnic areas, nature centers, golf courses and a zoo!

How can you tell a Northeast Ohio native from a newbie? The Metroparks is generically and lovingly called “the valley.” I grew up in Fairview Park, not far from an entrance to the valley. But we didn’t need no stinkin’ entrance. A kindly neighbor at the end of my street allowed children to cut through her back yard to the valley beyond. (She also let us collect all the buckeye pods from her back yard, allowing us to make hundreds of buckeye necklaces that smelled pretty bad after a couple of weeks.)

Lake Erie. I lived a majority of my adult life in Lakewood, starting when my parents moved there when I was 18. I left my Fairview Park home in August to go to college and when I came home at Thanksgiving, it was to a new house on Erie Cliff Drive in Lakewood. The street dead-ended at Lake Erie and was within walking distance of Lakewood Park. I learned to love watching the lake, with all its moods. At that time, you couldn’t swim in the lake because of pollution, so to this day I’d rather watch than swim, but I have ventured out on Huntington and Edgewater beaches. What a treasure we have, literally in our back yard!

Playhouse Square. Did you know that our gorgeous entertainment center on Euclid Avenue downtown — crowned with a 20-foot-high outdoor chandelier — is the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York? The not-for-profit performing arts center attracts more than 1 million guests annually to more than 1,000 events.

I am a little obsessed with the chandelier. When I first heard about it, I thought it was crazy. How could it not break in a strong wind, showering crystals on the street? Well, it became an instant icon. And if it could survive last week’s two-day wind apocalypse, it can survive anything. Some fun facts on the chandelier: It was dedicated on May 2, 2014; it boasts 4,200 crystal lights; is suspended 44 feet above the intersection of East 14th Street and Euclid Avenue; and weighs 8,500 pounds.

Oh yeah. There are also the plays seen in Playhouse Square’s 11 performance spaces, including the Allen, Hanna, Helen Rosenfeld Bialosky Lab, Ohio, Outcalt, KeyBank State and Westfield Insurance Studio theaters, as well as the Connor Palace, Kennedy’s Cabaret, Upper Allen and U.S. Bank Plaza. Among my many memories, I saw “Hamilton” this past summer and have taken my children to two performances of “The Lion King.”

Education centers, more parks, and museums: We have access to such wonderful institutions as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, BAYarts, the Rocky River Nature Center, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, to name a few. When I hear from a native that they “have never made it to the art museum” or similar refrains (sometimes said with a strange pride), I cringe. Good heavens, people! We are so lucky to have these institutions!

Last but not least: our weather: Yes. We have wonderful weather. Think about summers in Northeast Ohio: usually not too hot during the day and perfect at night — almost like being touched by a velvet scarf as the night breezes brush over your shoulders and arms. Fall is a celebration of color and perfect 60-degree days. Winter is beautiful when that first dusting of snow sparkles in the moonlight. Spring is probably the most trying — warm, freezing, warm, frigid, hot, cool. But then again, it leads to summer.

Let’s count our blessings that we live in such a vibrant and lovely city. I know I do!

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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