Ten times in the last year or so I have hosted large groups of visitors for training at Norwalk Furniture, more than 200 people in all.
They are almost always smart and stylish. And they come from all over North America, including some of the most glamorous and desirable places to live.
I am telling you this because they have opened my eyes to many beautiful and wonderful things I had come to take for granted about our area.
Cutting right to the point, lots of these visitors think we have a little piece of heaven here in northern Ohio. Really.
When people in my groups first started exclaiming about things, I thought they were probably just being polite.
But then it kept happening.
Before I would even get them to Norwalk they would tell me how amazed they were by "how green it is here." If one person has mentioned it, I'll bet 50 have. They love how green our lawns and fields and forests are.
They like our conifers, too; blue spruce and Norway spruce and white pines and Austrian pines that so many of us look at every day and do not see at all. Apparently if you live in a place where these trees do not thrive, they are a real thing of beauty when you see them here almost everywhere you look.
And farm fields. They see fields of winter wheat rippling in the breeze and feel compelled to nudge and point for each other. Just beautiful, they say. And long, precise rows of corn and soy beans; people who spend their time in the concrete of urban sprawl somewhere see this for the amazing, artistic thing it is.
Did I mention that most of my guests are interior designers? Well, I don't even have enough space to tell you how much they like our historic older homes and the big, generous lots and landscapes for our newer ones. One woman from Texas last week exclaimed all down West Main Street and most of the way to Mansfield: "You can just give me any one of these fantastic old homes. We've passed more nice 19th century houses today than I have ever seen in Texas."
And speaking of our trip to Mansfield, you should be along when we pass an Amish buggy or a couple of Amish children along the road. Our visitors are positively charmed to death.
Lake Erie blows them away, too. To almost everyone everywhere, a lake is a body of water small enough for you to see the other side. But when my visitors fly in with an airport approach that starts over Lake Erie, many of them are still buzzing about it when I pick them up at baggage claim half an hour later.
Last Wednesday evening, I took a 16 people from all overMississippi, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Oklahomato the experimental Norwalk Furniture store at Crocker Park in Westlake. They loved the Norwalk store; they loved Crocker Park shopping; they loved their food (one woman claimed she had never had a better meal than one she had at the Crocker Park restaurant called Brio).
Having learned what seems to excite these visitors the green of an Ohio springtime, handsome older homes and ocean-like Lake Erie I concluded Wednesday's trip with an easy meander to Bay Village and a leisurely drive along Lake Road. And by then they even had me in the spirit.
Those lake view homes really are spectacular.
And the lawns and landscapes and oaks and maples and spruces really are greener than green.
And standing by the lighthouse on the bluff overlooking Lake Erie at Huntington Park with the warm breeze at park level and hand-holding lovers on the beach a hundred feet below well, it was breathtaking.
All in all, I think there is a lesson to be learned from my 200 visitors who can be more objective about this place that you and I call home.
It is often said that "the grass is always greener" someplace else. But what these people keep telling me is that greener place literally is here.