The First State (in progress)
The eastern edge of Delaware is a marshy kidney that filters the industrial runoff of Philadelphia, Camden and Chester.
As a child, my friend and I scoured the banks of the Delaware River for arrowheads, across from the "Great Cloud-Maker", as he called it. That was the cooling tower of the Salem Nuclear Power Plant across the river in New Jersey. I was 12, and we swatted at the black flies and drank beer amidst the cattails.
Down the hill from my father's farmhouse in Newark, under the shade of giant maples and oaks and through the chain-link fence heavy with fox grape, I watched the now-shuttered Chrysler plant churn out K-cars and LeBaron's.
Northern Delaware shelters 50 percent of all U.S. publicly-traded companies and more than half of the Fortune 500 companies.
In the south, or “lower, slower Delaware”, the soybean fields and chicken farms turn to sand dunes and fog and recede into the Atlantic.
In Dover we welcome home the dead from wars in places we can’t pronounce. Families watch from a shuttle bus parked on the tarmac. They cry as soldiers carry their husbands and wives and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and cousins and grandchildren off the planes in flagged-draped containers.
For all of its chemicals and cancer, Delaware calls me back to its isolated stillness every few years. I wander and look for something I can’t quite articulate. It's my unfamiliar home.