A Land of Creek-rock and Sorrow

This trip to West Virginia is opening up all sorts of thoughts in my head.  I posted this over on Facebook a few minutes ago–

Such dreams. I woke feeling I’d worked the night shift. Preparing for this trip and doing all the usual lists. But there’s     something else here that I can’t quite name. A low-grade fear, a creeping dread. Lord, lord, West Virginia–she may be holding the key to all our grief in these old mountains.

NY Friday 004

Wonder what that even means?  But as I read and think and pray about what should be a little trip with a friend to visit friends, a kind of discomfort settles in.  Not the kind that feels like an omen–I do ken the difference in those two. The discomfort, I believe, is wrapped around the actual seeing of the land in West Virginia. Different when you read about it, different when you do ritual around the waters, different from pictures in the newspaper.

Coal country holds some fascination for some of us who aren’t from there. The work itself seems impossible and yet generations of folks have done it with pride and satisfaction. So much pride that the thought of Big Coal isn’t as oppressive as one might think but is near-paternal. And it holds some oddly Southern sense of obligation.  The company gives us jobs, we are loyal.

I understand that. Truly. Loyalty is a heavy part of my own Scots-Irish make-up and for me it needs to be reciprocated. Once loyalty is betrayed, it is a hard road back for me to be in real relationship again. Sometimes that hard road is worth it and sometimes not.

So I am packing up some copies of Staubs and Ditchwater (that little old book) and some snacks for the road, and bringing the two bags of workshop show-and-tell. But I think I’m bringing something else, too. A wonderment, a frisson of fear, a gleam of…possibility.

Let Appalachia rise.



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