Appalachia is a place, at least in the parts I inhabit, where an old way of life still lingers on the edges of a blazing modern machine. No doubt that machine is here. It has been for decades. Lord, at the conveniences that dot every hill side in the small townships. Matter of fact, I just stopped at the Dollar General on the way to my house this evening to grab a pack of cigarettes. We do still hold onto some tradition of a life that we like to think was more pure, clean, and whole. Don’t all cultures when they are forced to assimilate to the wider culture of those who roll the dice? I reckon so.
Truth is these old mountains have a way of gathering a body to oneself. They have a way, if you are keen enough, of leading you into the deeper regions of yourself. I believe, in some parts of me, that I have always felt the archaic call of these hills, and the spirits that dwell in their hollers. I reckon, too, that I was born into a folk who could still speak about a harder way of life. Harder they say, but still their eyes glaze longingly out across the lawn, down over the ridge, and their gaze meets that of the sunset. Almost as if that very sun was setting on everything that they once knew. A life being pushed aside for a new manufactured version.
Convenience; the killer of virtue.
As I poured tinctures off from their herbs by the moon signs today I was the last to think of our dying way of life. Although it is always on the tip of my tongue, and in the base of my heart, I often forget to bring those reflections into the activities that have been inspired by them. I seem to forget that the working of my fingers is a prayer to my kin who have gone on. We find ourselves so pulled by a thousand different items that it becomes hard for us to really sink into the moment and live there. Now, granted, my grandmother would have never talked about living in the moment. She wouldn’t have thought of having “a practice.” However, she did speak of being still. She never seemed to fret. I remember at least one morning where she walked out onto the porch to braid her hair. In my mind it was foggy, quiet, and ethereal. She whistled a slow tune and slowly worked her hair into her braid and then into her bun. Something about that moment for me is mystical and archaic. Something about that moment was timeless. Something in that moment marked me to find a life where I could greet the day as who I was without friction. To stand on my life and find a peace no matter its circumstance.
A Heritage Almost Lost
My work recently has become attempting to find that ancestral cord that is mine. To root out the stories, traditions, and lore, of my kin and somehow live it as an art form. I do not plan to try and recreate something that has died, or bring it back from the grave. What is gone must stay gone and what is alive will one day pass away. I do seek to find inspiration, to find a middle way. I seek to find the virtue of those granny women and trans-mutate that into this world that I’ve inherited. A world that is still beautiful and worth living in.
These Appalachian Mountains have stood the test of time as have the folk who have lived herein. They have a way of reminding you, amidst the noise, of a deeper connection to the earth, her cycles, and the sacred. These hills have a way of reminding a person that they are more than just flesh and blood, but that they are connected to an incredibly complex and swirling web of life. Appalachia has a way of calling one home.