Hello, there, chappies! It's me, Annie of the Appalachians, slinging more words your way! Catch 'em, share 'em, collect the whole set!
My three long-time readers will know that the biggest hurdle in my personal life has been the loss of my ties to the Appalachian farm that was in my family for ... oh ... thirteen or so generations. Really. I have an ancestor who died in 1778 whose grandfather lived in those parts.
At just about the same time that the last generation of Johnsons were dying out or moving away from Polish Mountain, a campground called Four Quarters Farm opened at the other end of the Zip code. It was quite a joke at the time, because Four Quarters started out as a completely clothing-optional place. (Options have been scaled back but not abandoned at present.)
It's no coincidence that I started camping at Four Quarters the same year that my family sold the homestead. What is a coincidence is that Four Quarters Farm is for Pagans ... and I had become Pagan.
When I go to Four Quarters Farm, I meditate on the loss of my farm, the lack of Appalachian identity in my children, the loss of family and friends and anchor. This is the Great Work that I still have to do to find peace in my life: I've got to stay connected to the land even with the loss of ownership.
This year at 4QF, my friend Maebius came and was pretty much game for any silly endeavor I proposed. So I persuaded him to go hiking with me off site to a state forest trail that I recalled from my youth. (There are some very gorgeous hollows in those mountains, but they're hard to get into and out of.) We set out in search of a drop-dead gorgeous hollow that used to be easy to find on a well-marked trail. But that was 20 years ago. The trail isn't even marked any more. We discovered this only after hiking into a wicked thicket of new growth woods and stinging nettles.
We weren't lost, but we couldn't find a consistent path back out of the hollow. It was slow going. Thankfully we did have a nice pure stream at our side.
As we made our way down along the stream, back toward where I parked, we began noticing interesting topography. There were ornamental shrubberies grown wild. Rock walls abandoned. Masonry foundations in the middle of the woods. The area had once been populated. Now it's woods.
Maebius said, "Nature has really reclaimed this place."
This comforted me immensely.
The long-gone residents of those long-gone homes were no doubt kin of mine. They're probably buried up in Chaneysville. But their homes, yards, barns, bridges ... lost, all lost.
So, too, will this be with my great-grandfather's land. Once the kinship tie is broken, and the property owners are absentee or foreign, Nature moves in. There's a stubborn grove of locust trees where my great-aunt Belle had her magnificent garden. Carpenter bees have eaten the barn; it was torn down this year. The pastures are growing in because only deer are grazing them.
Appalachia is still under attack by mountaintop removal mining and fracking, but at least in the little patch where I came up, Gaia has moved in and is reclaiming. Now that no Johnsons live along Johnson Road anymore, I beseech Her to expand Her reach. Let there be trees. Let there be woods. Let the roads grow in and the timbers crumble. Let the mountain forget us all. It was born in the days of the dinosaurs -- what do we matter to it, after all?
Gaia, take back what was yours, and thank you for letting us borrow the mountain for awhile. We didn't leave very much behind. Bright blessings to You.