When I was a child, I constantly explored my world and made up adventurous stories that involved changing my dog into a dragon, pretending there were Fae in the woods (there probably were). We explored constantly and I fantasized that I could climb to the top of every mountain I could see in the distance. I never concerned myself with adult stuff like the attitudes or beliefs of the people around me, the economy of my home state or town. Those were grown-up things and I didn't understand them or care to.
As I moved into my rebellious years, I started to notice how the beliefs of those around me differed so much from my own. I ran into the language of bigotry and chosen ignorance and so I began to dream about leaving my world in search of somewhere better. I was obsessed with getting out and never coming back. I went to college far away but eventually, I guess after getting a dose of The South and realizing that all the things I was seeking to escape were everywhere else I would consider being as well, I returned home.
If I wanted to pursue opportunities elsewhere at this point in my life I could. I've got a decent career history and specialization. I am of the right age where employers would see me as "experienced" but not "too close to retirement". I was talking with my best friend the other night about his contemplation of leaving the State. We are both public servants so there is an understanding of the difficulties with dwindling budgets, the failing coal industry and the trickle-down impact that has on the public sector bottom line. Then, there are the people. They don't understand big pictures or care to. They are like children all over again, the chosen ignorant, still, it seems, the best bitchers, moaners and complainers in the universe...
It makes a person tired. Plus there are the winters! LOL don't even get me started on the winters.
But, as I said to him - I won't leave again. More than the whole "I don't want to leave" there is the very, very intuitive need to stay. I can't explain it. I'm stubborn I guess. I left once and found that things (as far as people go) were not so much different elsewhere and given the fact that I'm unwilling to live in a city I don't think that has changed. I've traveled, not extensively but enough to see some beautiful places in our country. In my soul not one of them has compared to my little State of West Virginia. Well, maybe Alaska....yes, most certainly Alaska LOL...
I won't leave because of the land. Because when I am lucky enough to find my way to the top of a mountain and I look out over the edge all I see for miles and miles are more mountains full of tall trees. Not just full, but overflowing with them. I know they aren't old growth but to me they are just as beautiful because they are the soldiers that sprouted from destruction. Our forests were raped and trampled upon (I always think of that conversation in Lord of the Rings between the Orc and Saruman: The trees are strong, my lord. Their roots go deep. Rip them all down). When I walk in them I can almost feel the loss, still there even after so many years. Once while in Nevada I met a woman that had family in WV. We talked about things for a bit and she said that she didn't like driving here because the trees were so dense along the highway and she always felt claustrophobic. I found that interesting because I always feel cradled by them.
There are limestone crags and caves, huge groves of laurel, streams and fast running creeks that stretch for miles. There are fields upon fields, farms and pathways through forests that twist and turn endlessly into a world where most of my worthwhile childhood memories live. I can't leave these things because there is the knowledge that leaving at this point would mean that I probably wouldn't return. People remain homesick for places for extended periods of time in their lives. They marry and move, or careers take them elsewhere and some of them end up falling in love with where they are but I think that there would be a void for me that can only be filled by this land. This little oddly etched out State, the only one that resides 100% within the Appalachian Mountain Range, is my home.
I can’t lie and say that sometimes I still don’t dream of packing up and heading somewhere far away. I have a gypsy soul and a dreamer’s heart. I hear little snippets of “so and so moved to Arizona” or someplace else incredibly different than here. I always envy that person a little, maybe not for the exact place that they are headed but for their boldness. Am I simply too afraid to go anywhere else? I don’t really think so when I work through it. For instance, I absolutely abhor winter but not enough to give up mountains and woodlands. There was a time in my life where I would have, but that time has passed and age has given me the insight that those tall trees and rocky crags and mountains that stretch for miles come with a price and that price is called winter.
I could go elsewhere and be amongst people with more similar goals and life outlooks. Magical folk are hard to find here, although I’m convinced they do exist. People with open, progressive minds are even harder to find and not having them leads to a certain amount of self-imposed isolation for me, which is sad but better than having to fight and argue at every conversation.
As I work through it in my mind, over and over, it becomes clear again and again that it isn’t my mind that holds me here but my soul. My soul was born here. She has explored these woods, climbed to the highest points in all directions, she has looked out over the Appalachian range again and again. She talks to trees and the Fae and they tell her all the secrets I have longed to know since the beginning of my wanderings upon the land that is my home. I could go somewhere warmer, more hospitable and definitely more progressive. But I would long for these mountains and I would mourn the loss of them.
So, I am here, with sometimes seemingly impossible dreams. I won’t give up on the land, my State, my mountains. I won’t give up on my soul’s home.