I am more grateful than I can say for the comments and insights into my last post on Appalachian Values! It provides strong evidence to me that there is something unique and special about these mountains and life lived here. Family was a truly strong theme in the responses I received here. Independence and self-reliance were others and these traits of Appalachian people were seen and learned through family and shared experiences of struggles to live and thrive here on these steep hillsides.
It seems that sights, sounds, and smells of different seasons and places created strong feelings and memories for some of you. They do for me as well! It is as if each season, or time of year on the mountain side contains a unique smell, sound and “feeling”. Spring–especially just after an nice heavy rain combined with the new early growth creates a fresh floral scent to the air, a clean and newly washed mountain with the new baby green leaves hanging on the trees and the pale green fern leaves uncurling on the ground makes you want to just take a deep breath to pull that new life inside of you.
Summer’s warmth and humidity with large dark green leaves now on the trees and the forest floor covered in mountain laurel, rhododendron, wild strawberries, blackberries, and multi-flora rose bushes create a landscape that makes you feel as if all your needs are completely supplied by the mountains themselves. The forest floor becomes covered in wild flowers and ferns. It appears lush and darkly secretive somehow. It makes me feel pulled to enter like Alice through the looking glass to see and touch the magic waiting there.
Fall’s colors are a constant kaleidoscope changing daily and crisp cold evenings leave a tingling in your nose like no other. The first smells of wood fires burning in cabins and homes makes you almost anxious to get out and enjoy the mountains because you know deep down inside that winter’s cold and snow are coming. One of you mentioned the smell of the leaves on the ground in the fall as special to them. That musty odor on crisp fall days just can’t be described here–it has to be experienced. The animals are foraging and the evidence of the bounty of nuts and berries provided to them are so reassuring that the rhythm of seasons is just as if should be.
Winter’s bare forests and tree limbs offer again the ability to see the details of the ridges and mountains and forest floor are such a contrast that it is truly beautiful! The most beautiful snow falls to me are those that are wet and heavy and hang on every limb and pine tree draping everything in sight in beautiful white softness.
I find myself now after almost 3 years here again realizing that it is the place, it is these mountains that create the sense of Appalachia. Driving to work, to do a routine errand, or to explore new places on foot I find myself with this perfect balance of contentment and need to know them better. They provide such a sense of seclusion in way that the elders before us must have felt more profoundly.
I am not mentally isolated from the outside world here now thanks to technology and the speed of information that is a part of our lives today. I haven’t lost my interest or compassion for world events and their impact or the needs of others. I do however find myself feeling some distance from the world and pace of life that I have known in other places I have lived. I am beginning to relish this sense of contentment and comfort I’ve found here!