Walking the mountainside in rural Appalachia is for many a “grounding” experience. To be sure there is a lot of ground to cover by foot. The mountains seem to go on and on and on, interrupted by a small barn or silo, or perhaps a road is seen from a distance. Paved roads winding through a maze of dirt of gravel roads. Most of these are hidden deep between the hillsides.
The quiet in ways becomes “louder” the further you walk or travel away from these roads. Hillsides ridges and woodlands assert theirselves into our primary awareness–without the noises of cars, mowers, machines and yes people.
Birds and their songs and calls catch our ears so much more readily and acutely. The pecking of wood peckers on trees sounds as if it can travel for quite a long way between the hills.
The sounds of a spring or of a stream running down a ravine can be heard long before the water can be seen enticing you to stop and watch the dance of water on the stones. These springs literally just appear out of the ground on the higher slopes. You soon realize you are seeing the beginning what will become a larger stream that will become a river and this very water will travel perhaps all the way to the ocean–but here you are at its delivery to the outside world from deep within the mountain granite.
This granite and multitude of other stones in Appalachia are among the oldest in the world. Geologist tell us that the Appalachian chain is the oldest of mountain chains and that once they were taller than the Alps in Europe. Scattered on the sides of these mountains are amazing rock and stone formations seeming to jut out of the earth with force–and yet many appear to have always been here–moss covered and when viewed closely appear to blend perfectly in the scenery. They provide me with a sense of strength that comes to us from these mountains as a never ending presence here through generations.
The quiet is almost harshly broken by my footsteps as I walk. My mind wanders and wonders strangely things such as how it would ever be possible to quietly approach wildlife without their awareness.
To be able to take the time to sit or lie on that ground and listen to the sounds of what was earlier such a quiet to your ears can surprise you as minutes pass. What you hear breaking the stillness that is truly anything but–is the wind. To me it is as if nature is providing a sense of comfort to the wildlife by its constance whether it is a breeze or a roar.
And what you see as you lie there looking up as the mountain does is a constant movement–leaves and branches, clouds and sky, and the lives that travel over its ground and beauty.
We have broken “ground” on Bear Paw Trail now and I am finding that there is a huge gap in the reality of a “dream mountain home” and the scarred landscape that is required initially to put the home there. Knocking down tree after tree with a bulldozer followed by moving dirt, scraping away soil that has been here for years is hard to watch–but I tell myself it will all be worth it–and yet part of me wonders.
We got a well! It was one of my husband’s biggest worries that we wouldn’t find water on the side of a ridge at 3000 feet, but we did. We were incredibly surprised when we hit not only a well, but an artesian well that was gushing out of the pipe through a hose until they capped it off. Crisp clear water just flowing out of the mountain through what looks like a chimney smoke stack.
To me and my medical background I can’t help but see it as a wound–an impaling of the mountain to find its secret stash of water. I have to have it, we can’t live here without it–but it is an uneasy truce I am coming to grips with as we move forward. It is a little cliche to say it but “be careful what you ask for” comes to mind. I hear my mind’s voice saying, “why didn’t you just put a camping spot here”? Yes, second guessing this whole thing!
My husband and I have dreamed of this home for over 20 years! We spent every vacation possible coming here instead of traveling to much more exotic places. And the reality is here now–and the “damage” is being done to make it all possible. I only hope the mountain forgives us and will see us as caretakers and not vandals. Once the house is there, the yard is sown, the banks and paths are allowed to return to their natural state perhaps we will be truly grounded in this place.