Down highway 58 outside Damascus with the tank filled on mountain air, rhododendrons, music, and home grown conversation traveled a man torn between two worlds. This midnight sheltered switchback drive where a man pays attention to the difference of dark greens, blacks, and blues of the tree lines instead of the road is nothing new to me. Over and over throughout the years the Appalachians people rolled out of their beds and headed to one life far away in the city only to return to refill their empty bodies with another, the life I just witnessed this evening. We are a people of travel, not the elaborate “I am going to holiday in Europe for three weeks” type of people but the “I’m going home to sit on the porch with friends” type of travel. One story I heard this weekend was how one man who worked in Glade Spring, VA would ride the train to Meadowview, VA (6 miles away) to get off and walk over incredibly rugged terrain to Heyter’s Gap, VA (at least 20 miles away) just to go back and forth from work every day. I wonder what he saw and thought on those two daily trips?
Scores of temporary Appalachian nomads made that same trek across the mountain looking for a living just to turn back around for the mountain weekend. Many years ago a man had the option of working in the fields, or go off to the factories to support his family. More importantly he also had to make a choice between loving and leaving the place he called home. It is no wonder that when the jobs in the fields fell by the wayside the factory jobs started to look pretty good. The factories at the time, and even now, were far away from the lives these men cherished so they packed up the family and left the mountains in a max exodus parade of overstuffed cars. Bumper to bumper the shifty roads out of the valleys poured into the cites on a Sunday evening and on a Friday afternoon the cars turned around and headed straight home, some as far away as nine hours. My own choices between these two worlds hit really hard as I crept down the backside of Iron Mountain. Several years ago I found myself very lost in the pitch dark of that same mountain where each turn was another wonderful laugh and tonight I clinched the wheel a little tighter as I thought of the upcoming drive back to Richmond in the morning. This move between love and life has become an internal struggle for me. How fitting it takes place on my favorite road outside Damascus? Tonight I did not feel as alone. This time I felt a little sad for all of us who will be throwing the kitchen in the trunk in the morning instead of digging our hands into the soil. Furthermore as I sat there on the porch of the Konnarock General Store I fell through all the people in my life that would have enjoyed the evening as much as I did. I could place them all there in the rocking chair with me even if they were far away in their own factories. At the general store where Bruce, Dawn, and friends gather to celebrate that Appalachian way of life I could see Neal, Eric, Mike, Steve, and Sean sitting beside me. I could hear Allyson singing, Ron playing, Heather laughing, Kym reading, dad preaching, and my grandmother teaching. I could see us all there together and THAT is the true meaning. The life in this area is about community. Even if that community gets in the car and heads away for the bread and the butter we will always come back to sit once again on that porch just to enjoy being home. Thanks for the gas I just got to fill up this car.First published at OurGoblinMarket