And I don’t mean that I hate the sea, though boats and my stomach aren’t the best of friends. I love the land, in particular, the place where I was born and raised. My life is inextricably wrapped up in the folds of those blue hills, and I have to return periodically, to see them, to inhale the mountain air, to listen to the music that has been shaped by them, and to remember who I am. More than anything, those mountains are where I meet God. Some people find His majesty and splendor in the Rockies or the Grand Canyon or the vast blue of the Pacific. But the gentle, elderly slops of the Blue Ridge are the place where God is most real to me. They are the place where His creative splendor and His compassionate Father’s heart meet and hold me. As Rich Mullins said, “I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children. And, my soul, it’s still there with them, wrapped in the songs they brought…” The Blue Ridge Mountains are my soul's home, and I am sure that they, made new and perfect, are the place I will call home when my wanderings are done and I take my place in the New Creation.
This love of a particular land and place affects so many aspects of my life: my recent passion to preserve the mountains from the dreadful effects of mountaintop removal mining, my fledgling efforts to buy local produce and meat that is raised with respect for the land, my love of bluegrass music, the magazines and the books I read. While I am sure you will hear more about these interests as this blog continues, I will begin with some book recommendations for you.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
I loved this book! I was afraid it would make me feel guilty because I wasn’t doing enough to buy locally, grow organically, and live responsibly with the land. But I was wrong. I have always loved Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, and this book, written along with her husband and daughter, proved that her nonfiction is just as engaging. I could write so much about the book, but I will let you discover it for yourselves. It chronicles the family’s attempt to live one year off of what they could buy and grow locally. It doesn’t hurt that they live on a farm in the Blue Ridge! Kingsolver approaches the subject with a very down-to-earth (no pun intended) perspective, and I came away inspired to try a few new things without feeling preached at or condemned for the choices I may or may not make. While you’re at it, pick up some of her fiction. Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible are my favorites.
All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan
The boys and I picked this up on a recent trip to the library. It is a beautiful children’s book about our tie to a place and the multi-generational farm life that we have nearly lost. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story is sweet. I think we will buy this one.
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
I love all of Rylant’s children’s books, but this is my favorite. It’s a beautiful portrayal of Appalachian life before development took over many of the mountain communities: old-fashioned coal mining, soup beans and cornbread, snakes, country stores, bare feet and swimming holes. Its all there, including outhouses, which I know by experience still exist in Appalachia!
When I was young in the mountains, I never wanted to go to the ocean, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted to go anywhere else in the world, for I was in the mountains. And that was always enough.