Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Good, The Ugly

Today was a storytelling day. I got up at 4:45 AM to be ready to leave at 5:30 for my show at the Philippi, WV Library. 

Yesterday was a long, long day of setting up, pricing, organizing, etc. I was tired, tired when I got home but there was still more packing to be done--getting the van (that awesome multi-purpose vehicle!) loaded up for storytelling. I had to refresh the stories in my mind a bit because I've been away from them for two weeks, but by this morning I was back in storyteller mode.

Driving across our state in the early hours is unbelievably beautiful. The morning fog was tinged with pink as the sun began its day, and there was very little traffic to interfere with just enjoying the drive. I'd hoped to be able to drive across the two-lane covered bridge in Philippi but it is still closed for repairs. However, the library was as bright and welcoming as ever, and I had a blast with the children who came for the program. We played with the stories, adapting them to suit ourselves, and in the end even the cool 7th graders were right in there, playing and laughing! Stories do that--they bridge the age groups, make us remember what it is to make-believe, to be spontaneous.And music to my ears, the librarian said as I was leaving, "We'd love for you to come back next year!" Ah yes! I'd love to.

I needed to hurry back to finish work on the booth. Well, hurry is a figurative term since it's a 3 1/2 hour drive each way from home to Philippi. I decided to take the interstate route, because I wanted to try to get to Clendenin, to see the library for myself. Somehow, I could not accept that it was truly ruined. I loved that little place and the community it served, and for the past 20+ years have felt attached to it and my friends made during the time I worked there. It was such a pleasure to visit, to see how vibrant it was, how it was the true heart of the community, and to see the familiar faces of staff and sometimes a Board member or patron that I remembered.

Here is what I wrote about that attempt this evening on Facebook: 

"I tried to go into Clendenin today, to see the library. I regret that decision very much. There was little traffic coming off the interstate so I thought maybe it wasn't too bad to get into town. Wrong. A little ways down the road traffic was all backed up. I wanted to turn around and forget it, but there was nowhere to turn. The sides of the road were gouged out. Tiny Doctor's Creek, I think it was, had washed out a virtual canyon. Everywhere, everywhere was destruction. The streets, what's left of them, are mud and dust. It's unbelievably sad. All the pretty, well-kept homes, now mud-crusted, broken, and the yards filled with huge piles of debris. I did finally find a place to turn around, never got to the library. The little town I loved, that was like a second home for me, was unrecognizable. And everywhere people were working so hard, looked so tired. It was heart-breaking. I need to go back, but I will go when I can offer some real help. They're going to need it for a long time." 

My words still cannot convey what my eyes could not believe. I wanted to look away; I was ashamed to be there and not be helping. I realized that not only the town but the outlying areas, and the homes of people I know, were also destroyed. The water was so deep--the debris is still high in trees. 

I took no photos; that was not my intention. It seemed wrong to even look. 

So friends, continue to send your prayers, support and good thoughts to these communities. They need them. They are going to need a lot of help to get their lives back to some semblance of order. These places will never, can never be the same. Maybe in time, they will come back better and stronger. That will be my prayer.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

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