Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to an Old Friend

Today was West Virginia's birthday--she's 148 years old. For her age, I suppose she looks pretty good, although mountaintop removal is creating ugly, fresh new scars. It used to be stripmining that destroyed the mountains; now mountaintop removal is making wastelands at an alarming pace and creating far more environmental damage than stripmining did. Away from the coalfields, the mountains are richly green and rolling, with fast-running rivers and streams, waterfalls and natural beauty at just about every turn.

I remember reading a book many years ago--1977, maybe?--that said West Virginia was the ideal place to develop a self-sufficient homestead. The author listed many reasons for his statement: availability of woodlands for heat and building, small coalbanks in many areas that could supply house coal, plentiful water, natural gas deposits, abundant wildlife for food, a wide diversity of wild plant foods, low real estate prices and taxes, low density population, temperate climate, rich soil. It's an impressive and accurate list.

He was right, too. For those looking for a place to relocate and develop a lifestyle that includes providing more basic needs from the land, this state is ideal. It does have its problems, like any other state, but for a homesteading state of mind, it's almost perfect.

That author missed some other aspects about the quality of life here, though. He had never lived here so he could not have known about the strong cultural heritage of the Appalachians that provides a richness of musicians, craftsmen and artists. he would not have known about the friendly people and slower pace of life. Even though employment is always scarce, drugs are becoming more and more of a problem and the coal industry continues to  wreak havoc in some areas, the good things still far outweigh the bad.

For those of us who call it home, West Virginia will always be our mountain mama. She will always be the place we want to come back to, the place that beckons natives who have left to live in other places. She's not perfect, but she surely is almost heaven.

Happy birthday, West Virginia!

1 comment:

momalizzie said...

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful state, Susie. Thank you for showing it to me through your eyes and camera!

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