Thursday, June 20, 2013

A State of Celebration

Today is West Virginia's 150th birthday. In the midst of the Civil War this state was born. Perhaps that difficult birthing explains some of our turbulent and sometimes painful history, but here we are, 150 years later and still soldiering on, and still as fiercely independent, proud and determined as ever.

Tonight I presented a program of West Virginia songs and stories with my friend, musician Jeff Seager. The audience was small, the venue was a tiny town in the center of the state, and the feeling was...perfect. Those who live here know what it is to be here, the strong pull of roots, the sense of place, the commitment. Visitors often comment to me about the way West Virginians feel about their state. We love it, even knowing its warts and scabs and bad tempers. Because you see, we know its beauty, its passion and its people.

Being a mountaineer isn't about being independent and living off the grid. It's really more about community and caring, about family and friends, about love of the land and about knowing the richness of the abundant nature in these hills. It's knowing the rivers and streams, and how places got their names and where things happened and who was there at the time. It's about music, good dancing music and wailing crying fiddles and heart-throb basses and frailed banjos. And it's about food--homegrown, home-cooked, and eaten at home around the table with family and friends.

It's also about stories: ghost stories, family memories, outright lies and historic happenings. It's about front porches and firesides and city walkways by wide rivers and winding country roads and deep forest paths. It's about knowing who your people are and were, how they came to be here and what it took for them to stay.

But most of all it's about love: love of the mountains and the life they shelter and nourish.

So happy birthday, mountaineers. Happy sesquicentennial, Mountain State. And here's to the next 150 years of Almost Heaven, West Virginia.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Robert Johnson said...

Granny Sue, I enjoyed your comments on the 150th anniversary of the state. Touching commentary.

Sue said...

What a lovely, stirring post this is. It makes me happy for the US that our West Virginians are still holding firm to their history and all that it holds sacred.


warren said...

Yeah! I love your words...they so perfectly represent the state I love and its people who are so special!

steeleweed said...

Nothing - NOTHING! - can replace the Sense of Place; knowing your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents walked the same land, hunted the same woods, farmed the same fields. It roots you in the world like nothing else can. I pity those who never experienced it.

Michelle said...

Wonderful words about your state and you can just tell what it means to you.

Jai Joshi said...

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

Those mountains are gorgeous.


Linda said...

Happy Birthday West Virginia! It's a beautiful state!

Nance said...

Happy birthday to a beautiful State in this great Nation . . . my Mama's birthplace. Thanks, Sue.

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