Crow has been busy - new goats, new baby bunnies, new school semester for the kids, and all the attendant changes and patterns and schedules and teenagers not saying what they are doing and not doing what they are saying... but she loves it. On the other hand, I have been waiting for a new post. So tonight, after a fairly lazy day (long afternoon nap) and a meal of breaded venison steaks (delicious, but absolutely NOT Crow's favorite), country green beans (Blue Lake beans cooked soft in the leftovers of Virginia cured ham trimmings and onion), and some macaroni and cheese (special request by Sophia), I cracked open a can of beer and sat down.
"Do you want your computer?" she asked and so I accepted. She has her own, it just so happens that she left it on the floor beside the bed one night and then stepped on it the next morning, so the LCD screen is cracked. I set it up on her desk with a wireless keyboard and external LCD, but its just not good enough for her anymore. She needs mine, every time I set it down.
|Various Incisions Across the Plateau|
When we first met I had no plans of ever leaving the mountains. When I say the mountains, I am talking about the Appalachian Mountains, which are not really mountains so much as they are the old fuzzy and rounded ridges left as part of an ancient incised plateau. But to me they were mountains.
|Where the Intermittent becomes Perennial|
|Young black cohosh, squirrel corn, anenome minimas, under sleeping Tulip Poplars.|
Bottomlands were not an area unto themselves, so much as they were a feeling. If you slid-hopped your way to the bottom of a particular slope, where you met the stream or the stream-in-formation, then you were in the bottomlands. Two steps, sometimes as many as ten or eleven, across, and suddenly you were no longer in the bottomlands but headed upslope again. Such was the incision. You could sit in the bottomlands, where the paw-paws and hackberry trees held the hillside from slipping into the stream, and if you looked up you could not see the top of either ridge. The hillsides shot up and away from you, rounded and full and covered in trees waking from a long winter nap. Near the bottom were Hemlocks, small striped-needle relatives of the balsam fir, with moose maples and mountain maples and sugar maples and red maples and sometimes silver maples all mixed in. Tulip poplars, the fastest growers, sent out their mittened leaves the earliest. In March you were lucky to see one leaf breaking bud; by the end of April some of them were larger than your hand. In the bottomlands the feeling was isolation and freedom, a fresh place of privacy and discovery where you were held close in the cleavage of the mountains like a small child, and allowed to explore Great and Unknown mysteries while resting safely against the soft curves of the Earth.
So, you understand, in some small way, why I call them Mountains. It is a place that I grew in, a place that I left for Florida and Crow, and a place that, one evening, from our bougainvillea-shaded patio in Florida, Crow and I briefly left one day in September to stand in, landing on a mountain airstrip and leading a wedding party to the falls of Meig's Creek, to stand in front of those that held us close, and that we held close, and to say to each other and all those present, that we knew we were intended to spend our time on earth together. Because we chose it, and because it was destiny. As our old Souls guided our lives, and as we became more attuned to listening, it was a simple and magical reality.
|No gators in the mountains, although I learned to love them.|
|The 'new' bottomlands - shrubby marshes. This buttonbuh,|
Cephalanthus occidentalis, was an old friend. I cherished
those connections to the past.
I moved back in April of 2008, living out of a motel on US Route 460 whilst Crow readied our Florida bundalow for its debut in the crashing housing market. I woke up my first day of work to an ice storm; the bottomland trees coated in a thick rime and the higher elevation trees holding a thick blanket of ice and wet snow frozen to their branches and north-facing trunks. I breathed deep in the icy air as the sun came up, and the corner of my nostrils caught a faint whiff of destiny. I was charged from toe to head with an energy and a realization that cannot but put to words, other than to say I was Home.
|View from Bolt 'Mountain'|
It wasn't long until the house sold, and Crow was able to bring Sophia and the rest of our belongings up to the rental house I had secured.
The roads were not laid out in blocks, and the garden was only starting to grow. I saw her pause, I saw her wonder, I saw her compare the view of the mountains to the seething and barely alive heap of garbage that was the overwintered city below us.
As spring came on full, we developed a tradition of going to a small local diner late on Sunday mornings for breakfast - she would have blueberry pancakes and bacon and eggs, and I would have sausage and biscuits and sausage gravy and eggs and more sausage and fresh coffee. We would read the local paper and wonder what the future held - Me, at home and at ease, loving each day at work in my old Home, and Crow, uprooted and venturing, trying to make sense of this different place, trying to understand what exactly was her place here.
She pointed to an ad for a farmhouse and a couple of acres, off the Bluestone River. "Have you looked at this one?" she asked. "You don't want to live there" I assured her, and told the reasons why. There were no restaurants closer than 20 or 30 minutes drive. The 'towns' on the map had been replaced by poverty and decay, and the streets were empty except for the occasional staggering pillhead, I told her. And if you are far enough from the paved road, you can completely forget about a police response to an emergency call. You would have to learn how to shoot a gun, for your own safety, I told her, and you would be alone.
Those are all things I said to my wife, a slender, dark-skinned girl who handed me the world, on a regular basis, and slipped to me her broken dreams in the dark of night so I could hold her close and glue back the pieces I could recognize. But the person that heard those things, that day, was not her. It was Crow, the old soul that had felt her toes in the soil of the tomato patch behind the rental house, it was Crow, who had shoveled snow from our rental porch and painted a giant Star on our front door. It was Crow, who had pushed me to get in the old Saturn Wagon and drive her out Black Oak Road, to the place I knew she would hate.
We rounded a bend in the road and I said, that is it up ahead. She was transfixed. She jumped out and read the realtor's sign - "Let call her, now!" she said, and we did. Three hundred dollars US (all I had to spare) secured the purchase contract until the arrangements could be made. And in April 2009, we moved in.
|The house is beautiful, the work is neverending; this wallpaper seems|
to have beenapplied with staples over base of rough sawn
lumber and coal dust.