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This morning after three days of not leaving the cabin, we welcomed a guest for breakfast. He came to get tattooed by John and to experience our mountain music all the way from Sweden. We have the pleasure of hosting him on the holler for a few days! Despite the fact that I haven’t been able to clean myself or the house in these days, I got over my initial embarrassment and hosted him at our table. It was pretty awesome to get a firsthand account of a country we rarely hear of here in the US, or at least Kentucky. I had so many questions and we conversed quite a bit about what would be the typical curiosities – daily life, education, religion, politics, etc… Our conversation confirmed a lot of what I suspected and taught me a lot as well. He was so respectful and personable. I utterly enjoyed having him here with us. I can say, if there is anything I want to do and have yet done in this life, it is to host more people at my table and to see more of our world. I want to have more conversations like the one I had this morning. I want to see what is past the Mississippi. What is beyond Huntsville, Alabama. What lies above Ohio. I want to see Mexico. Hang out in Canada, and ultimately cross the pond.
There is so much more to understand about the realities of a human existence. Of what works and does not work. I think if we are to make opportunities and a brighter reality for our children, we have so much to learn. The American way isn’t the end all to be all for sure. I mean we can’t even agree on what the American way is anymore. Congress is having too many my way or the highway arguments. Honestly, our politics are gross to me right now. Taking what works from respectably functioning countries and combining those things would be a great way to approach setting up a society.
Did you know that Sweden is kind of like Alaska right now? 1 hour of daylight! Imagine that!
The only thing I won’t be taking with me when I pass on are my children. They will have their own time to leave the planet. So, they are my work – my lasting contribution. I have to keep reminding myself of this because if I don’t I easily get caught up in trying to accomplish things. I just add more and more to my plate when I should continue to remove things from it. What Creator has meant for me to do will always find me. It is so easy to waste time on meaningless things!
Today, I had a firsthand account of one man’s experience in Sweden. An hour’s long conversation gave me a little insight. It is such a rare opportunity. This blog is the firsthand account of one mountain mother’s life in rural Kentucky. Thanks for spending your time with me. Those who write as well, thank you for sharing. Hopefully, we can continue to learn from each other and form a consciousness of gratitude, interdependence, and blessing.
“I champion the weak, the poor, the oppressed, the simple and the persecuted. I maintain that whosoever benefits or hurts a man benefits or hurts the whole species. I sought my liberty and the liberty of all, my happiness and the happiness of all. I wanted a roof for every family, bread for every mouth, education for every heart, light for every intellect. I am convinced that human history has not yet begun, that we find ourselves in the last period of the prehistoric. I see with the eyes of my soul how the sky is diffused with the rays of the new millennium.” – Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Anarchist suspected in murder and robbery along with another – Nicola Sacco. Both were convicted in one of the most controversial trials in the United States and executed in 1927.)
It is that simple. When I left blogging here more than a year ago to pursue more work outside of my home, I was working under misconceived notions. I was thinking that I could earn money and contribute to our family income. I was thinking that it would help John have to work less hours outside of the home. I was thinking that extra money would bring us things we needed and deserve. I’d be lying to if I didn’t say that I had started feeling stifled at home because of various aspects of my personality.
What I know now is that it was a wasted effort. I was leaving behind pursuits that would do so much to benefit my community and my family, in order to spend more time social networking, mailing letters, building websites, and writing newsletters for Birth True. All of that time I spent, countless hours, with little to no return. The clients I find are still typically word of mouth. My amount of actual paying work did not increase. The clients that were meant to find me still would have without those advertising efforts. It is sad that we have to learn some things in ways that make us sacrifice so much.
Time… time that I’ll never get back with my girls. Sure, I still homeschooled. I still took them to activities. There just wasn’t time for much else. We weren’t outdoors as much. I was frustrated more. They played and I didn’t pay attention as often to where their minds were at. Now, I have a 7 and 4 1/2 year old who need me just a little less. It is precious – time.
But, it is ok. I’ve learned lessons the hard way before and I have found that it is most often those lessons that produce the greatest results in us. What I know now is that there is a term for what John and I set out to do when we moved back home. Our mindset then was fresh, adventurous, and yet there were other couples all over the place doing the same thing for good reason. It is radical homemaking.
I read two articles recently that grabbed my attention. I was feeling called back to tradition, and into something new altogether at the same time. Coming across those articles in the same period of time was no accident. It was Creator sending a clear message to me.
The first article was by Charles Eisenstein called “Don’t Should on Us” in the magazine Pathways to Family Wellness. I immediately related it to my birth advocacy and wrote about it on Birth True Blog. Eisenstein write that our “selfish” interests, or what I took to mean our instinct to self preserve and thrive, directs us in three ways – choices that are simple, close to nature, and close to community.
The second article was by Shannon Hayes in Taproot Magazine and was called “To Retreat or Engage”. She explained how civic engagement happened within our duties in the home. That by living the life we were making a huge impact. Her article kicked the switch in my soul. I knew exactly what Creator was calling me to do, and for once so many pieces of the last year fit perfectly in this vision. So, I bought her book Radical Homemakers and am still reading it, devouring every word.
Hayes writes in Radical Homemakers that radical homemakers tend to be on a 3-step path:
I am now re-entering the renouncing stage and I will move quickly I imagine into reclaiming and then back to rebuilding.
Entering the rebuilding phase did not preclude a return to the other phases. The myriad stages of life are forever presenting new challenges that require everyone to occasionally retreat from the public sphere to regain skills and life balance and to critically evaluate the societal givens that they may have to consider at that time. – Shannon Hayes, Radical Homemakers
So, what am I renouncing this time. Broader American consumerist culture had held a veil over my eyes. I am renouncing my participation in it with renewed fervor. I am not a contestant in the rat race and I am returning to the choice not to be. Does that mean that I don’t value my work with women and babies? Absolutely not! I value it more than ever. I’m just trusting that as I am needed I will be called upon. I’ve also decided to take barter as a method of payment for my time and services. Money doesn’t have to change hands for my work to be valued, and not only that, but it also makes my services accessible to most if not all those who are interested. I’m stepping more fully into my place in my community, while also offering my services across the globe through the internet.
This whole thing culminated with my watching the film Sacco & Vanzetti the other night on Netflix. Hearing the quote from Vanzetti that I began this post with, filled my heart. We are missing so much in our society. Happiness is not found in consumerism, materialism, or corporate manipulation of the people. We are puppets as long as we participate. We are leaving the prehistoric behind out of necessity. A new paradigm for living is emerging.
I am being called back into my home, into tradition, to learn new skills, to be with my family, to be fully present for my community both locally and globally. I’m so excited to continue to share this journey here. These new plans I have. I revamped the Birth True site today to reflect some of this new stuff. Now, I’m going to put my efforts where it will have the most impact.
And… just for the brightest of reading experiences. Guess who sits up on her own at 5 months?! Gweneth Lenore. Gotta love a clothes basket for safe supervised sitting fun!
I finally got hold of the camera, took some pictures, and then let Deladis take some on her own. I’m going to share our last few weeks with you mostly in pictures.
Easter, Redbuds, and Dogwoods – The Tale not Found in the Bible
Today is Good Friday for Christian believers and others who are inspired by the life of Jesus the Christ.
“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered. “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” – John 19:10-11
Jesus accepted what was for what it was. He lived the Now and He realized the essence of His being protected by Father God. My maternal grandmother taught me that the redbud and dogwood trees represent some significant things in this story. They grow wild in these hills. Many plant them in their yard.
The redbud was once a large tree with large white blossoms. Judas Iscariot, after betraying Jesus, hung himself on one of these large trees. It shriveled up and the blossoms turned pink with their shame.
The dogwood represents the events of The Holy Week. You can read more about how by clicking these statements.Spring has gotten into my being more this year than ever in my life. I have never been fond of rainy up and down weather, but this year the beauty of creation has been recognized as a gift in the core of who I am. The most beautiful part of the redbud and dogwood story is that they bloom around the same time, the redbud a bit ahead of the dogwood.
Deladis Won a Blue Ribbon at the Homeschool Science Fair for her Tree Project!
She worked so so hard! I can’t believe this is a kindergartener’s work!
It’s Electric – Boogie-Woogie-Woogie
The Chickens – Photos by Deladis Rose – Titles by Mommy
And Finally – The Mole Killer – Not for the Squeamish – Photo by Deladis Rose
Explore Kentucky… Explore the World… Those words were the mantra of my time spent in early new motherhood when we lived in Louisville. We have never bought cable or satelitte since we’ve been married, but we were excited when we got almost 7 channels on our TV with a regular antennae. I love KET, all the versions. I grew up watching KET (Kentucky Educational Television) and the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) programming they aired. Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, The Write Channel, were staples of my education, and I have to say it is a huge part of what gave me the courage to call myself a writer. A huge part of who I am as a person.
Deladis was about 2 years old when she was watching evening programming with me as I rocked her to sleep. Explore Kentucky… Explore the World… flowed out of the television and Deladis repeated the words with the same cadence and tone as it was spoken by the narrator. My eyes welled with tears. It was one of the first times I realized that she heard words like I do. Hearing those words spoken in that way for that KET advertisement made me proud to be a Kentuckian. I loved hearing them, and in them Deladis heard the same value. KET and PBS produce such a quality programming, which is so hard to find now days.
Now, that we live back in the hills, we don’t get any channels. We watch television and movies through Netflix. I watch KET/PBS anytime I get the chance – renting their shows through Netflix and watching for free online through their websites. Public broadcasting is still such a part of our lives through radio as well. NPR and PRI programming through WEKU and are my chosen sources for news, education, and entertainment in the car and at home. Not only that, but WMMT (Mountain Community Radio) is our community’s (Appalachia’s) leading source for programming that is at the heart of our culture and community. I host a show on there once a month called Mountain Talk.
It was only a week or so ago, when no radio was playing, or TV going, Deladis broke out in her play as perfect as a radio announcer and said – “P…R…I… Public Radio International.” I felt the tears well again. Her gorgeous child’s voice, hearing words so beautifully. It’s an awesome thing for me as her mother to hear.
So, right now my heart hurts over the funding cuts proposed by our Congress to all public broadcasting – radio and television. It would mean the end of so many of the shows I value so much. Not only have they proposed this but also complete cuts of funding for preventing teen and unplanned young adult pregnancy programs, and cutbacks for initiatives geared toward maternal and child health. I have no clue what is going on here. I understand we need to budget, but there are so many programs wasting government money, not to mention the government itself, that I can’t see justification in cuts such as these. I don’t like to get political here, but in this case I have to write on it. Funding cuts for the arts, public broadcasting, family health, education, etc… really???
Read KET’s urgent plea here. Make your voice heard. Mr. Fred Rogers isn’t around to do it for us this time as he did in 1969. Can someone… can we fill his shoes?
I’m excited to be back and writing here. I don’t know how often I will get to post, and I am thinking about putting this page on my own domain so I can host certain things along with the blog. I don’t have any money to hire anyone to help me and figuring it out for myself is a bit intimidating, but maybe soon I’ll tackle it. In the meantime, I’m here. I hope to get back to reading more of your blogs too as I can. Work has been keeping me busy, and some writing projects too. I’m also looking into a new educational philosophy (Charlotte Mason), which is taking up much of my reading time, as well as reading the Bible in a year with Life Walk. Anyway, I won’t update too much. I’m just going to jump right in, right like I left off. 🙂 I hope to hear from you.
I’ve never been much on Valentine’s Day. It always seemed like such a cheesy holiday to me, and I was never the “lucky” girl who received gifts from a secret admirer or even her own husband or boyfriend. John did buy me a mug once with a little stuffed Dalmatian holding some fabric roses. The handle of the cup said “BOSS”, which he hadn’t noticed when he bought it, and was cracked. I still have the cup put away in my cedar chest for safe keeping. I also received flowers delivered to school from both my grandmother and my dad, but that stopped when I was in high school. There were always feelings of the holiday being too forced for me. It didn’t seem fun for the people around me, and deep down I knew/know that getting a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day does not equal true love always. I haven’t ever truly celebrated the holiday, and have never shared it with my girls.
This year, that all changed. Our homeschool association throws a Valentine party each year. It is like the traditional one we probably all experienced in school. Everyone makes a box in which to receive valentine cards from each of their classmates. There are plenty of goodies to eat, games to play, and visiting with one another. Last year, we kind of coped out. I brought a red gift bag to use for the girls’ boxes and the construction paper hearts we cut out for valentine cards was not fun for neither me nor Deladis. I was thinking of getting to the party only, visiting with other mothers and letting my girls have some social time with other kids.
However, when we got the party, I saw the decorations and the boxes the other children had made. They do have a little contest for “best box”, but I didn’t feel we’d participate last year. What struck me though about the boxes of those who were participating in that way was the obvious time put into the creative process of making those boxes. I knew it had been a family project and the time spent creating something nice was a love offering from mother to children and from children to their friends. Love offering – is that the real meaning of St. Valentine’s Day?
This year I dedcided to learn for myself and alongside my girls what the real purpose of our love holiday is, and maybe find some magic there to make it a more joyful time for our family. We went to the library and checked out two older books on the history of the holiday and the symbols used. St. Valentine’s Day by Clyde Robert Bulla which is a wonderfully written book for all ages about the history behind the holiday. Then, giving us some ideas of how we’d celebrate the holiday we borrowed Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols by Edna Barth. The full text is on Google books at the link there. It is great too.
From the Barth book we decided to make puzzle purses for our valentine cards and put within them a traditional holiday poem we found in the book.
Sure as the grape grows on the vine
So sure you are my valentine
The rose is red the violet blue
Lilies are fair and so are you.
But, before even settling on this we created a real valentine box. I wanted it to be a project that Deladis could take ownership of, so we made nothing extravagant. We did spend about 4 hours on it though. A whole Saturday.
The design was Deladis’s creation. Painting, gluing, and cutting were done mostly by the girls. The idea for paper lace came from the Barth book, which I decided to make using the heart shapes. The images you see decorating the box were illustrations from the Barth book by Ursula Arndt. They are gorgeous, old-school illustrations that Deladis enjoyed so much.
I’m looking forward to sharing our valentines, box, and our treats with our homeschool friends. It will be a fun time I know, especially for Deladis and Ivy. Deladis is so proud of the box, and she hasn’t stopped making valentines. Another thing the homeschool association is doing is having the children create valentines to take to the nursing home as a service project, which we did as well. Deladis put her best effort into those.
Yet, what I am looking forward to the most is sharing with others what I have learned about St. Valentine’s Day. How there is a bit more to it than couples, cupids, and love songs. I typed up a one page history to share with the families at the party. This approach has helped me to enjoy St. Valentine’s Day this year, and I have had a good time making it something for my girls to enjoy.
Our Valentine’s Day comes from a Roman Catholic Feast Day for the many Christian martyrs by the name of Saint Valentine in early church records. The feast day for all St. Valentines was February 14th. There are many legends as to who the St. Valentine was. But, we believe he lived in the third century after Christ and was martyred for defying the Roman Emperor Claudius II by performing marriage ceremonies when the Emperor had outlawed marriage in order to keep and recruit young men as soldiers. Another popular legend is that St. Valentine helped Christians who were persecuted by Claudius II even winning a jailer and his family to Christ. Regardless of which legend is truth, Valentine was beheaded on February 14th. The story goes an almond tree which grew near his grave burst into pink bloom as a symbol of lasting love.
As Rome adopted the Christian faith, the Roman Catholic Church sought to replace some lasting pagan festivals with those which they saw as Christian. An important Roman Festival, Lupercalia, was celebrated near February 14th. It is believed that Valentine’s execution was carried out as part of the ceremony of this festival.
At that time February came later in the year than it does now, and Lupercalia was a spring festival. The festival is so ancient that no one is sure of its origins – not even the historians in the last century before Christ was sure. It was a very important festival however, and recordings of its celebration are lasting. Animal sacrifices took place, fertility rites, and purification ceremony. Lupercalia was probably established to ensure good crops and to protect flocks from wolves. It honored the god Faunus who was similar to the Greek Pan.
Roman young people would draw names and become couples for the year at this festival. When the Catholic Church replaced this holiday with the feast day of St. Valentine, the emphasis on “love” and fertility never quite left it. And those sorts of celebrations attached themselves to the saint’s name.
Eventually the name drawing and extravagant gift giving turned into giving valentine letters, simple treats, and cards to friends and sweethearts sometime in the 18th century. This was only after the Puritans banned the holiday for quite some time during the 17th century.
adapted from Edna Barth’s Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses…
I call it just a day. A real day. I spent time away from the computer. I opened and learned the new pressure canner I bought. We have so many tomatoes, and I know I need to learn to put things up. It’s part of it. Though I have heard the stories of pressure canners blowing people up, I know they must be relatively safe, and it is time I got acquainted. Tomatoes are supposedly easy to put up.
I hate reading manuals. I like my reading to have a narrative quality even if non-fiction. I’d much prefer learning my being taught by a breathing being, but time has not allowed me that, and none of my family that lives closer to us cans. I withstood the reading, working through the text step by step, trying to be hands on instead of reading and then doing. I readied 7 quart jars. I knew I’d fill those and have left overs. Yet, when I smashed in the tomatoes as instructed by the manual, I found that I could only fill 4 of those.
As soon as the jars were prepared, the girls and I got the best surprise. At my back door, stood my daddy. He had come just in time to be present for my blowing up the house. But, it all went off without a hitch. The best part is my daddy was smiling and seemed at ease. He has a job that carries with it a huge responsibility, and sometimes I wish he could leave it behind. I always remember my happy daddy fondly. Nobody else can be happy like him. When he is happy he can hold the world on his back and go with simple movements, unhindered, laughing. Oh, the laughing.
Dad helped me fix the air conditioner away from the stove. Our little wall unit blows the flame on my gas stove, so I had turned it off. It was like a sauna in the cabin. He couldn’t stay long and we were alone again. The jars finished processing. I did my yoga practice. Ivy napped. When I got the jars out of the canner, I got this…
Floaters. I should have poured off the juice I got after packing and put in more tomatoes. The jars are sealed though, and John’s Mamaw – canner extraordinaire – says they are going to be just fine to eat. They will be used for soups and sauces this winter. I’m so pleased that the blight didn’t wipe them out this year like our last year’s crop. We are making progress even if baby steps. We’ll eventually walk with few stumbles, then glide.
First, you start with real good garden soil, a set of plant starts, and eventually you will have a gorgeousness that looks like this.
When the first pea pods appear, they will be tender enough to put in the skillet without steaming first. If you like peas in the pod, you’ll leave them on longer, but to make this dish, you’ll need to string them, and/or steam them for tenderness.
Make some bacon. A whole pack is nice because you can eat while you cook. I prefer to buy bacon free of nitrates or nitrites and sugar when I can find it. Sautee some onions in bacon grease until they start to brown.
Cook them over medium to high heat until they are fully greased and tender. The amount of grease you use depends on your tastes. I use the whole pan from making the pack of bacon. When tender, crumble in some bacon and serve.
You’ll notice that this dish is similar to the Appalachian green beans and kilt lettuce and onions. Pork was a mainstay of the Appalachian diet, and used to flavor many dishes from cornbread, beans, to greens. Because chickens provided eggs and cows provided milk, they were not butchered as regularly as hogs. When not eating pork, or chicken for Sunday dinner, Appalachian peoples ate the meat of hunted animals including, rabbit, deer, squirrel, wild turkey, opossum (some folks didn’t care for it), and groundhog (has a reputation for being greasy). In our family we eat rabbit, deer, and wild turkey, as well as fish caught from our lakes and streams. I prepare a traditional foods diet for my family most days. I have found that if we eat foods that we are genetically predisposed to tolerate, then we have better outcomes physically. My family has lived in the mountains for generations. My ancestors were Irish and Cherokee primarily. My husband’s were Melungeon. By keeping the traditional Cherokee and Appalachian food ways we were familiar with, and researching those that had been lost to industrialization we have found healthy eating. Being involved in where your food comes from both animal and plant forms, is extremely rewarding.
Yesterday, we went on a trip spearheaded by illustrious Nathan Hall to tour the Abingdon, Virginia Farmer’s Market and the organic farm of Anthony Flaccavento. He is the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development, an organization that supports local economy, especially in the form of sustainable agriculture and local eating. Flaccavento along with others in the area brought about a change in the local economy of a region of Appalachia that is an inspiration to folks living in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky. Opposed to common thought, not all of Appalachia is filled with coal nor is dealing with the results of surface mining (strip mining or mountaintop removal – all other words for it). The questions for us in the coalfields being whether a coal economy is serving us now, or whether it will provide an economy for us in the future. However, many Appalachian towns are looking to rebuild or redevelop their local economies in order to provide opportunities for their citizens and to keep their towns alive and thriving. Some see the answer as being the urbanization of Appalachia, or the move to a more universal American pop culture for all. Others see Appalachia surviving on a more modern version of going back to its roots, and that is where the Haywood’s fall.
Hello, this is me, and I will be your tour guide for this adventure showing some of the possibilities for a future for the residents of eastern Kentucky.
This is Nathan Hall, the brains and organizer of the adventure without which folks like me would not be able to focus enough to pull this sort of thing off. 🙂
He’s fixing to be a world traveller soon, to learn more about sustainable economies throughout the world. He’ll be leaving the holler on July 22nd and will be blogging about his adventures at There and Back. My greatest wish for the year without him is that John and I can continue to move forward with all the biggness that has come about at The Confluence this year.
Our first stop in Abingdon was the Farmer’s Market. It was lovely to see such a bustling place in a small town. There were about 60-80 vendors. It warmed my heart to see that many of them were family operations with the children fully involved and content to be there.
All of these were area farmer’s, merchants, food businesses, and crafts people. One farmer recently said he makes $30,000 a year off of a little more than an acre of veggies. That would be a nice living for our family. The ownership of your own livlihood is a great thing.
There was a wide variety of things represented there both organic and conventional.
The market is completely ran by the growers/vendors, but is supported by the city. The market is its own entity with its own board.
Next, we took a lunch at Harvest’s Table, a restaurant running on the influence of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In the foyer, local artists, writers, musicians, and crafts people are supported through the selling of their wares. The food is all local and seasonal. I had the corn and tomato salad with a garnish of fruit and goat cheese. It was so yummy! I didn’t expect it to be when I saw it, but it was. Another interesting thing was all of the soups were chilled for summer – cantaloupe, cucumber, and gazpacho.
After eating, we went out to Anthony’s farm.
The farm was not tremendously large, but it was much bigger than what we are attempting at this time. Flaccavento has employees and interns on the farm. He is certified organic, and uses methods that I have never seen before to achieve store quality results. I’m used to traditional, personal gardening techniques, and it was all a little overwhelming and intimidating. We are definitely not ready for large scale production, but we can work up to producing for more than just our family, learning as we go and following the market.
Flaccavento and other farmers sell to area grocery stores, restaurants, and at the Farmer’s Market. They have developed a distribution center called Appalachian Harvest that works with grocery stores and some restaurants.
It was most definitely an motivating trip. John says we’ll be old before we see any kind of business result from our work. He insists we must build slowly, and on that point I agree. But, I think with focused work, we can begin to broaden our views sooner rather than later. I have dreams, and a lot of the time they leave me pining for the grass is greener rigormoroar. I see us working side by side on something that brings us even more together. Making our living through our own two hands, enjoying the land, and using our talents in a more relaxed way. Creating something to pass on to our girls. I try to live in the present. I try.
This is a video that made me so happy to see. Leave it to Sesame Street to help us all have a positive, pure respresentation in the media of this world. This clip is of a mailman who delivered mail in our area (not too far from where we live, in the same county) in the 60s/70s. Roads like we have today are relatively new here. Most of our parents and grandparents grew up kind of like our girls are growing up on our holler. No “true” road, or a creekbed for a road. Because of this, horse was still the most convenient means of gettting from here to there. In the county where we live, many women were still having their babes at home, doing the doctoring for their families, organizing church meetings, and teaching the children the 3Rs at this time. It has not been that long ago that many of us lived in intentional communities where most of our needs could be met within a few miles from home. This was out of necessity, but something that, if you were to talk to the elders in our hills, was a thing of pride. I think our future will look similar. Our economy will eventually return to our own two hands, and be ours to create. The truth is that Appalachia is not urban, and cannot be made urban, and any effort to do so will only continue to bring ruin to our people. OK, off my soapbox. I hope you enjoy the video.
To be an Appalachian is to exist in the midst of stereotype (we aren’t the only people who do). You’ve read me going on about it here before. There’s no escaping it, even in the most unexpected places. I have lived with watching the perception of who I am change for a person as soon as I open my mouth and speak. And as much as that can tick me off, I must admit that I believe most stereotypes are made from the misunderstanding of truth. John believes it too, and it becomes apparent in his paintings. There is a part of us that is prideful of being in that state of misunderstanding – it is comfortable to us. It has been our way of life for generations.
One of the stereotypes that is very prominent in most Appalachians I know – at least in east Kentucky – is our fight. Our clannish ways. Our ability to hold a grudge. Our seeming lack of concern about getting physical if need be. Our willingness to stand up for what is right even when we know good and well it is wrong.
Every trait develops for a reason. We are evolutionary beings. We adapt ourselves to meet the needs of our environment both physical and emotional. Otherwise we’d have all died out long ago. I thank the Creator for that. My people in particular (as with many Appalachians) are Native American and European. In the specific combination of my family, it is Irish and Cherokee most abundantly. My native people were here for thousands of years. Here is there’s. Simply. My European ancestors dared to settle the frontier. They dared to go up in them mountains and stay. They were looking for home in landscape. They were looking for respect. They were looking for freedom to live the life they set out to live by coming to America, when they found in the early cities it was not the promised land and not as welcoming as they had expected.
My people entered the mountains with a fight in them. I will live by the standards I set for myself – and family, God, and myself is the only answering I am obligated to do. A way of life developed. We looked out for one another against those who came in from somewhere else. We fought for what we believed mattered.
In present day, I see our fight regrettably directed at the wrong situations. I see it serving its purpose in truth on rare occasion anymore. It is intolerably sad, so I put that in the back of my mind. But, right now, I am considering my fight. Physically I’ve been in one real fight, and two almost fights. I fought a boy in the fourth grade. My daddy had taught me a trick – see, and I used that trick, so it didn’t last very long. I had a bloody jaw. The almost fights were in 8th grade and college and those were fights for honor. Most of the fighting I did was on the basketball court. Us mountain girls were terrors on the hardwood. Not just for playing good ball, but because you didn’t want to get us too mad. We’d get you out of the way as best we could without a bad call by the ref, but if it couldn’t be avoided, we’d take one.
What normally could be a kind hearted compassionate person woman or man is turned by a speck at the first thought of honor or home being threatened whether it be their own or a family member’s. Gurney Norman read a story Friday night at the Seedtime on the Cumberland Literary Reading that got me to thinking about all this. The family of characters disapprove of their daddy’s/grand-daddy’s new marriage, and when grand-daddy also comes to despise it, his daughter goes to run the woman off in her dress, hat, and nice black pocketbook, threatening to get physical with her. We were all laughing and shaking our heads – get ’em girl. It was hilarious. A truly lovely story.
It is this passion about our right to live the life we choose, where we choose, and how we choose that drives so many of us. A life that is by no means a permanent fixture on this earth or even in our experience – our path. And sometimes it becomes so personal that we forget there is a bigger picture, other experiences and paths. A deep ingrained belief in respect for the “person”. It has most definitely ignited passions in me or at the very least fueled them. But, sometimes, when used in a way that is not appropriate it is more of a detriment than anything else. It’s true for all of us in these hills.
Yesterday, I made a decision. Whether it be a cause I believe in, something I feel I am supposed to be doing for people, or my perceived obligations in life, I’m approaching it differently. What makes me – me? How am I sure I’m doing the right things? It’s one of those things that you can’t really put into words, but, I’m believing it is the difference between fighting through life and flying. There comes a time when old ways of being leaves us stuck. They don’t serve us anymore. Putting them off doesn’t change who we are. There is always our basis – what we know already, and in relying on that most basic of basic we can take the risk, and open ourselves to something new. What we are doing right now is the result of the path we are taking, and how closely we are paying attention to where it leads, our mode of travel, and the true distractions along the way.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi
“And don’t expect it of anyone else…” Kelli (if I might add to Ghandi… :))