Last Friday marked the anniversary of leaving my beloved Home in the Holler; I fell down a rabbit hole discovering Hazel Dickens on YouTube. In her song, West Virginia My Home, she says:
” In the dead of the night, in the still and the quiet I slip away like a bird in flight
Back to those hills, the place that I call home.”
And for the first time since I left, I wept deeply. Sitting at the dinette table in Little Miss Super Cute GMC (Working Title) eating dinner with fork in one hand and tissue in the other, my eyes were all but swollen shut, my nose stuffed, tears splashing more salt upon my food.
It was an unexpected love affair: passionate, intoxicating, and beyond beautiful. I had never felt the embrace of place like my farm. From the moment I stepped onto the land, I was thoroughly engrossed by the wild charm of the meandering creeks, which sectioned my property. The maple, hickory, red bud, dogwood, and tulip poplar trees with scrub pine covering the hills that encircled my home tugging on my heartstrings every morning and evening each season. My home, built in 1858, still in Virginia until 1863 when West Virginia would secede from the south to join the Union, with its patchwork quilt of home design over the centuries and decades that followed. This relationship would prove to be one of the most illuminating ones in my life, offering an unparalleled education I doubt even an Ivy League school could create.
I think about the farm everyday, wondering about the blueberry patch. Did the frost get the apple, pear and peach trees? Did those two little cherry trees finally have a good season? How about the coneflower garden? Did any of my heritage wild flowers return after oil and gas surveyors came onto my property doing donuts in their white trucks creating deep ruts in that flower patch just to teach us a lesson? How many more people were driven off the road by gas and oil and pipeline trucks, like what happened to me on a daily basis? Did anyone find the body of my beloved Louis J. Dog who disappeared in the woods and never came home? (We often suspected that the oil and gas surveyor who trespassed on our property because he claimed we didn’t own our minerals -though we did own partial-therefore he had every right to trespass, poisoned our beloved dog.) What about the fireflies I would watch from my back porch swing in the hot summer evenings, are their numbers down from the vapor releases of frack pads surrounding my gorgeous hills? Oh those vapors that wafted into my holler, hanging low for days on end, causing my skin to burn and the top of my head to hurt so bad that death seemed the only answer. And the once pure artesian spring water that by the time we left had acetylene plus other nasty things in it? It’s painful to think of that property even today and more painful to be reminded of the abject abuse that state receives on a daily basis, all for the false promise of sustainable viable economies through extreme extraction.
I miss my friends in WV. Those who are trying to leave (and there are many) must be warned, that just leaving the danger zone will be a relief, but the sorrow that follows will be deep and lasting. And you will suffer from nervous reactions when you see a white truck driving near you. (True Story: A white truck pulled into the driveway of where I’m residing now, my heart began to pound, my blood boil, I thought about grabbing the machete, when I realized it was just a woman who was lost.)
It’s taken me a year just to weep. I may not have been born in West Virginia, but I sure loved my time there, and would still have been there today had my neighbors not sold out to frackers, who in turn, through their abusive hubris took away all that I held dear – my favorite piece of land and solitude. One can never unlearn the realities when oil and gas come to your neighborhood. The experience changes everything in the way you view the world. You come to realize there are no forever homes, no sanctuary when greed is involved, no common decency from those rude drivers of white trucks and no help from those who were elected to serve the people – so much for the American Dream.
So it’s time to dig into the next chapter. We’ve decided to build a straw bale home (much of it with our own hands) with solar power, greywater and rain catchment systems for the dry months, (and NO natural gas for the stove!) in a neighborhood on the northern west coast. It’s a great town; with a large collection of like-minded individuals who would fight back should fracking come here. This town has no shale, no pipelines or LNG plants within a 150 mile radius, there are bomb trains but we made sure that we were well outside the blast zone. Everyday we strive to make this new life robust and meaningful like our old one, I hope you follow along.
PS: I shall continue to be in solidarity with those fighting the frack fight, I understand intimately how it destroys communities, families and friendships, and it rocks the solid foundations so many have tried to lay down. Love to you.