My love affair with Appalachia is one that is homegrown.
As a child, it was the place where I tested my daring over gurgling streams, and wet my jeans when I went too far after a water smooth stone at the bottom of the riverbed. It is where I learned the lines of my grandfather's warm hand, the laugh of my mother, and the restlessness of my father. It is the first place that I ever knew by heart outside of the place where I was born.
Every year, when the leaves turned gold, my family packed into our Mazda, and then our green van, to watch the world ripen. While my friends went to ski, or to big city skyscrapers, my family and I found ourselves in a small cottage next to the train tracks in a tiny railroad town. It smelled of fireplaces, it was simple. It was perfect.
My mom always wanted to spend her days in the local co-op, riffling through crocheted Christmas ornaments and handmade cast-iron skillets. My dad wanted to walk, or hike, or drive, or go to the local university to run around the track.
And my granddad, who had been bringing his children to these old mountains for thirty years, wanted to eat eggs in old diners, and eat meatballs in corner pasta shops, and sit by fires to stare into the flames. These adventures into the mountains were how I learned how very old my soul was, and instead of being like my mother or my father, my kindred spirit was the one who found solace staring into embers.
As an adult, I came here to learn how to listen to nothingness until it spoke to me, to be at peace with the minutes, the hours, and the days of solitude. I can't say that I have any of the wisdom of my Pop, but I certainly inherited his love for these old mountains. Whenever my soul is restless, I find myself smelling the fresh, tired car breaks that are so common on those winding roads, and the sweet smell of decay from old fall leaves.
When it's possible, my restlessness leads me here for the weekend. When it's not possible, I retreat into my memory. It's always where I go when I'm gone.