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Endless Appalachia

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I've spent most of my life living in a valley of the Appalachian mountains. This isn't a hotbed for technology, by any means. Most people associate the culture of Appalachia with clan feuds, banjos, fiddles, moonshine, hillbillies, poverty, and a dirty black combustive rock known as coal.

When I'm not working at home I have to drive underneath a bridge carrying a section of the 2,100 mile Appalachian trail and continue east, away from the mountains, for an hour or more. I'll eventually reach an office or an airport around Baltimore or Washington D.C. Some people there think us western folk are backwards.

burnsides bridgeThey might think Appalachia is backwards, but I think of Appalachia as comfortable. Black walnut trees and white tailed deer. Lazy creeks and limestone bridges.

It's an area full of history, and yes, it is resistant to change. While other mountain ranges tried to outdo each other and grew to threatening heights, these old mountains became gentle and folded. They instill a sense of permanence into everything cradled within their range. I remember feeling this sense of permanence even as a carefree 8 year old boy wandering the forests around the towpath of the C&O canal. Something says to you "we've been here long before you came, and we'll be here long after you've gone". It is reassuring, not ominous. You are a guest, not an intruder.

When all hell is breaking loose in the technology and politics of the more civilized world, and when everyday brings new changes and challenges, I have a place to retreat and recoup. I can walk into the endless forests of Appalachia and be an 8 year old boy.

Carefree again ... at least for a little while.