I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. I tend to latch on to certain stories and play them through my head until they’re completely worn. I’m drawn to themes of beauty rising from hardship, invention inspired by necessity and romance in the middle of desolation. If you were to read a list of my favorite books (think: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women), you’d see this is true.
At some point, I latched onto the stories of old Appalachia. Perhaps it was as a little girl when I read (and re-read) When I Was Young in the Mountains? Or during my high school freshman Southern Literature course? I don’t know, but for the longest time I’ve been intrigued by the mystery and soft beauty of this region, and what I imagine to be the stories of the families who used to live in the now dilapidated farmhouses tucked deep in her woods and scattered in her valleys.
This evening, I was reminded again of the lure of this region–a lure that seems more powerful the further I get from I-26 and Asheville and stronger yet when I find myself exploring unnamed roads well out of cell tower range and tens of miles from a grocery store. Far into the Laurel’s area of Madison County I witnessed an Appalachia probably not too unlike the Appalachia of 50 and even 100 years ago. Along the winding roads I saw fields of burley tobacco, barns aging but in tact, farmhouses with dimly lit porches and humble curtains, families picking the last of the day’s harvest before sundown, and men conversing on the front porch of an old general store.
Dramatic it may sound, but I am moved by this place. My heart slips into a deep peace when merely driving by these scenes. Wonder overwhelms me, even brings me to tears, when I pass a mountain backlit by the fading sun, or the clouds rolling into Sam’s and Buckner Gaps, framing them in the most beautiful way. For a year now, I’ve see these places day in and day out, quenching many years of desire to live here, and I remain transfixed. If ever there was a sign one was meant to be somewhere, I believe this is it.
(photo I took from my tent in Linville, NC)