On one extreme, my heart is ready to go home, but in my head, I am really sad about leaving the Mountain State.
For VISTAs, our 36th president said this was never going to be easy. I’m not sure I would have understood all of it, until I lived it for a year. I was only a baby when VISTA was introduced in 1964 and I never knew anyone who had served.
Don’t fake it, baby.
Lay the real thing on me.
I am thinking so hard about how to re-enter the atmosphere, listening to a favorite song to occupy my head. City girl, rock and roll, how did you end up here?
I am typing my blog from the front porch of a cabin at Bluestone State Park. The lake is magnificent, and my comrades and I have a full day planned. We will head for a hike on the Bluestone Turnpike Trail, stop by the Ronceverte River Festival, then head out for some drinks at The Greenbrier.
My weekends are glorious, mostly because I am not home in Cleveland working in the yard or running errands. I have nothing but free time on my own, and I intend to use every bit of it.
Back home, my house is now fully rented out, which means I have nowhere to go in August. I purposely see this as my key opportunity to get out of dodge. I decided that I don’t want the crazy babel of city life, and the agreement with my upstairs tenant is to allow me to slowly move my stuff out and settle wherever life feels right.
Out here on the wild side, the river guides and resort folks are turning me on to new places to hike and explore. About two weeks ago, Dean and Jim offered to take me on the upper New, which has a couple of class 3 rapids. I told them I wasn’t ready for the lower New, which has 20 more rapids and a lot more water power. My memory of a not-so-great experience on the Youghiogheny River in 1983 has cemented a fear I can’t get rid of.
This time, Dean was at the helm on a lovely day. As we floated lazily down the river, he literally threw me for a surprise.
OK, here’s what we do. Give me four, give me four!
(That means, “give me 4 strokes of a paddle.”)
Surprise is the name of the last rapid on the upper New. All I remember is kurdoosh as the wave overtakes us. My body is in slow motion fall, and I see the inside of that wave, then the top of our yellow raft, blue sky and clouds. Under the water I go, in a furious force, head bobbing up to the sky, gut full of swallowed water, then back down again. It was the most exhilarating cross between the make-you-cry kind of fear and make-you-scream adventure, and now I know why the river is in their blood.
Dean told me to swim toward a paddle and hang on so that he and Jim could leap onto the raft and right-side it. They pulled me back in, and it was as if my 30-year old fear of the “Yawk” was revisited, then erased by the thrill of the cool New River.
After we finished our day and drove back to Fayetteville, we stopped by Pies and Pints and headed out for the night. Here, I realized my float trip was a bigger deal than I thought.
Hey, y’all we gutted Surprise!, Dean said to everyone. I swam Maria. We totally dumptrucked!
And so it was, these wonderful West Virginia isms. Never mind the fact I really enjoy my 8-5 job in Beckley, writing VISTA grants and working on federal programs in coal-impacted communities. This is now the foundation of who I am, and it is hard to think about what I want to be when I make my next career move. I just started sending out resumes, focusing my attention on other sections of Appalachia.
Over the weekend, I also took a trip down to Mullens to hang out with Cricket, Alfi, and the new VISTA, who gave me a tour of the high tunnel. They are making preparations for a return of the farmers market, and the kale is thriving. I had every intention of growing my starters during the winter and bringing them down to the MOC, but since I was living in three different places, it proved difficult. I traveled a lot too, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be around to tend to my plants or ask others to water them.
Regardless, they decided to use my Lake Erie zebra mussel shell compost in new ways. The raised beds we built on Martin Luther King Day are now at the middle school, and Ruby is experimenting with my compost on hay bales.
Yep, this is my life in West Virginia. Two months from today, I have no plan, and no idea where I’m gonna be.