One of the side effects of my moving to West Virginia was my discovery of public radio. Sure, I knew of its existence before, but faced with so many other choices, it wasn’t something I had explored. With less radio choices in WV, I finally gave public radio a chance.
And I totally loved it. Not just the NPR bits, though those are cool, but the regional and local coverage is awesome. Especially as someone new to the area, getting Appalachian and West Virginian news and culture has been so very precious to me. I love learning about my new home, and this lets me feel really connected.
The sense of connection permeates much of public radio coverage. I am frequently moved, to the point of laughter or tears, and I’ve never gotten that with any other news coverage or with any other radio station. I’m profoundly grateful and a faithful convert!
Once I landed my new job I noticed that my employer is also a sponsor, which is awesome. But hearing their ad also triggered a rather magical thought process. In my mind’s eye, I imagine that public radio listeners are generally well-educated and well-employed. I became a listener. I landed a job that is rewarding and challenging work with awesome fringe benefits, including a way to pursue my degree – letting me become well-educated and well-employed. Coincidence?
I’ve never been much of a believer in coincidence. And social scientists of all flavors know that the “fake it until you make it” technique really works. So, while I won’t flat it call it sorcery (albeit rather unintentional on my part), I can definitely remain open to the possibility that I have benefited from the magic of public radio.
Check it out for yourself: West Virginia Public Radio and National Public Radio.
I took a week off between jobs, to get my car serviced, my hair cut, and have a bit of fun besides. I’ve driven past Tamarack plenty of times, but always when in serious travel mode, so I never actually took the time to check it out. I did so in my downtime, and it’s really cool! It’s like a giant handmade in WV gift store. Some things are pricey (especially textiles and fine art), but lots of things are still affordable. I did the most damage in the book section (books about WV and/or written by West Virginians) and the WV food and drink section (locally made mead, score!). Their cafe also has yummy and affordable food for those on the road and tired of fast food.
A different day I found a cute little clothing store that is close to home, carries my size, and is affordable, a Holy Grail in this rural state. It was a nice little break from routine.
I’ve just finished up my first week at my new job. It may sound like I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but the place is awesome! The perks I’m most enjoying and/or looking forward to are: no snack machine in my building (low willpower); a pretty, walkable, treed campus; the library; the fitness center (exercise equipment and yoga classes); the meditation chapel (24/7 quiet time, and a local Quaker Meeting uses this twice a month, I might check them out); the shorter commute; awesome paid time off; and the tuition waiver. As far as the actual work goes, it’s totally doable. I think I’ll blow their minds with my Excel skills (which I promise are only average, but I’m replacing someone who had NONE). I still have to learn the ropes though, figure out what needs doing when, and how. Overall I’m still geeked, and it all compensates for the underwhelming salary.
Having broken routine for a week, and still learning what my new one will be, my writing has gone by the wayside a bit. Once I get some more miles under my belt and figure out the new normal, I’ll be back to cranking out posts!
Every day of my commute I was passing a road that had a tiny sign pointing to a state park that lay to the north. I decided to look it up and saw that it was Audra State Park in the Buckhannon/Philippi area. One weekend when Neal and I felt like doing some hiking, I proposed checking out this park, since neither of us had visited it yet. I was especially interested in the Alum Cave trail and boardwalk.
First of all, it was farther off my commute route than I thought! But that’s OK; it was an adventure. Secondly, the park tends towards the smaller side, with the distinct feel of a community swimming hole. The Middle Fork River is the main attraction, and this stretch is wide and rocky. Aside from swimmers, you’ll find sunbathers on boulders, kids scrabbling over rocks, and folks with fishing poles trying their luck. It’s also a popular picnic spot.
The cave trail was a moderate hike, at least for a flatlander like me. It was definitely not what I am used to, featuring more rocks than dirt and steep slopes that are only sometimes safeguarded with railings. I wore my usual walking shoes, which are up for most hikes, but the uneven footing made me wish I went with my hiking boots instead. It’s a humbling experience to be going slow and careful in sensible shoes and be repeatedly passed by running kids in flip-flops! But Neal says he’s part mountain goat, and that I wasn’t doing too badly. (I suspect everyone who grew up in West Virginia and was outside a moderate amount is a mountain goat compared to me, but I’ll get there eventually.)
Check out this park if you are looking to take a dip, eat a sandwich, or stretch your legs. It can get crowded on warm, sunny days, so if you are looking for a quieter experience, try exploring it earlier in the spring or later in fall, or gamble by heading out on an overcast day. The park also permits kayaking (at your own risk) when the river level supports it, and has both a large picnic shelter and wooded campsites on the river available for rental.
I’ve already spoken a bit about how I fell in love with West Virginia. I’ve only lived here for a bit over 6 months, so I’m sure most would still consider me an outsider. Be that as it may, I can still see some hard truths about this beautiful place. The biggest one I can put my finger on is a serious pr problem.
When I mention West Virginia, what comes to mind? Dirty coal mines? Uneducated, impoverished hillbillies? Mining disasters and chemical spills? It might be uncomfortable to admit to these prejudices, but you wouldn’t be the only one. The government’s War on Poverty is what brought the Appalachian region to the attention of the rest of the nation’s attention. That created the foundation for many of the stereotypes that run rampant today.
It’s true that West Virginia is rich in natural resources. And yet, who is really profiting from this abundance? It’s not the everyday person, its giant corporations. Coal companies have sold the people a lie in that the region depends on them for work. Already there have been huge job losses due to automation and changes in mining techniques. They fight safety measures to protect their workers and wring there hands about unavoidable mining disasters. They pay people a decent wage but leave them to the dogs once they’ve contracted black lung and can no longer work. It’s heart breaking!
Even the green energy here, which could be leveraged in many more ways than it is now, isn’t used to the benefit of the state. It’s sold to Washington DC so the politicians can feel good about themselves. Laws that are meant to protect the environment are either lacking or laxly enforced. The land called me here, and part of what makes that call so sharp and potent is the pain involved.
Something is starting to happen here, though. People are standing up and saying, enough. And it’s time for my voice to join theirs. I want to share with you the other side of West Virginia, the parts that don’t always make the news but make this place amazing. I’ll be adding posts about my explorations and studies of my new home state and you might just fall in love with it, too.
For me, love at first sight doesn’t really apply to romantic partners. I need to get to know someone at a deeper level to really love them in that way. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t fallen head over heels for something before.
Each of my pets were pretty much love at first sight. It was either the way they clung to me with their claws when I held them, or the way they wagged their tail with such joy, or the way their soulful brown eyes spoke to me. ❤
The last thing I fell for was West Virginia. I think it’s a pretty interesting story. I have driven through WV plenty of times when travelling from my home in MI to visit my family in FL for the winter holidays. Driving in the mountains made me nervous, especially in winter. One of the benefits of blazing your own spiritual path and having it include animism is that if something external intimidates you, you can enter into direct relationship with it. So I made a deal with the Appalachian Mountains. I would thank them for their hospitality, beauty, and power when I was passing through, and they would watch over and protect me while I was on the road in their territory. And I could feel it. Driving in the mountains in winter now feels the same as driving anywhere else in winter.
Then I met my now partner online, and he lived in West Virginia. And I actually visited the place, instead of just passing through. And not touristy stuff or just his apartment. I spent an evening on top of a hill stargazing. I spent an afternoon amid the trees and beside a creek with a campfire. I fell in love with the land. At one of those campfires, the flames were hot and a rock in the fire exploded, sending a chunk with golden flecks to land at my feet. A gift and a sign and an invitation to stay. So I did. ❤