Friday, August 26, 2011
by Nora B. Peevy
Up there in the Appalachian Mountains you see things are they truly are. Once you leave the mountain people the memory of their stories slowly vanishes as summer turns to fall and fall to winter. Blank spots develop like air bubbles on a photo negative, and unless you struggle every day to remember these people and their stories they will pass by you like fog on a fall night. I am as susceptible to this virus of forgetfulness as the others that traveled with me up the narrow and winding mountain roads. Remembering is not a conscious act, but an unconscious act like our breathing. We know that we must breathe to live, but we don't concentrate on it physically. Our bodies inhale and exhale sending oxygen through our blood vessels to our heart simultaneously while our mind wanders to mundane thoughts of the dry-cleaning we need to send out on Wednesday and the appointment we need to keep on Friday with the dentist. Sometimes I find myself trying hard in quiet moments, when I cannot sleep and the ticking of the grandfather clock in the room beside me invites thoughts of my childhood, to remember the mountain people's stories, how someday Ted's mountains across the way would be given to his little boy and then someday to his little boy's child and so on, so that the mountains would always be in his family's blood. And someday he would be buried on the smallest mountain far over to the left, he said. His father and his father's father were all buried in the small family graveyard marked with white wooden crosses. I looked at where Ted pointed across the horizon to the misty mountains purple in the afternoon sunlight, and I remember saying to myself, Nora, you must remember the mountain people and their homeland, the way the mountains cradle you in their bosom, the way they rise like giant humpback whales in the morning sunlight swirled in oceans of mist, and when you walk to the edge of the holler in the afternoon you can look down on the city spread out before you like tiny dollhouses.
I wrote this poem as part of my portfolio for entrance into the Creative Writing Masters program at UWM-Milwaukee in the late 90s. As I mentioned before in another post, I originally intended to focus on poetry, but found I loved fiction writing more.
While The Appalachian Service Project is a mission funded by the Methodist Church, the group accepted my nonreligious friends and me as we were. I had the privilege of serving both as a youth volunteer and then as a youth leader.
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As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!