Here on our little hillside, in WV, we try to live a simple life. One where we can try to make the best decisions in regards to what we feed our family, and where we source our foods. We try to make green decision that are not only good for our family but for our community and planet as well. There is no place I would rather raise a family, than these WV hills! So I guess it is our responsibility to preserve them, and our heritage.

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Sacred Mountains

While finishing up college at WVU, a professor in one of my religious courses asked us to describe a place sacred to us........I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging the last few years to finish school and focus on my toddler.  It is time to start sharing again, and this time, with something I wrote a few years back for class........

It is easy for me to speak of my sacred place.  It is a place most would not consider sacred.  Especially as you drive through and see the locals not far from my place of sanctuary.  For me, I guess as with most on their pilgrimage to their sacred places, it is just as much about the journey there are it is the place itself.  It is also the culmination of the stories, and history that go along with this, in my case ancestral place, which holds such sacred qualities.  It is as much the path as it is the journey and destination. 
As I leave my little mountaintop, in my beloved Preston County, I descend into the river valley and follow Route 72 through Rowlesburg and into Parsons, on through towards Hendrix and Harman.  Once I reach the tall peaks of the exquisite Tucker County Mountains, I start to fall once again down the winding road towards that familiar bridge.  Here we jump on the road that follows the river Dry Fork.  We follow the river down to where Gandy Creek pours in.  Here is where we set up camp.  Here is where the story begins.  In these mountains surrounding these streams.  Along Gandy, Glady, and Dry Fork.  This is where, as a couple, we started our family camping tradition.  We would pack up the tent and go to the woods.  We like to rough it and took basic survival supplies and have a great weekend, or better yet, week!  A few years later, my parents set up the camper along Dry Fork, and it has been there ever since.  The entire family now enjoys their recreational time in these Mountains. 
After we had dug our roots into this Mountain, I decided to return to college.  Upon doing so, I had signed up for a collaborative class between the science and folklore departments.  We learned the Science of Coal as well as the historic impact it had on West Virginia culture.  As part of this class, I was required to do a family research project and it had to be on a West Virginia family.  I chose my own.  My grandmother went through her closet and pulled out boxes that contained our family history.  Pictures, documents, certificates, etc.  Then she gave me a document she said her father had written by one of their cousins.  It was supposed to be a history of our family.  It was written out in long hand cursive.  It was well over thirty pages, but I was determined to transcribe it and see what our history held.  I came to find that my little sanctuary in the woods had ties that were closer to my family than I had originally knew.  I uncovered the history of the Wyatt family of Middle Mountain, starting with my eighth great grandfather John Wyatt.  Turns out John had settled his family at the base of Middle Mountain right along Dry fork and the Seneca Trail in what is now the same area of the Monongahela National Forest that we had become our sacred place.
Let me describe this place in a little more detail.  There is no way I can do it justice with my descriptions, but I will try to express the things I have encountered while there.  Firstly, these Appalachian Mountains are sacred in their own right.  As the oldest Mountain range in the world, formed during the creation of supercontinent Pangea, these mountains hold a history like no other place on earth.  Just downstream, in Clover creek, you can retrieve unlimited amounts of fossilized stones that show the history of these mountains as they were once the sea floor before the formation of Pangea forced these sea beds into mountains.  Not only are these mountains ancient, they are also very powerful, silent, and majestic.  I have seen so many animals while in these mountains.  From deer and bear, to owls and bald eagles.  The majesty of sitting in the woods with a brilliant owl hooting a few yards overhead, is hauntingly breathtaking.  You can sit in these woods and really commune with nature.  Feel the vibrations of the earth and soak up the spirit of it all.  This is definitely a place where you pack it in, you pack it out.  It is majestic and needs to be kept that way. 
Not only do these Mountains hold the sacred quality of most mountains, but they are also the headwaters/birthplace of many streams and rivers.  This area alone provides a great deal of the fresh water for the majority of Eastern US.  It is the Headwaters of the Potomac which drains into the Chesapeake and the Cheat which drains to the Monongahela, Ohio, and eventually the Mississippi.  These waters are in the process of being petitioned to become a National monument as the Birthplace of Rivers.  These waters run from the tops of these ancient mountains throughout our state and then continue to support people and wildlife in states throughout the US.  When I sit atop these mountains, I take full advantage of the waters that run through them.  From fishing, to swimming, and playing, to simply enjoying the sheer beauty of the water, with its reflections, ripples, wildlife.  Also there is a gentle and sweet lullaby to the sound of these waters.  When you add a fire (also sacred) to the sounds of the mountain (crickets, frogs, owls, etc.) and the waters you can almost reach a trance like state getting engulfed in the majesty of it all.  These waters, like the mountains, are something I actively fight to protect.  There is absolutely nothing in comparison to getting in a raft or boat and floating these streams.  I could start in my mountains and float, peacefully for miles!
What I had discovered while transcribing that letter my Mammaw had unearthed, was that my connection to that land I love was far stronger than I could have ever guessed.  As it turns out my eighth great grandfather John Wyatt was the first settler on Middle Mountain.  He had owned 1500 acres of what is now the Monongahela National Forest and he himself had named many of the local places like Laurel Run.  (My daughter’s name sake)  The heart of my sacred place in the mountains was once the home lands of my ancestors.  They made a life and a living raising a family in these mountains.  Living off the land, exploring, hunting, and socializing with the other mountain folk.  This History of the Wyatt’s starts with John and details many of his expeditions and then continues on down the line to detail his family as was recorded at the time.  It gives a fairly detailed and unbiased account of life on Middle
Mountain in the 1800’s and has been a treasure of mine since I began transcribing it. 

So what started as my little sanctuary in the woods, soon became my sacred place in the mountains.  A place that had always had that spiritual quality to it.  Where the Mountains and the waters combine.  Yet you can still find that link to the ancient past in the fossils and rock formations.  Went from my place to relax and reconnect to my place of grounding, where I can regroup and find my center.    I do not know what drew me to this spot, or how I lucked into that old story, but the two have transformed my life and my respect for these mountains.  I had always respected these West Virginia Mountains and revered them as home, but now, they are home!  They are my sacred.  They deserve my protection so they can one day be my children’s sacred.  It also gives a more personal meaning to the University we all love.  West Virginia Mountaineers, why yes, yes we are…….