Thoughts on visiting Margaret Miller in Meat Camp every First and Third Friday for the past Two Years.
This is the House your Father built.
On the same road where your grandmother sowed seeds to the pattern of the stars; this is the land where your father planted in the Earth, not on the Moon.
Those are the hooks in the fireplace where your mother hung her cast iron cooking pot, this is the kitchen where she fed eleven little mouths.
There is the photograph of your oldest brother Marvin.
In the hallway where your mother was told her eldest son would not be coming home from that hospital in Statesville; these are the walls that heard her heart break.
Here are the stories you give me.
On the first and third Friday of every month; these are the rooms where you show me the quilts your mother made, the smooth rocks you carried back from that beach in Canada, and that picture of you with your best boyfriend.
This is the House your Father built.
On the same road where your grandmother planted hens and chicks; these are the floors that remember your footsteps when your eyes don't see too well anymore.
Here is the porch where I tell you goodbye and you tell me you love me; this is the promise I make to myself to comeback to see you again.
"Forever taking pictures of mountains" will be carved into the rock above my head when I am laid to rest. I can't help that I am always remembering the structure of my backbone...
Last weekend in Harlan, Kentucky I gathered with folks whose backbone has the same structure as mine at the It's Good to be Young in the Mountains conference to discuss how to stay in Appalachia, and not only how to stay, but to thrive in Appalachia. Last weekend I had the energy of leaving Boone, the energy of being around other passionate young people. Last weekend it felt good to be young in the mountains. Surrounded by so many different kinds of mountain builders it was hard not to hold a vision of tomorrow.
However, as a young black man attending the conference pointed out during the closing of the conference, that vision is not complete and we still have a great deal of work to do before we see tomorrow. Tomorrow cannot continue to be a vision of predominately white people, no matter how well-intentioned we are. Because tomorrow looks like understanding that Appalachia is not just in the hills and the hollars, Appalachia is Charleston, Knoxville, Huntsville, and Pittsburgh. And tomorrow? tomorrow looks like momentum...
Momentum looks like the drive home from Harlan and a 20 minute conversation with Sam at a gas pump in Virginia about how we can love Appalachia actively and how not to just accept the parts that need to change. But momentum feels like your heart in your throat when a girl says that now she is going to write a poem about how the fire is not dead here.
The first week of January I wrote "July my lease will end. Come August all roads are moonlit and unknown..." Well last week come August like six planets turned backwards; a steam engine behind a blue moon carbon arc headlight. As if to ask You weren't comfortable were you?
I should have been packing up all of my belongings to move out of my apartment, instead I was remembering the chemistry for time travel. An old roll of film in the bottom of a box; I have waited two years knowing that in its silver awaits thirty-s ix frames of "this is how your heart was broken" and 35mm of "see how much has changed". Time travel can be tricky that way; revisiting all my hollow places, for a moment when I hold the negatives up to the light I remember the sharpness of all my arrows: "Oh yes, I remember now, how could I have forgotten? I loved you once..." But that is just a moment and arrows dull and crumble. On a dare I let a psychic run her fingers across my palm and declare that I will have happiness and success in a few years as long as I don't get too distracted, and oh yeah that I should fall in love with a gemini... And all these things can be mine if I come back for more sessions... So I guess there is always that. Time travel is an unreliable method of transportation. Good things come from remembering that "forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past" and my arms only reach so far ahead of me.