Thursday, April 2, 2009


Monday saw us visiting a local nursing home in the morning. We spent a few hours going around and visiting some of the residents. We then engaged in a rousing game of Yahtzee and finally capped it off with a few songs that we performed for the residents before lunch. Even this short trip brought out some of the cultural aspects of the Appalachian region. First, I noticed the deep family ties that run through the region. At least three or four of the residents had a family member visiting in the room when we entered. Another two or three that we saw said that a family member was coming to visit them later that day. I also noticed, while talking to the people, that families tend to stay somewhat close together. Most of the people I encountered had multiple relatives living in the area, some within a 10 mile or less radius. Much of the strength of the region is derived from the strength of family bonds. As Jones says, “Blood is very thick in Appalachia”. It is this sense of loyalty and responsibility that makes the people stay so close connected to each other and gives them strength in the face of hardship. In the same vein, it makes any outside influences which threaten this familial fabric, like prescription drug addiction, that much more ruinous. This also has implications for any proposed solutions to these problems. Any such solution has to leave these ties intact or risk worsening the situation.

The second theme that made itself present , this one about the region itself, was the general aesthetic beauty. In the afternoon we went on a hike after we were told by Jason, one of the Farm Managers, that there was a waterfall not far from the Farm. What we thought we were going to see

So off we went, picking our way carefully through a maze of branches and rocks, following the creek. While the “waterfall” (if you squint really hard at the picture at the right, you can technically see some water falling) itself was somewhat anticlimactic the scenery we encountered on the way there was beautiful. It was an unassuming beauty, something I think was very appropriate. It was a simple setting with a small brook with shingle rocks covering its bed and trees lining a steep bank on both sides. The real beauty was in its serenity, something I think could be said for the region as a whole. It can be dismissed at first as just another slice of the United States with a coal mining problem. Yet look deeply and you will be touched by the simple beauty it holds. Seeing a scene like the one on the way to the waterfall, or any of the ones we saw driving through the hollers helps me understand another of Jones’Appalachian values: love of place. It’s easy to see why the Appalachian people are so invested in their land, why they are loathe to leave, and why processes that scar the land equally scar the people. The land, as another source of strength, becomes a vulnerability when exploited. This is why making a sustainable Appalachia that is in harmony with the land is so vital. Like with the family structure, if the ties with the land are threatened, it threatens the fabric of its people.

So we didn't see a real waterfall... but we did see a dead possum!

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