There is a time in every blog-inclined Millenial’s life in which their blog is more or less a diary. When we were teenagers, they invented things like Livejournal, and there was an intimacy to our Internet, a sense that whatever you wrote was only for you but also for strangers who would never know it was you because they were very far out there. There was a sense that the Internet was so vast and so accessible that in addition to the handful of friends you shared your link with on AIM, perhaps your little rants might meet the eyes of one of the Spice Girls and she’d really get you. For me, the cognitive dissonance required to feel simultaneously anonymous yet brimming over with the potential to connect was never so much as an irritation. Of course both things were true. They had to be.
Today, as I wandered around a strip mall in sheer horror, I wanted very much to return to those halcyon days of yore during which I felt it appropriate to use public forums to expel all my vitriol for grown adults in wide-brimmed hats perusing the aisles of Target like they’re at Coachella. (Honestly one person in the hat would be fine, but it was truly half the store.) I couldn’t stop thinking about capitalism and how I hate being surrounded by mirrors and cameras insisting, always insisting that we look and be looked at and suck everything from the outside in rather than having insides and stillness and sense.
Then I got in the car and heard “Appalachian Spring” by composer Aaron Copland, and it was so exactly what it was meant to be, and that broke my heart. My family is from the Shenandoah mountains in West Virginia, and I know from dozens of Springs that the music perfectly invoked exactly what the title implies. That, like the old timey Internet, is a home to which you can never go again. There’s nowhere to get away from this moment in time, and perhaps, we don’t really have to. Perhaps there’s optimism to be had, but it can certainly feel oppressive.
My grandmother, my Appalachian heart, died about three years ago, and sometimes I think that was the upper limit of one world. Survival may be within our capacity, but the mental tension to bridge from one time into the next is severe. This poem is about West Virginia but also about living beyond a world we could know, a future we could envision into the puissant yawn of the unknown.
once a choice, a commentary on resilience,
a mirror held up to Shenandoah.
Now a condition of being—
Are you in your misty mountains?
Are you up on the hill
under the tree
a picnic with your parents,
husband, daughter, brother, sister?
There, I bet West Virginia is yet
a heaven you don't ever have to mourn
free of rusted out machines,
Free of toxic kitchens,
Just the wild, life and God,
Lula and Denver, Virgil and Henrietta,
George and Eleanor,
the obituaries on Sunday morning radio a welcome,
angels and trumpets—
an organ or a slide guitar.
We'll join you directly eventually.
When the cold river of grief tugs my gut
I suspend my disbelief
that He walks with you
and He talks with you
and he tells the mountains they're His.