Tired in My Soul

This afternoon, I have spent a great deal of time thawing out a frozen water pipe. I have also spent a lot of time today scooping, a quarter cup at a time, rusty water out of my furnace’s condensation tray. The the arctic temperatures have frozen my drainage pipe. These are my issues at my own home and I accept full responsibility for them.  I also accept responsibility for my ill-prepared ways.

However, today has also seen me dealing with a great deal of anxiety. Not the type of anxiety that comes from no where and blinds you with false outcomes to unlikely realities, but the kind of anxieties that come with the local water company telling you that you are going to run out of water because they do not have adequate pumps to deal with the cold. The kind of anxiety that comes with a warning that you may lose power because the power company is struggling with capacity. The kind of anxiety that leaves you wondering if your child will be cold tonight again, if your pipes will freeze again, and how you’re going to bathe without running water again. Flushing, I have covered with the rusty furnace water.

In another post, I mentioned that I have spent a combined total of five days without water and 32 days without power since moving here 4 years ago. After every instance, I feel a little more resourceful than I did the last time. I’ve learned to save furnace water for flushing, strain and boil creek water for doing dishes, collect candles and firewood, and amuse a preschooler without lights.

Time between instances dulls the rage and helplessness and I fall in love with the beauty here all over again. Until…..it happens again. Then, like today, I think to myself that I must be insane to live here, to tolerate this, and to subject my family to these crazy instabilities. It’s like a vicious cycle. Like a bad relationship. Like living on a pendulum that swings from STAY to LEAVE. LEAVE to STAY. STAY to LEAVE.

Leave.

Over the years, people have said to me, “Why don’t you just move?” Would you leave your almost mortgage free house? Would you leave somewhere you loved? Your family?

Sadly, I fear that it is coming to leaving. I am tired. I am tired in my soul.  I am tired of being resourceful. I am tired of not being able to count on any of my public services. I am tired of the abusive and corrupt politicians. I am tired of the blind-eye turned to industry pollution. I’m tired of the general disregard for life, and I’m tired of the acceptance of the status quo.

I am not insensitive to my fellow West Virginians who normally, how sad to say, do not have clean water or who live in blasting fallout zones. I also know that a lot of my neighbors in Charleston are going through a terrible time right now. If I were in their shoes, I would not be using the water either. There has been too little consistent information and I smelled the river myself on day number 9 of the water crisis. I am furious right along side them and I’m worried about them, too. I had planned to move to Charleston in a couple of years. I honestly have to say that, for now, I’ve tossed this plan out the window.

I am sure that this weekend’s warm up will have me out with my camera and it will bring that everything’s alright feeling again. A feeling that does not last as long as it used to last. The optimist in me, the lover of West Virginia in me, is being snuffed out like a candle in an age old ritual of exodus.  It fills me with such sadness I cannot describe other than to say I am simply tired.

Advertisements

My Creek

TrainfogOne of the things I love so much about where I live is my creek. It’s called Scrabble Creek. It is an impaired creek and it runs through my front yard like a little moat around my own private castle. I often laugh at how possessive of it I must sound.

It’s my creek. Not any of my neighbor’s creek, not a tributary to the Gauley River, not an industry compromised stream turned flood plane; it’s my creek.  

One June morning last year, I put on my gardening clothes, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed out for my morning stoop sit.  I watched a few dragonflies, took in the quiet babble, and looked for the water snake who had decided to take up residence. His private luxury resort, it seemed.

As I checked his usual sunbathing spots, I noticed something strange. My creek looked weird. There was a silvery, gray sediment resting in the very bottom of the deepest crevices. Crevices that, by then, I knew like I know every age line on my face.

The knowledge I had about the history of my creek and the recent blasting activity, caused instant panic. I ran inside doing some babbling of my own. My husband, a former water tester, managed to calm me down and convince me that the water was still clear and that I should give it a few days. After all, we have seen some bizarre things, from hotdogs to telephone poles, floating down my creek. Maybe someone had dumped their barbeque ashes. 

Usually, my creek’s white noise puts me to sleep at night. For a few nights and for the following weeks, it kept me awake. Each day brought a newer and murkier shade of gray. Each night I looked up possible causes and their individual effects on humans. My neighbor’s well-meaning “don’t worry, they’re just doing something at the mines” did nothing to soothe me. I visited my doctor for anxiety.

Sheer terror. Mad as hell!

Finally, I could take it no more. Even though I didn’t want to know, I knew for the safety of my family, I had to know. I looked up every environmental organization’s number I could think of and then I looked for more. I contacted every one from Nick Rahall’s office to the Sierra Club. Eventually, a very knowledgeable man named Andrew with the Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) called me and pointed me in the right direction.

Much to my surprise, my creek was investigated by the WVDEP. I also was put in touch with the Division of Mining and Reclamation. True to the notice they posted in my mailbox a year and a half before, they were shutting down an old mine. The gray in my creek was a result of rock particles and residues they use, for lack of a better way of putting it, to apply artificial turf to a mountain during their reclamation process.

Though they have sent documentation and they have sent water testing results, I am not beyond skepticism. I no longer water my plants with water from my creek. I have been made all too aware of what could potentially run from an old mine and into my creek. I’ve seen it myself and the stories of others are in no short supply. I’ve studied and I’ve read more than I can stomach. My dreams of watching my son building rock caves for crawdaddies like I used to do as a child are gone.

My creek runs clear now, but it is sad to think that I’m a lucky one. I’m lucky? Yes, in West Virginia, I am lucky. People answered my questions and the answers, for once, were on the situationally positive side. For now, it is over for my creek. Maybe, if they don’t open another mine close by, she’ll recover and be what she used to be in a few hundred years.

I have spent 32 days of the past four years without power and five days without water. My creek runs into the river that feeds our local water processing plant. As outsiders, a bookworm and a former water tester, we have never trusted the water here. Our local waters, are comprised of countless impaired and contaminated streams. Those streams flow past our processing plant, further down the Kanawha River, through coal processing plants at Alloy and Quincy, past Marmet and Belle’s chemical facilities, and right into Charleston.

Even with my experiences, I cannot begin to imagine what my neighbors in Charleston are going through right now.  I will not take away the dignity with which they are presenting themselves, enduring, to begin to try to relate to their, dismissively called, water situation. It is not a situation, it is a nightmare.

I just want them to know that another part of the state hears them. I cannot speak for everyone in my area,  but I am also angry, fed up, and ready for a change. You should never have to look at your water, coming out of the tap or flowing through your front yard, and be afraid for your child.

If there is any hope, any, amongst this coal and chemical insanity, I hope we can all stand together and speak in solidarity for our own individual creeks and water sources. As we say here in West Virginia, “We all live downstream.”

Demand Answers About Our Water Supply

Fog Rolling Into Glen Ferris

Today was one of those days that West Virginia made it nearly impossible to keep my eyes on the road.

Within three miles of my home, I counted five mountain run-offs turned waterfalls.

As if a magical amount of waterfalls was not enough distraction, the fog refused to be upstaged. It danced over the river. Then, blurred the lines between earth and sky and water and air.

It left me breathless.

West Virginia and I have our differences and our differences are huge. What never waivers is that I always pull over the car and take out the camera. Unlike anywhere else I have lived, I stop for a moment to be reminded that I am very small. I sit and watch as though I’m seeing something sacred.

Sometimes, I think I am.

Appalachia

Railway BridgeRoad to Kaymoor TopKaymoor Miners TrailCondemned First BaptistDeepwater Church of the Living WatersHigh on a Mountain
Fall LeavesBehind The FallsKanawha FallsFog.wavFoggy AfternoonFog at Glen Ferris
Bus on a RockChurch and VinesWinter

Appalachia, a set on Flickr.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog! I have been crazy with a full course load, a toddler, and work. Luckily for me, I got to take a wonderful photography class this Fall. I have always loved to take photographs, but I have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to take it a bit more seriously. Though nearly all of my photos are taken in West Virginia, this set is an ever growing collection of what can be found nearly every where in Appalachia. I hope you enjoy!

The Most Important Project

photo (78)

 

For the past couple of weeks, between projects and deadlines, I have been making time for granny squares. The entire time I have been crocheting, my little boy has wanted to know if I am making him a blanket. Federal cuts permitting, he is scheduled to begin preschool this fall. Having been told by the director of the program that the only thing he needed to bring was a blanket, it was time to honor my son’s request. He was delighted when I finally said, “Yes, I am working on your blanket!”

The next words out of my mouth were nothing but the baited words of a woman who secretly still loves to torture the young artist buried somewhere inside her more domesticated self, “What colors do you want your blanket to have?”

His answer, no matter how innocent, turned a simple, loving project into the most important, complicated project I have ever undertaken. Ever. “I would love pink and green, Mommy. Oh, and black and purple and blue and white and silver and red and yellow and orange. Red like McQueen.”

The simple two color blanket I had almost finished was, clearly, out the window. After the panic subsided and my head was clear enough to think, I landed on the decision of the good, old-fashioned rainbow granny. I was so grateful I found something mutually appeasing that I finished the first strip that afternoon.

The young man was thrilled with it. He even had to nap with the strip.

As the blanket grows, he keeps telling me, “It’s perfect!” He does not care that it is still too small, he protests when I start to add more squares.

Despite his father’s initial reaction that he might get beat up before he quickly realized that our son is going to school with a homemade blanket at three and not at fourteen,”It’s perfect.”

And, it is.

 

 

Spare Moment Beanies

West Virginia Made Beanies

I have had a super productive week this week. I was absolutely beaming with pride when I mailed off 11 packages of homemade crochet items this week. I fully realize I’m not going to send my son to college being an artisan, but there is no better feeling than the simplicity of making something fun and memorable for another person. There is something simply nice about your handiwork bringing a smile to the face of a stranger. I am lucky enough to be able to take time off of my “real job” to enjoy creating for a couple of months.

I am looking forward to doing a local artisan fair next month. Though, I am panicking that I do not have enough stuff. So much so that every spare moment I get, I make another beanie.  Around here, they are called Spare Moment Beanies. They are fast and fun. Hopefully, they will make my table look full. 😉