Just yesterday I had to tell my dear friend Andrea the news, “We only have one year left in Blacksburg.”
And as I said those words aloud, while still frozen in the muscle lock of a brave face, a shrill voice inside my head shouted
“No! No, no, no! Mayday, mayday!! I’m not ready to leave – I’m just getting to where I finally feel like I know this place! This is where I belong. This is home!”
And the head voice is right. This place feels more like home than anywhere we’ve lived in the past 15 years. We have lived in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana since leaving here after my husband’s graduation from Virginia Tech in 2000. And all of those places were great, and had beautiful natural spaces, and gave me friends that will last a lifetime. After he graduates from Tech with his masters next May, he’ll carry us off to live in coastal Maryland, with its own stunning open waters, secretive marshes, tidal magic. This new place, no doubt, will be as full as all of our others.
But none of those places are these mountains.
Everyone has a happy place in nature, a place that calls to them, that seems to run in their veins. A place where they find joy, find peace. Blacksburg is mine.
I love these Appalachians; these gentle, ancient mountains of southwest Virginia which paint each season on their own grand canvases – the truest greens of summer, the flaming fires of turning trees in the fall, the gray/brown trunks and branches that turn ridges into bristled boars’ backs all winter and, most especially, the party of new leaf green and redbud pink and dogwood white pointillist confetti in the spring.
I love the streams that splash and tumble down these mountainsides, rushing over the Eastern Continental Divide on their way to join the historic James River or the incredibly old New River. (And from the New, our waters flow on to join the Kanawha, then to the Ohio and on to the Mississip’ – carrying tiny pieces of this wonderful home past friends still in my last home, New Orleans.)
I love the birds that sing in the forests and soar on winds rising up over ridges. I love the fuzzy mammals that scamper over branches and poke their heads up out of tall grass meadows. I even love the scaly and slimy things that hide under decaying logs and boulder outcrops. I’m intrigued by insects and fascinated by spiders. (My sister recently informed me that this causes her to question whether we are actually related. Sorry, sis, but Mom and Dad swear I’m not adopted.) I’ll stare at flowers from all different angles and fill up entire memory cards with digital photographs of petals and leaves, coronas and corollas.
I don’t want to miss a thing, not one minute in this whole last year of living in my mountain home. So, this Friday, May first, is my May Day in two ways. The first, it is the midpoint of the spring season, the celebration of nature’s new beginnings, and the start of serious outdoors season around here. The second, it is my “mayday”, the beginning of the end of my time here in this enchanted place.
So, to make sure I soak in every second, I’m going to take you all with me. I will hike the hikes and walk the walks that wind through my mountains, with my camera in hand and nature notebook in pocket. I will tell you and show you and share with you the many magics of the natural world.
This is my mission: a year of mountain nature.