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Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

A long trip is nearing its end. I rest in a place that is stunningly beautiful. It is an unexpectedly thought provoking place. The mountains of West Virginia. I have been here before but never during a campaign year. Trump-Pence signs are on many a lawn, as are surprisingly to me, a few Gary Johnson. No Hillary Clinton signs seen so far. As I interact with people here, I can imagine that she would seem quite foreign. I am reminded of the time I sat in an airport near two older ladies watching a television. George W. Bush was on the screen. He spoke but the sound was on mute. One of the ladies said, “I’d invite him to my picnic. I think I’ll vote for him.” Policy and experience were moot. He came across as familiar and likeable. Clinton does not. Yet Trump does? Fascinating.

I am in an area that is approximately 96 percent non-Hispanic White according to demographic tables. Without looking up the statistic, I suspected such a number. I stand out quite a bit. People stare whenever I step out of a car, walk across the parking lot, sit in a restaurant. The culture here is a bit different than my recent experience in South Carolina. There, even if you stand out as different, the culture is such that you “throw up a hand” or acknowledge a presence in some way. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Here … people sometimes seem startled when I say hello or look at them and smile in greeting. Some will nod back. Others just stare. At times I felt uncomfortable, and it wasn’t just the Confederate flags peppering various places. The flags were old and tattered. Perhaps those were really about heritage and not about the new symbolism of hate.

Sitting in a diner — lovely staff, good food –I watched the local news. On screen, a black man was asked by a white man if discrimination still existed. Everyone who walked through the door glanced at me. That’s fine. Once while working with a youth writing program in Boston, we brought the children across town to do an activity. Afterwards we went for ice cream at a nearby ice cream shop. One of the girls leaned against me. She said, “Cynthia, nobody here looks like me. Like us.” I said, “And that’s okay. To go places and to be different. Let’s pick out our ice cream.”

To go places. To be different. Even if one is not readily welcomed. There is value in that especially in a world where it is too easy to view those who are different, those with whom one has had no personal experience, as … well … those who should be held at bay with walls and exclusionary laws that have been passed in the past and can be again.

Because of the various circles I run in for work and pleasure, sometimes people will say to me, “Cynthia, I think you’re the first black person that such-and-such has interacted with.” I have to hope that I am not the last. And I have to hope that interaction is more than what’s shown on TV and in social media.

This is an incomplete post in the sense that these thoughts and my experiences from this trip are still percolating. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wind my way through West Virginia and to glimpse just a bit of its natural beauty.

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Watching me from a nearby oak tree is a large male cardinal with bright black eyes.  My camera is across the room.  He will surely be gone before I can grab it and race back to the window.  What to do?  Just remain still and enjoy my unexpected encounter with a red-feathered friend.  Unexpected.  There is no better word to describe my life at present.  Since my last update, there have been lots of unexpected experiences.  Some have been as simple as spotting the cardinal at my window, or the above leaf as I walked to the grocery store.  Others instances have been more complex.  Their creative impact and outcomes remain to be seen.  Meanwhile, here are some brief highlights of experiences from the past month, with a focus on recent travels.  Enjoy! 😉

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Virginia

In September I traveled with Steve to Virginia and West Virginia.  Virginia is my  home state.  While there, I visited one of my favorite nature trails along the Blackwater Creek.  See the little fish at the bottom of the picture?  Other sights along the trail:

And in a neaby national park  …

 

West Virginia

In Virginia, I showed Steve my old haunts.  In West Virginia, we journeyed to one of his, Seneca Rocks.  There I had several unexpected and memorable experiences, first attempting to climb a mountain, and then riding a horse.  When I wasn’t afraid of tumbling, off the mountain or the horse, I managed to snap a few photos. 😉

 

On the Horizon

Well, one of the most unexpected opportunities is an upcoming trip to Japan.  I don’t expect to encounter any horses, but Steve is determined to introduce me to octopus in all its varied culinary forms.  We’ll see about that one!

Also, I’m pleased to share that I will be making a guest blog appearance November 1st on The Evolving Critic, A Metro Boston Blog for Art, Architectural, Urban Planning and Community Explorations.  I’ll be sharing words and images about one of my favorite Boston sites, the Charles River Esplanade.

That’s the quick scoop from me.  Wherever you are in the world today, I hope you are healthy, happy and feeling inspired!

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As mentioned in previous posts, my travels this past month took me to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Steve and I have determined that when he first climbed Seneca Rocks I was probably sitting in a high chair smearing pink frosting on my face. I would have been celebrating my first birthday while he was celebrating the freedom of being a freshman at college on an outing with the Explorers Club. Over the years he would return many times to the mountain, sharing the experience of climbing with friends and family. He wanted to share the same experience with me.

I’d rock climbed in the past. Once at a gym where there was a climbing wall. Once in the wilds of New Hampshire with a bunch of middle schoolers participating in a summer writing program. All wonderful experiences. Were they enough to prepare me for Seneca?

Steve's Classic Gear

Steve Mapping "Easy" Route

Me All Dressed Up

So what happened?

We climbed. On occasion I swore under my breath. We finally reached a plateau where we could take a short break. Around us, others climbed.

At some point, gently, Steve reminded me that we had our own climb to finish. I tried focusing on what was before me and above, but at some point I made the mistake of looking behind me. And then looking down. And down and down and down. I will never forget the sight of both an eagle and a butterfly soaring above the clouds. We were all above the clouds it seemed. I looked at Steve and said, “I’m done.” I must have had “that look” on my face because he simply congratulated me on the distance I had traveled and then we sat for a bit in the quiet.

We just sat and shared the space, together, though I am sure our heads were in very different places.  Eventually, we rose.  The climb down was not so bad.  All in all, it was a good day.

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