Friday, January 18, 2013
AT HOME IN THE MOUNTAINS
Big adventure today. Snow. Big snow. I'm hearing ten inches in Ennice, Pine Swamp and Stratford. Here at my home at Air Bellows I have six inches. I'm told that because I'm at higher elevation I should have more than ten inches. But it didn't work out that way. Looking at the way the snow is mounded on objects doesn't look like ten inches to me. I took yard stick out to measure and it came up six inches everywhere I put it down. Wet snow that transitioned from three days and nights of rain to freezing rain, sleet, ice, snow, then snow and more snow. I put out extra seeds for the birds before the snow started, thinking they'll need a little extra to get through the long cold night. They'll be looking for something to eat first thing in the morning. It's a beautiful world outside with the light on the rhododendron completely covered in snow. The snow stuck to everything. Wet, sticky snow. My friend Justin said he had to cut up a tree that fell across Pine Swamp Road. The weight of the ice in the tree pulled it up by the roots that were in soggy ground after the soaking rain.
Justin was on his way here to pick me up. His friend Chad was with him in Chad's pickup. Chad had his daughter with him, and we were going to go riding around in the snow. Both of them with four wheel drive and neither one could make it up the mountain. My phone was busy because I'd had a telemarketing call earlier, clicked the off button while it was ringing, didn't know it but that somehow kept the phone on so it gave out a busy signal. I'll have to look at my phone bill next time and see if I've been charged a three hour phone call to some telemarketing center anyplace USA or India. I saw on facebook Justin's wife reported they'd lost power. She didn't have any candles, flashlights or anything. They have a wood stove for heat, so it's not really a problem except for freezer and refrigerator. I was disappointed the snow is so bad. It's all ice on the bottom. And the ground is soggy too. I was looking forward to riding around in the snow with two guys who know how to drive in it, who do this every winter for fun. They take two trucks in case one gets stuck. They carry a chain and a chainsaw and shovel. I think I remember Justin saying Chad's truck slid off Pine Swamp Road today and had to be pulled back onto the road.
I'm glad there is no power outage here. If there were, I'd take a flashlight and walk to next door neighbor's house 1/3 mile down the road, where they have wood heat. I had to give up wood heat when the heart turned delicate. Carrying wood into the house is where I learned I had an issue with the heart. It's been kerosene heat ever since. I cut firewood and burned it for twenty years. That's enough. There comes a time when it's just too physical an activity hauling wood into the house three and four times a day. It's not objectionable, but at a certain time in life it's not what somebody wants to do. I prefer wood heat to any other, but only when it's practical. I only used trees that had already died, so it wasn't like I was doing anything but cleaning up. I was very particular about the wooded places where I cut the trees. When I cut a trail through a section of woods for the truck to drive through to load the wood, I never made a straight line. I used the lines of least trees and rhododendron, mountain laurel and mountain azalea. Actually, you couldn't even see one of my roads through the woods because it never went in a straight line and it went between trees instead of through them. Some guys I know cut a line straight into the woods about twice the width of their trucks, taking out anything in the way.
I felt like it was important to keep the integrity of the forest, not considering it won't be long after I'm gone the woods I took my firewood from will be bulldozed down for a subdivision. I forget that the future is a big house on an acre or two of lawn. In one case here on the mountain, a high school principal retired from Florida came up here, cleared a big patch of woods, because he "didn't like snakes," had a lawn, took out a lot of beautiful rhododendron and mountain azaleas, so the lawn would be pretty. Then painted the house red. Then the man died. I thought at the time I really do hope my last years on earth are not about destroying the portion of the earth I have dominion over. I did not come to the mountains to destroy the mountains. I love the mountains. I don't want to be a factor in their deforestation, but have to remind myself that when the ocean rises very soon, a few more years of hurricanes wiping out coastal cities, the people of the coast will go to the mountains. Not half way to the mountains. All the way to the mountains. When the ocean has risen as far as it's going to, these mountains may be like the Japanese islands, packed with people, pavement, houses. The mountains will be stripped down to rock like the Greek islands denuded by shipbuilding in their great age of wars. Haiti was deforested and it never came back.
I think about doing something positive for the "environment" and see around me thousands of abuses and indifferent destruction. I can't help it, though. Before the Christmas tree plague at Air Bellows, I liked to watch the native trout swim in the creek. I'd sit on a rock beside the creek in the woods. Sit still for an hour and then the fish come out and live their lives. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life, certainly unforgettable. And the day a water snake curled up beside me on a rock I was sitting on beside the stream. It was the snake's sunning rock and I had taken it. I didn't realize what I'd done until it was too late, when I finally got it that the snake wanted the rock. It was sunning time of day. I finally left, but too late for the snake's satisfaction. Now the native trout are gone, the minnows are gone, the water snakes are gone, and now the creeks have that unnatural green moss growing on the rocks from too much fertilizer in the water, runoff from the Christmas tree fields and from the way they spread the fertilizer all over the whole area by helicopter. It's a shame for me to see a mountain stream die at its source. Then I remind myself the stream will never come back to life. After the Christmas trees have destroyed the topsoil a subdivision will come in and make it into rolling lawns with fertilizer runoff. Who knows, they may pave the whole area for the Air Bellows Walmart parking lot.
My early years in the mountains I was conscientious about not destroying the natural world around me. It's what I came here for. I wanted to be a benefit to the mountain. I was even over-conscientious in that any application of conscientious is overdone in American reality. I look back and laugh a my inability to see the future, to see how things will change when my time of calling the shots on a small plot of land is up. A guy I let hunt on my land hates crows. He shoots crows for practice. I feed the crows. I don't see a problem. Nearly all the hunters shoot crows for practice. It's a tradition that goes all the way back, based in medieval superstition about the devil or whatever. They're black, they're bigger birds and were menaces to farmers in the past. I think the crows are maginificent birds. Now farming uses poison seeds. And we eat what the poison seed grows. I am happy I saw and drank from mountain springs before they became poison from the Christmas tree pesticides, herbicides, this cide and that cide, killing everything living in the streams and poisoning the people of the region with cancer. This is the highest cancer part of the state, the Christmas tree growing parts of the mountains. It's ok. County government doesn't have a problem. The Christmas tree growers pay more taxes than the people that get the cancer. It's the American way. Even to mention it is not ok. They're making money. They're sacred. However, a Christmas tree patch in deep snow is an amazing spectacle. White cones all the same size in rows.
I value the time I had with the creek when it was alive, the same as I value my time in Charleston, South Carolina, at the tail end of the Old South, seeing the Old South while it was still living, albeit wobbly in its late 90s. In the mountains I've seen the old-time ways die out with the old people, a culture, a way of life that was valuable, way more valuable than the culture and way of life that replaced it. I'm happy that I had some time in these mountains with the people who are derisively called hillbillies, people I call hillbillies with respect, because I know what hillbilly really means. I have to say I look way up to hillbillies. It's not because I was naturally disposed to. It was because hillbillies taught me by knowing so many and living among them. The latter half of my life lived among hillbillies has been the very best span of years of my life. The best came when I learned half my blood is hillbilly. My grandmother who kept me whole throughout my childhood was a hillbilly, I just didn't know it then. First thing I noticed in the mountains was that everybody talked like my grandmother, the same sayings, same phrases, same emphatic accents. I felt at home in the arms of love from the beginning here in these emerald mountains.