Guest Post: The Beauty of Appalachia
There has always been a perplexing quality about Appalachia. Simultaneously, one is told to leave the land, while others never leave. For years I never quite understood where I grew up. I wanted to be different. I wanted to leave. In no uncertain words, I was ashamed of where I was from. Many find themselves in the same dilemma. They choose to leave as soon as the graduation date arrives. While doing so, the beauty is missed of Appalachia.
My Grandfather was a simple man. He grew many of his own vegetables, arose early every morning, and never forgot to tend to his lawn care—even as an octogenarian. I never quite appreciated the brilliance of his simplicity. He was content with his life. He was satisfied with having little to no material wealth and need not be called a social-media influencer.
This is the beauty of the land, for people who have had no advantages in their life seem to be more content than those in the big cities.
I chose to leave when I turned 18. My accent changed and I wanted to live away from what I considered to be the ignorance of Appalachia. Now as I have aged, I have had the opportunity to live in Nashville and Knoxville. The friendly smiles dissipated. The slow roads turned into road rage. The time that seemed to endlessly tick, now flies by.
People, in general, seem unhappier—and it makes sense, I don’t know the name of my barber nor the mailman and I don’t know where my vegetables come from.
While there is great opportunity elsewhere, I yearn for the beauty of Appalachia. My wife and I recently had the opportunity to visit where my Grandfather was reared. Whilst the younger me would have derided the lack of cellular coverage and thirty-minute trip from what I once considered civilization, I found myself content. I stopped thinking about politics, pandemics, and violence. I’d like to imagine this is the feeling my Grandfather awoke to each day. My wife, without prompting, expressed the same feeling.
I had opportunities that my Grandfather never had. I was afforded the ability to attend college, and graduated with a law-degree three months ago. I’ve visited beaches and traveled across the country. Today, many figuratively have it all, and aren’t truly content. They, too, miss the beauty.
It is often said, as a per capita population, no one has made more sacrifices than Appalachia. The doughboy hero Alvin C. York represented this patriotism—a sacrifice for a country that does not understand Appalachia nor wishes to understand Appalachia. It is a forgotten land, and sadly no place loves their country more than Appalachia. Appalachia does not ask for much—they never have; but the greatest gift Appalachia could bestow is its own beauty.
Perhaps the rest of the country should take a look for once.
Guest post by Blake M.