The excerpt I shared a few days ago about Dorie being homesick reminded me of the song The Hills that I Call Home written by Bob Amos. The song isn’t about the Smoky Mountains nor even about any area of Appalachia, but it sure offers a good narrative for the sense of place many Appalachians feel.
People have pontificated about the attachment folks like me have to their home in the mountains of Appalachia in a positive manner as well as in a derogatory manner. Whether their homes be mansions on a hill or cabins in a holler, they have historically been fiercely attached to them. Appalachians like their place.
There are varying reasons behind our love for home. I’m sure some Appalachian scholar could explain each of them to you in great detail. Me-I like things simple. And in my simple mind I narrow that love of place down to three reasons.
First: There is a true sense of belonging to the actual terrain of Appalachia. It’s the towering mountains that hover close; the sparkling water that sing a merry song to you; it’s the wind in the trees that whispers secrets; it’s the deep dark hollers that make you feel the presence of those who walked the trails before you. Appalachia is magic. People like me, who’ve lived here their entire lives feel the magical pull of belonging to Appalachia, and people who move here feel it too.
Second: Generational ties to Appalachia are hard to break. In a 2010 Blind Pig guest post, David Anderson wrote about two of his ancestors. In the post he highlighted the fact that ten generations later the descendants of those ancestors are still abiding in Clay County NC. Take a minute to think about that. Ten generations of the same family who walk the same paths; who speak the same words. Ten generations who are bonded with the same landscape and culture of Appalachia, never straying far from where their ancestors first settled.
Third: The physical landscape of the Appalachian Mountains has made it an isolated area. Appalachia as a whole was a very remote and hard to get to place and in turn a hard place to make an exit from. It was too hard for people to leave, too hard for them to imagine a life outside the mountains, and it was hard for them to leave in a physical sense because their travel was restricted by the rugged terrain. Certainly modern transportation has removed the barriers which have traditionally held the inhabitants of Appalachia close. Yet even now, portions of the area could still arguably be called isolated. Murphy, the county seat of Cherokee County NC where I live, is closer to five other state’s capitals than to its own.
Give Pap and Paul’s version of the song The Hills I Call Home a listen and see if it speaks to you about your place.
I don’t agree with a lot of things scholars say about Appalachia, but I do agree a sense of place is at the heart of Appalachia and its culture.
A line from the song says: Yet I found no peace within me till the day that I returned For there’s two things you can count on as the troubled world we face Every season has an ending and every person has a place.
Appalachia is my place.