In my latest video I talk about the sense of place most Appalachians feel about their homeland. It’s a subject I’ve studied on often over the years.
Appalachians like their place. Whether their homes be mansions on a hill or cabins in a holler, they have historically been fiercely attached to them.
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. I like things simple. And in my simple mind I narrow that love of place down to three reasons.
First: There is a feeling, a sense of belonging to the actual terrain of Appalachia. It’s the towering mountains that hover close; the sparkling water that sings 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 but 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 as well because their travel was restricted by the rugged terrain. Certainly modern transportation has removed many barriers of Appalachia’s which have traditionally held its inhabitants close. Yet even now, portions of Appalachia could still arguably be called isolated. Murphy, the county seat of Cherokee County NC where I live, is closer to 5 other state’s capitals than to its own. That =s being a long way away from the people who make many of your decisions. My entire life I’ve heard people say Raleigh (our state capital) thinks NC ends at Asheville.
When we talk about someone moving away we often say they moved off.
off = away from here.
“Jane’s oldest son moved off and made a doctor. He never did come back.”
“Can’t believe you don’t remember when his store burnt down. I guess that was when you lived off.”
I believe the manner in which ‘off’ is used in the sentences above is directly related to the sense of place native Appalachians often have. To quote Loyal Jones “We are oriented around place.” And “Our place is close on our minds.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter where ‘off’ is – it only matters that it’s not here.
I hope you enjoyed the video! Do you feel a strong attachment to the place you live? Or maybe the place you were raised?
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