We are beginning to taking back what is ours in Appalachian Culture. We are becoming trendy these days, with television shows,music programming and with the new food fads. Appalachian is on the rise, our culture and our people are influencing the rest of the nation in our small way. Our culture seems authentic to outsiders and our music, art and food are a new fascination to the world.
Unlike the rest of the modern U.S.,we here in the mountains often live in isolation usually by choice but also by situation,making Appalachia one of a very few remaining places in the country to have a historic culture. Our proud people, who often times have endured ridicule for their “folk ways”, are now finding themselves as authorities in traditional living and organic growing, as master craftsmen.
It is not uncommon for families here to continue to pass on traditions from generation to generation without much change. Time moves more slowly here and family traditions are still highly valued within our communities.Hunting,fishing, foraging and gardening are shared by most everyone know matter the age or sex.These things are family activities that every person takes part in together.Maybe only the men hunt but the woman butcher,can and freeze what is brought home. Maybe only granny forages but the men help make wine, dry or sell the roots and berries that are gathered. Children often help in the garden and in the cleaning and canning process. Everyone is expected to help when the time comes to put up or preserve what the family eats and sells.
What is it that the outside world finds so fascinating? I think that they are seeing that our small towns have character unlike the cookie cutter mall style of the big metro cities. I think that people like to see pretty and clean places, but often bore of sterile cement filled cities. People today are not just looking for the glossy fake fun of Las Vegas but are wanting to travel to see art, hear music and eat food that is real and authentic to a people. Our culture is hidden between hills and hallows, it takes time to find, it is not served up fast or easy and you maybe distracted by the lack of cell phone service. Here you have to take the time to get know our people and fall in love with the old buildings.
One of several ways that people are learning about Appalachia is through our sharing our cultural heritage with outsiders through tourism. Celebrating our past has become one of the most important ways we have developed economic growth. Sharing skills or knowledge about how to make beautiful things like quilts, and music that is not often heard outside the hills is of a draw for many. Even taking a steam engin train ride in the woods is how Appalachia to linking the present to the past.
Our communities are not perfect, they don’t fallow any larger drawn out plan. At times they are dingy and rusted and show wear from years of use.Our towns appear simple, quaint or plain but have survived the changes created from the loss of industry and the harsh terrian. Appalachians are hard-working folk that share a belief in a higher power, in our speech, our homes and in our music. We create images of what we love most often times on quilts, in a paintings and photography.The subjects of our art are often the forest,the wild life and beautiful water ways that surround us.Appalachians are a people of the land and live according to what happens with that land.
As people rediscover their connection to land and environment they rediscover Appalachia and her heritage and history.It is a good day for my culture when people begin to see the value of clean food locally grown, wild plants and animals that are free from steroids and antibiotics.
West Virginia and all of Appalachia is seeing an appreciation from the outside world that has not happened since settlers first moved west from the cities of the north in 1700 and 1800’s. Let our slow growth, folk ways and home-grown food continue to be a reason for people to find the magic that is Appalachia. She has something to offer all of us and I hope to be part of it.