Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Over the Mountain
The other day we drive up Pine Mountain, and I spent the while time listening to a soothing playlist on my iPod (Jimmy, Regina, Deathcab, Glee). It was totally worth it though because the view was amazing (as you can see in the picture). It was warming up and we all piled out of the bus to enjoy and take pictures. The downside to the view is that the MTR sites that I talked about in my last note are really visible. In the picture those high flat parts aren't meadows; they used to be peaks but were blown up for strip mines.
It is good we stopped that day because we had to go around the mountain today since it was raining. The roads were ok down here but at the top it could be sleeting or snowing. The road was still winding but the mountains were beautiful with mist rising out of the forests. We made it safely to our next home away from home and I'm gratified to say that I am totally not the only one who gets nervous on the roads.
These blogs are woefully incomplete. I'm leaving out so many important people and experiences. But, these blogs are coming to you via text and my thumbs are not up to the challenge of boiling down these amazing people to a few paragraphs. Just know for now that I am meeting a lot of amazing people who are filled with love, compassion and hospitality, and who are totally passionate about serving other people.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I am tired but I want to post a quick update. I think time moves slower in Appalachia... sort of like Easton. I feel like we've been here for weeks, but in a good way. I'm exhausted at the end of every day, but I think that's because I'm still waking up in the middle of the night a lot. Yep its been three weeks of bad sleep..its getting old.
On the upside we had sunshine today at it was above freezing. We went an awesome coffee shop, a Presbyterian church, a great cafe with bookshop selling local crafts, and a community arts org that preserved Appalachian culture by teaching locals about the arts. More on that later hopefully, but in the meantime Courtney Moore you need to go to AppalShop.org and die because you'll be in preserving local culture heaven. The people who started it got grants to so similar things in developing countries.
I am learning a lot about issues related to coal mining and I can't wait to come home and research it so I can do a thorough description on my blog. In the meantime go to Google Images and search "mountain top removal mines" and be horrified. The cheapest and easiest way for coal companies to get to coal is by just blowing the top off the mountain and filling in valleys with the debris. Deep mining and auger mining would create more jobs without devastating the landscape but it costs a little more.
Then search "sludge reservoir disaster" and be disgusted. Coal companies wash coal in water and leave the waste in ponds all over Appalachia. It leaches into the lands and water - and worse - occasionally floods communities with something resembling lava-tar. There is waste-free way to clean coal but it costs $1 more per ton. The spill in Kentucky in 2000 was 30 - YES - 30 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
I plan to write a lot more later on what I am learning about these issues. At least for right now the region needs coal to survive, but the systems that are supposed to protect the people are not doing their jobs.
That said there is a lot of awesome stuff happening here. Each person I meet is doing good work in such different and creative ways. They are speaking up for the people but in ways that are gentle and compassionate.
And as a side note, my accent is gradually relaxing into a definite drawl. When I'm around Brits, Aussies and South Africans it is more like my inflection gets yanked around in odd ways. In the south its just like I fall into the accent. I have a feeling I am going to end up with a more pronounced Eastern Shore accent as a result.
Monday, January 11, 2010
We had learned beforehand that Joan is from California and came here as an intern and then an interim pastor before deciding to stay. Being from a small town myself and knowing how Appalachians are often uncomfortable with "come-heres" I was expecting there to be something of a square peg round hole situation. California and Appalachia have fairly distinct cultures after all. I was happy to see that Joan was thrilled (if a little surprised) to be living in Hazard. And the congregants were just overflowing with gratitude for her presence! We sat in a tight circle and she led the group in worship that struck me as very emergent with a California flavor and the group was right there with her. I later learned that their worship is generally a traditional 1950's style Disciples service. It is quite a testament to the power of relationship that Joan and her congregation are able to share
their worship styles with each other and everyone is comfortable and happy. No doubt being in an informal setting helped too.
The message was about the Magi and their twists and turns and detours. Joan talked about how our paths are generally full of twists and turns - like car accidents and ending up in Kentucky. I could definitely relate having just had a couple of weeks full of unexpectedness and plan changes. In that comfortable circle Joan's words and calm presence reminded me that God is present with me on my crazy winding path and that there is a rhyme and reason to things even when I can't see it.
My trip has been full of surprises so far - like the fact that the congregation was not as elderly as we were expecting. Today we visited a state of the art hospital, a thrift shop, another Disciples church, the number one custom motor sports shop in the country, and applebees. Tomorrow its a coal mine and a rural medical clinic.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Today my group arrived at the Hindman Settlement School and spent a lot of time in the cottage where we are staying. In the midst of out chatting an impromptu knitting circle has sprung up. We spent hours today in the cottage. A couple girls are learning to knit, some of us are working in projects and others have been watching or reading as we chat.
I have been thinking about how knitting is about connection for me. There's the visual and tactile reality of twisting yarn into something beautiful and functional, but there's also the fact that as I knit this scarf for my cousin I am thinking about her and all of the things we are talking about doing together.
The practice of knitting is also very social though. Newer knitters need the help of more experienced hands and in the meantime conversation happens. This afternoon we shared knowledge about knitting but we also shared stories, wisdom and hopes for our future lives in ministry.
More than that I also feel connected to the greater tradition of women who create and nurture and provide for others. It reminds me that although this is a hobby to me, people throughout history and in the world today work hard with their hands to provide things they cannot buy. Knitting reminds me too that many hands have been involved in the creation of everything I wear.
Yarn is addictive. What starts with K1P1 often leads to spinning one's own wool into yarn. Step by step I am being led into a closer connection with the process that starts with sheep grazing in a field and ends with garments that we wear.
It strikes me as so appropriate that we have formed a knitting circle on this trip. Knitting illustrates things we are here to witness - community, labor, working to provide, natural resources, crafts that are beautiful and functional. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we are going to learn a lot about Appalachian crafts - I can't wait to learn more about how this bundle of connections is lived out in Appalachian art.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
The Kindness of Strangers
I went through my travels in a bit of a daze but fortunately I love flying and I've done enough of it that I fall easily into a travel routine. When I arrived at LEX I got my bags super quickly because there were literally like 20 people on the flight. When I got outside Chad's wife Cara picked me up and told me that there was a change of plans. It was snowing steadily and the roads were bad so I was staying at their house.
So here I am on the LTS campus. Chad is coming up to pick me up in the morning and I'll join the rest of my group (finally). Besides the fact that people are showing me great hospitality it is actually a blessing that I flew instead of driving down - I would have been driving through the snow late at night. In other words if I hadn't wrecked my car yesterday in Earleville there's a good chance I would have done so in Kentucky tonight of would have at least been very stressed and tired on the drive. I still don't like remembering the hanging upside down in the car but there is definitely a silver lining here.
So I will attempt to update when I can... I am blogging by email on my Krakenberry so it all depends on having cell reception. Possibly people do not need to be updated on my exact whereabouts but this is also goingg to serve as part of my sharing my experience with other, one requirement of my immersion.