I wasn't born in these mountains, but I spent my summers here as a child and I've now lived here more than half my life. The vistas fire my spirit and the deep forests nourish my soul. I will never have the understanding of the land and its people that a true native would but I feel that some of its essence has entered my being.
It's a long way from Asheville to the mining communities of West Virginia, but we are connected by the ancient line of peaks and ridges known as the Appalachians. And today it is a connection of grief and remembrance as the community of Montcoal, West Virginia, deals with the final reckoning of the mining disaster that took twenty-nine lives. The strong and proud people of Montcoal don't need my help -- and they certainly don't need my pity -- but perhaps our thoughts and prayers can travel the spine of these mountains and provide some extra comfort and resilience.
Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook this video of scenes from the Kentucky coal country set to Patty Loveless' magnificent recording of the Darrell Scott classic, "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." It's seems a poignant, fitting elegy on this day. And it's also, I think, a time to remember the famous quote from Mother Jones, the great rabble-rouser and organizer who did much of her work among coal miners: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."