"The Appalachian Mountains inspire wonder, reverence and awe. Many of the nation's magnificent rivers flow from them, providing millions of Americans with clean drinking water. Their majestic vistas nourish our spirits and connect us with nature. It's no wonder that these crown jewels have inspired musicians for generations, whether they're playing bluegrass, country or rock-and-roll...." -- Music Saves Mountains
"Topless mountains are obscene." -- MTM bumper sticker
"I come to this the largest ever global conference facing the greatest global challenge of our time to appeal to you to summon up the highest level of ambition and will.... And I say to this conference: informed by science, moved by conscience, inspired by common purpose we, the leaders of this fragile world, must affirm: we will not condemn millions to injustice without remedy, to sorrow without hope, to deprivation without end.... Let us demonstrate a strength of resolve equal to the greatness of our cause. And let us prove today and tomorrow the enduring truth that is more telling than any passing setback: that what we can achieve together is far greater than whatever we can achieve unilaterally and alone. In these few days in Copenhagen, which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow interest to prevent a policy for human survival. Because for all of us and for our children there is no greater national interest than the common future of this planet." -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 12/17/09, Copenhagen Climate Summit
Appalachia is an area traditionally restricted economically and by some isolation from broadly accessible physical and, increasingly, environmental wholesomeness. That historical reality is exacerbated now by an effectual unemployment rate of around 17 percent and many underemployed and minimally paid without employer-provided insurance benefits.
Some recent articles and broadcasts nationwide expressing a fear of "death panels" in proposed federal health care legislation fail to acknowledge that, just because a procedure or test isn't approved by an insurance carrier, that doesn't mean the individual can't acquire it on his or her own, if so chosen as necessary or urgent and personal resources are available for it. Tens of millions of uninsured Americans -- and Appalachia is a prime example of this -- have been facing "death panels" of hard choices between, for instance, food and a doctor's visit or medication for decades, centuries really. Perhaps a little empathy for the circumstances they've lived in and dealt with daily for themselves and their children is in order now in considering possibilities that might benefit all of our citizens, not just ones economically advantaged at any particular moment or era. Most of us have ups and downs in that arena and today's business manager and owner can be tomorrow's homeless person sleeping in a car or shelter, perhaps with a family of small children also, and visa versa.
The more we depend, however, on pharmaceuticals and mainstream medical practice, the more we become dependent upon them until we see, obviously, no alternative or choice but to proceed in that direction. That isn't true, though. Most bodies have pretty formidable systems, if healthy and encouraged, for building and having defenses against various biological threats. They become overwhelmed and increasingly inoperable, unfortunately, under a withering deluge of foreign, manmade chemicals where elements natural to our environment and bodies might be more appropriately helpful in keeping us physically strong and up-to-date in resistences. Doing our intelligent and educated best, as our foreparents did and had to do, in practical care -- a situation taken for granted by prior generations as necessary and efficacious -- is a favor we can do for ourselves in accepting as much responsibility as possible for our own health and those personal choices and decisions.
There are many books, magazines, websites and wholistic shops, seminars and commercial therapies readily available and easily accessible in cutting back on mainstream medical expense personally and nationally. Through advertising and extraordinarily well-funded lobbying we have become nearly addicted to one version and view of health care that provides exorbitant profits in some cases for its purveyors -- who do prey on fear and raising fright, "scare tactics" -- that might better be addressed initially by independent study, research and tried-and-true "home remedies," including honest prayer for ourselves and others experiencing extreme discomfort, pain, distention, anxiety and confoundment mental and physical from those in our relatively rich nation to others abandoned en masse in the wilds from desert to jungle worldwide without hope of relief or release except by God.
Happy holy days. -- jH
NPR Audio Stream Below: Ben Sollee and Michael Martin Moore music benefit for Appalachian Voices and a healthy Mountain Empire ecology
Graphic below: Forest Path, watercolor by Vera Tracy, Jonesborough TN
Walk The Land
People who don't spend much time amidst the natural world by choice, time or location tend to think of it as pretty static, like a landscape painting or a snapshot. In fact, to the contrary it's ever-changing in myriad ways and on tiny to grand scales. Scents in the air blown by blooms and animals on the soft waves of warm breeze to fierce wind raging in from storm arriving or past meander and weave through each other. Leaves and grasses are not green but shades in between brown and near-blue of form straightly slender to mottled and chunky. They're seldom still, perhaps line dancing in some semblance of symmetry, brushed by birds or ground and tree fur, dewed by the moon, chilled by night. Waters in pools rarely left stagnant, creeks in the narrow thrush and rush of travel to widening rivers, rivulets running and meeting to join with the sea change similarly in shape, shade and temperance, fed by our sky canopy of dynamic currents calmly colliding or conflicting to sudden stark cracks of electrons mid-air to ground, zigzagged and intermittent unpredicatably. Earth and her waters resound, rebound to all, resplendently shining or drowned temporarily, as do her creatures caught or hidden in sense of tumult unbidden on every hand. Beings fortunate to live or visit lands unmarred marvel and delight where her mysteries abound, bright and fog-strewn, for wondrous knowing to be shared or not as secrets may be with those who choose more seemingly safe, reliable and sedentary modes of leisure and life. But you have to be there, open to her whispers and chants, shouts and gleamings to glean the full meaning personally. She speaks differently to each one from the lull of early evening to the sun's mighty roar at rising. From small sheltered park to daunting wilderness vastly, any of us of any age and ability can grasp a glimpse at least of her mildness, her fury, her wildness, her messaging. Snow and ice can't stop or delay her movings and mournings, her moments of heaving, churning, and her creatures burrowed or borne away by ancient instinct till the alluring array and cheer of spring. We are made by our Creator to walk on the land and know it as well as the divine hand, however we're able and can. Visit a tree or a brook on some lonely, abandoned stand and you'll hear The Word in a spray of foam from rock, the breeze that leaves too suddenly, a hint of eternal home, and maybe the cookie-crumb path leading and leaning to it, how to survive the gales and wails on our way that fit us for the journey. Because it's true: Only the fittest survive to find and stay in New Jerusalem spiritually and spatially. We're not natural beasts but God's own: wo/men with sentient minds, hearts, spirits and souls -- and free will to choose in our time here which way we will go. -- jH
Graphic below: Photograph of Elizabethton TN's Doe River and its 19th century Covered Bridge still used and celebrated with festivities