There are so many things I love about the new friends we’ve made since buying a mountain place high in the Blue Ridge. First, and it is so true, we lucked up with the most interesting, intelligent and generous neighbors a couple new to the area–and the lifestyle–could imagine.
To which I would also like to add: It is genuinely a surprise because the location is remote, the houses are few, and the land between each equals acres and acres.
Still there is something about the place that attracts folk whose values resemble a new-to-me hero, Wendell Berry.
I had the immense fortune of hearing Berry speak in July when I attended the Appalachian Writers Workshop in Hindman, Kentucky. I’d never read Berry until learning he was offering the keynote; may I just say Hannah Coulter, my introduction to Berry’s fiction, has taken residence in my heart in a sweet and lovely way.
That story of farming and neighbors and community, with its quiet, gentle voice, shifted something in me.
It also made me keenly aware of the value of neighbors who not only live close but who take care, who watch over and help out.
I have been fortunate at every phase of my life to have this type of neighbor. God realizes I am a needy human and has provided support beyond belief, from sweet Ree who practically raised my child (and made her eat vegetables) when I was a crazy Single Working Mom to the Copes who give and give and never ask anything in return.
But the point is on this remote mountain, where life centers around the land and our caretaking of it, the gift of neighbors who love and guide and support and teach and share…well, it is a gift beyond measure.
Two weeks ago I had a conversation with resident flora and fauna expert Leon during which I mentioned my intention to learn about the wildflowers growing on the mountain. There is a new crop every time we’re there–I am not exaggerating–and it is one of the great joys (and challenges) of this property for me to not only learn their names but their folklore.
Leon knows about such things. So he rattled off a comprehensive list of the native flowers and bushes and shrubs I most need in our meadow. And then–because it wasn’t enough to simply suggest–he and Gus and Greg spent a good bit of time stomping through the woods digging up varieties for Tim and me to carry over the ridge and put in the ground at our place.
Then yesterday I got this text from Jessie (of the Ramp Hunt and garlic harvest, among so many other gracious things):
There is an area of wildflowers in our meadow where all the butterflies come together. As hard as I try I can’t get a good shot of it. Come over sometime if you are up for the challenge!
I’m glad I went.
There are a thousand examples, from the time our sweet little dog escaped from the driveway and Sue stomped through scary Narnia in search of; to Tsa dropping off Burnsville Literary Festival info because she thought I might be interested; to Vicky’s gift of a book on the history of the Black Mountains; to Linda graciously serving up Happy Hour (time after time) with absolutely no notice.
Wendell Berry said this.
A viable neighborhood is a community, and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common.
Yes, I have learned. Oh yes.
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