Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quiet on the Mountain

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself,
What if I had never seen this before?
What if I knew I would never see it again?"

~Rachel Carson


The blue and white school bus slows and comes to a stop at the top of a hill, the gravel road beyond winding down and disappearing into the cool, white cloud surrounding us on this very foggy morning. After a week’s travels on the back roads of West Virginia, to the north, south, east and west of Opossum Creek, peering through steamy windows, as the passengers, birders, load and unload themselves at every stop, I could not tell you on this day, exactly where we were—
somewhere, though, wonderful.
A mountaintop I’ll remember as “Muddlety.”

Several days’ rain has left these woods thick and rich —
new spring green, strong shades in leaves bursting from buds along every branch. Mosses, luxuriously dense and soft, run up and over every still surface. Ferns, stems bent, heads rolled as they slowly lift layers of leaves from the ground, stand in clusters across the forest floor.

Dwarf Ginseng, Panax trifolius

Cranesbill, Geranium sp.

From the edge, where I watch, knee-deep in brilliant yellow blossoms, vines hang in tremendous tangles, brown ropes stitching tree to tree.
Steep hillsides step away from the gravel road,
rocky ledges tumble toward it.

Misted spiderweb and Golden Ragwort

And through the fog, there is bird song.
This mountain drips with life.

Barely more than black silhouettes against the white sky, small birds dart between the treetops overhead--fine forms, intent upon seeing who has come to these woods, in song, calling to them on this foggy morning. Our guide, again, calls into the mist, and one flits close with an answer. Singing proudly, long and sweet, from a branch just a few feet away--a Cerulean Warbler, sky blue strokes upon white.
Out of this mist, comes beauty.
The song that fills this space has wings.

Foamflower, Tiarella sp.

West Virginia White, Pieris virginiensis

Wrapped up in the magic of that West Virginia mountain,
I could have stayed there all morning, happy to sink into its rich bed of life, pull the cover over my head and rest--
imagine all I’d heard about destruction and lost habitat within the Appalachians, to be somewhere else.

Red Eft,
juvenile stage of Eastern Red-spotted Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

Somewhere not as wonderful as this.
Somewhere I would never see.

land snail

Looking back from the valley, beyond the gravel road, the logging creeps up the slopes of Muddlety.
Once bare, the blasting will begin.
Her future promised to coal—
her life upturned, and left—
mountaintop removed, valley filled,
with more than waste rock and coal dust.
Filled with the quiet of a silent spring.

(click to enlarge)

“We stand now where two roads diverge.
But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair.
The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy,
a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster.
The other fork of the road, the one less traveled by,
offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth."
~Rachel Carson from Silent Spring

Read more information about Mountaintop Removal Mining here.
Get involved with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition here.

Capturing the Eft
photo by Julie Zickefoose

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Grizz………… said...

Nina, what a fine piece of writing, and such lovely photos. You are a pleasure to read, your words true and well-chosen, aimed at the heart of the matter, evocative, rich…right.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Nina, I think this is your best writing yet. You conveyed the breath taking beauty and the sense of loss.

Barbie ♥ said...

Very nicely done, Nina! That was my favorite trip of the week! I enjoy your writing as much as your photos!

RuneE said...

The softness of the pictures fitted very well with the subject. Good luck with the fight against the Mountaintop Removal!

EG CameraGirl said...

Makes me wonder why we are still mining coal. It ruins the landscape where it's taken out and it pollutes the air.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Nina, great post, well written and with a great feeling for the environmental problems. I like the photos of the red eft. What a brilliant little creature. Have a great week.

A Scattering said...

So beautiful and so sad at the same time. Thanks for the road trip.

Sylvia K said...

Yes, I agree with the other comments, a truly beautiful but sad post and your photos are breathtaking! Wonderful road trip! Thanks for sharing and enjoy your week!

Anna said...

Brilliant -thank you !

Ginnymo said...

Awesome photos Nina!! I love the foggy dirt road one and that orange little creature is amazing! All the photos are just great!!! Love your writing too of course. It makes the whole post come together so wonderfully!!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Scraping the coal out from within employed so many more people, left the mountains intact. We think we have found a better way--blowing up the mountains to lay it bare. There are many who differ. This post is like a diamond in the dark coal. Oh, I miss Muddlety already.

Janie said...

Great Rachel Carson quotes. I love that first misty photo, and the lush forest scnes, and the flora and fauna. Wonderful post.

Mary said...

Wonderful. I enjoyed this very much. Muddlety is a dream I had.

Wanda..... said...

Beautiful Post Nina.

poefusion said...

Thank you for being the voice of the mountains. I have long thought that the mountains are disappearing to these big company's who come in mining for coal or even new roadways. So much is lost with each that my heart is squeezed tight. Continue writing your beautiful words and sharing your photos. People are listening. Thanks for sharing. Have a nice night.

Kathi said...

Wonderful! How did I miss this post?

Love the little eft's "smile" and the photo of you, photographing it.


Tumblewords: said...

Quality writing and photos. I, too, dislike watching the disappearance of land forms. It seems we could stop it, but so far we've not been able to. Maybe...

Bradley Hsi said...

How lovely, the photos and the writting. You had such a nice time on the mountain.

Arija said...

A beautifully potic and immensely sad post Nina.

Heather said...

I like the way both you and Julie approached this subject, and it is very sad indeed to know that this beautiful land is going to be... plundered, in such a way. It's absolutely horrible.

I hope this doesn't sound too weird, but I'm really glad Julie posted those pictures of you in action, taking the photos of that eft. I often find myself on the ground, or contorted in some strange positions, to get "the image."

naturglede/Randi Lind said...

Brilliant! I love it all:)

Sherrie said...

Awesome photos and post! Have a great day!


Appalachian Lady said...

Inspiring photos and prose. I have been involved with trying to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. I do think documenting the beauty of the mountains helps. I am glad that the EPA has been holding up mining permits after a long period of MTR escalation.

Rose said...

Nina, your writing is always so poetic, but this post is absolutely beautiful and so inspiring. To see the beauty of this place through your photos and your description and then to think it might be destroyed is tragic. Rachel Carson's words are as true today as they were when she first wrote them.

Elisabeth's bright side said...

What great photos of the big world at our feet! Thanks

jay said...

I was going to say the spiders web was my favourite picture, but then I saw the newt and then the snail. It has to be the snail - what a great job you did on that last picture!

I do love snails ... when they're not on my young plants. ;)

Kelly said...

...your writing is so beautiful it makes the imminent loss more real. I knew nothing about this type of "mining." Reading about it in a "normal text book style" would upset me, but your ability to link beauty, nature and fact makes me feel the loss even deeper. It seems this type of writing could help sway decision makers to find a better solution.

TR Ryan said...

What a brilliant, poetic tribute to Muddlety and all the places like it whose last days have arrived. How we treat the earth says so much about us as humans. How you sing the earth, with such intense beauty, says so much about you Nina. It is an honor to know you and have spent time with you. You are missed.

Q said...

Thank you for stunning photos and for bringing the Mountain to this mid-western lady.

Anonymous said...

I have only passed through West Virginia on the highway. Your photo essay makes me want to stop for a closer look.

Anonymous said...

Nina, In response to your post on Mountain destruction, Rachel Carson, Progress and Environmentalism :

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

"Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

These are figures of "Ecocide".
These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land].

Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Delhi, India

Christy said...


Powell River Books said...

Thoughtful words and beautiful pictures. Nature deserves everything we can do to protect it. My post is of something that actually destroyed the natural environment, but even there you can find beauty (if you look deep enough). My contribution this week is a quarry on nearby Texada Island. I invite you to come for a visit. - Margy

Kathie Brown said...

Beautifully written and photographed Nina. How I hope and pray we can stop the destruction! That place is too beautiful and home to so much life!

Unknown said...

Beautiful narrative and great photos. The dwarf ginseng has lovely flowers, I hadn't seen that plant before.

Adrienne Zwart said...

The photos in your post are stunningly beautiful as is the narrative. I'm left with the haunting feeling that we have not done nearly enough to protect our wild spaces. So sad, but I'm glad you were able to see it in it's beauty.

i beati said...

i miss it all Montani Semper liberi sandy Quiet dell

Unknown said...

Beautiful photos and lovely writings..

I've never seen and eft before ... what an interesting, colourful little character ...

Unknown said...

Beautiful photos and lovely writings..

I've never seen and eft before ... what an interesting, colourful little character ...