We hadn’t been back to WV in a while, and Autumn’s invitation was a welcome one.
It did not disappoint.
Going back to WV is a mixed experience for me, emotionally. It’s part family reunion, part funeral. There are the warm hugs and familiar voices of people I’ve known since infancy, and it feels right to bring my children back there, to show them where I came from. The way the air smells heavy on an August evening, with rain threatening, and the party unwilling to stop. The smell of foods we ate before they were trendy–quinoa and curries and home-canned pickles. The way my friends are getting older, but not any less passionate. All of that is good, and needed.
But the other side of it… Many of my friends now host disaster tourists who want to know what fracking really looks like, before they welcome it into their communities. And, going back, I feel like a tourist, too. Huge chunks of road missing, crumbling under the heavy truck tires. A flare on the top of a ridge, burning methane, blotting out the starlight. And everyone, constantly, talking about leaving. They are all facing that question: How could I leave? How can I stay?
And through it all, the music plays on, and the people dance, because what else can they do?