Wednesday, March 16, 2011

into the coal river valley

It's true! I live in WV these days. I've been pretty dang busy... and haven't had much time for things like a blog post- but it seems well overdue! So, since I've been living here for about 2 months, there are photos from all sorts of things- an exact flow and time sequence doesn't really apply here... but here goes! The past 2 months of my time in WV....

First things first, new house! I live up Rock Creek holler with 5 other delightful people. We rent our house, and it sits on 178 acres of land on the side of Coal River Mountain. It's incredibly beautiful- with trails that lead all over the place in our back 'yard' (is a mountain a backyard? i guess so...), lots of random little out houses, a cemetery, and a stream that ranges from a trickle to a roar (it's a small little one- but sure does sound nice!)

two of the little out houses on our property- there are hopes and dreams of fixing them up enough to provide seasonal housing--- but... for now that's just a dream.

William (housemate!) showing the watershed of the coal river valley to a passerby at the capital building in Charleston--- perhaps my least favorite place to be in WV (well, next to going shopping in Beckley... maybe)

And even tho I live and work in WV these days- I've remained pretty connected to things happening in Ohio. I've been in WV for... 2 months or something now- but have spent many many of my weekends away. One of those weekends I went up to Athens for help facilitate OSEC meetings. The first night, we had a packed house as folks crammed together to hear mattie share the history of osec.

Besides having a ton of people come out for the retreat and seeing people i care about- there is one really rad thing that sticks out from the weekend- OSEC took on the 'Don't Frack with Ohio' campaign! Hells yeah! Folks spent several hours in a break out group (above) trying to figure out how OSEC can help create an Ohio movement to stop fracking.

On sunday, we finished the weekend retreat strong with a moment for closing thoughts. And as extra bonus- we were able to do it outside (mind you- this happened in... early feb... so being outside was particularly exciting)

Group photo- osec Streeting retreat Winter 2011, Athens, OH

And then there was our households valentines day celebration--- which mostly consisted of EK writing beautiful poems for everyone and hanging them in our dining room (plus- some baked goods... duh)

I went with Rooster and William to see the Edwight permit-- a MTR site. We made it up the mountain side (on a very small, very bumpy road) just before 4 pm. Which is when we heard the alarm go off and moments later heard an explosion, felt the ground move a bit, and watched as the mountain was thrust into the air. It was the first time I saw a mountain actually get exploded. As it settled, you could smell the air-- it smelled a bit like matches. Here, you can see the dust settling after the explosion. It makes it look almost small, but it's not. Oh, and that little patch of trees in the upper left of the photo- is a family cemetery.

That same day, we went for a hike on the side of Rt 3 to look at some drainage that... well... shouldn't be there. It's funny how beautiful it can look and peaceful it can feel, just moments away from the active destruction of these same mountains.

The not-so-natural drainage coming out of what we think is an old mine... it was called in to the DEP, but I don't know that anything has really been done.

This is Frankie- Beccas new teacup pig. Frankie lives outside in a pin (tho, they sure do escape alot), loves apple cores, and hates being picked up. Unless its by Becca- on a good day.

The incredible exploded flat tire- that resulted in an eye opening and incredibly awkward experience for becca and i. Long story short: after several failed attempts of changing this flat into a doughnut (think: jack falling over twice, then falling over again and getting stuck under the car... fail), we knocked on a the door of a near by house-- which was home to what turned out to be perhaps the friendliest person.

So, I found myself sitting in a strangers home with becca drinking bad coffee with even worse powdered creamer, and trying to make small talk. As one can assume- what we do around here was a question- and after trying to beat around the bush- the real answer came out- we work with CRMW. i could barely say it, as i was afraid she'd know what that meant and she'd... i'm not sure... react strongly- be angry, kick us out, not help us with our tire? the woman had never heard of it before, and i was able to talk up projects that dont directly address mtr. But the fear of how she may have responded had she known, was very telling to me- and emphasized my role... as an outsider. A radical. An environmentalist. I am those things- and there's no denying it (nor would i want to), but the combination of the 3 creates a heavy challenge- and it's not a new challenge. it's not something i didn't realize before this, but--- it made it hit home and realize exactly who i am in this story.

(anyway... back to photos of what i'm doing these days...)

In late Feb, the CRMW office hosted the March on Blair Mountain:Appalachia is Rising general meeting. About 50 folks came from all over Appalachia to jam together about the march. It was a pretty amazing moment, where I was able to put names to faces, catch up on the current permits (there are currently 7 permits that are of eminent threat to the historical site of the Battle of Blair Mountain), see the incredibly beautiful color prints of the poster (photo!), connect with the media working group, and generally feel a part of something big.

Outreach break out group for the march... And just as a bit of back story for why this March on Blair Mountain is happening (and why you should totally come...) : Remember those 7 permits I mentioned? Well those are permits that are planning to blow up Blair Mountain- a mountain where in 1921, thirteen thousand miners came together to take up arms against the company and fight for their rights to safe working conditions and collective bargaining. It was the second largest armed insurrection in Unites States history (second only to the civil war), put down only when the coal bosses brought in federal troops. The battle proved to be a landmark fight for fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize. The Battle of Blair Mountain set a powerful precedent for the rest of the country that resounds today in the continuing fight to defend collective bargaining. Now, that mountain is set to be blown up by the coal companies- an attack not only on the mountains but also an attack on the history of WV and of labor on the whole. Guess we better stand together to protect it, eh?.

A group sing along of Solidarity Forever... with the totally awesome DustBuster Sisters from Sylvester, WV (just up the road from where I live now). If you're not familiar, check out their story (or ask me about it!)

Coloring together at our dining room table. Awww ethanpants!

Baking in what appears to be a totally crazed kitchen. Since then- improvements have certainly been made and it's less of a crazy place (tho- still not what I would call 'fully functional') Either way, getting to bake and cook food for my housemates is still an enjoyable break

Ethanpants, becca, and EK in the back seat- heading up to kayford mountain. Crossed eyes may or may not be a major part of the way we communicate with each other...

We headed up to kayford to show beccas father- Leonard- the site. We went to a viewpoint I had never seen before, which took us by this giant crack in the earth--- it's hard to see how big and how deep it is- but it's huge. Just imagine if you're house was built near where the land just broke apart like that from all the blasting happening on nearby mountains...

Becca and Leonard... looking over the eerie green hills, large roads, and moonscape that was once kayford mountain. heartbreaking- no matter how many times i see it.

Meal sign up for the collective dinners ... sat night... awww!
(also notice: Friday night reads: '{Cookies} or burritos')

Dropping Ethan off at the train station in Price, WV. That morning- the morning we HAD to be on time, I woke up late and it decided to randomly snow- making rt 3 a scary drive. We got there just on time-- to learn that the train was going to be 3 hours late (that's just the way it is... doo do doo do doo do...). After that- Becca and I headed to Wise County VA to do a beehive presentation and the VA Mountain Justice Spring Break, where I got to meet some of beccas friends and see a lot of folks who are joining the movement, as well as some old timers who were putting the week long training camp together. it rocked.

And then there was the week we all spent doing support work (cooking food!) for a group of about 40 folks, who were in the valley working with Restoring Eden, doing research for a health study. The kitchen work was stressful, but the study went really well, getting more participants than expected, and the group of students was really appreciative and nice.

One challenge of the week, was making 'normal food' (what does that even mean???)- which included packing 40+ sacked lunches everyday (sandwhich meat anyone? barf!) On the bright side, Dave now feels prepared to have 40 children....

Cole slaw for everyone!

EK eating a chocolate glaze doughnut off a string- hands free- at a birthday party. I would share the post game photo of EK but that just feel cruel....

Oh just... you know... loving each other a whole lot in the E council....

While shit got real- and then got bad- in Ohio... and while things continue to rage in WI... a whole lotta folks in West Virginia attended a solidarity action. On the down side, it was a lot of politicians encouraging people to act with their vote (only), but on the bright side lots of folks came out, Nick spat a mean game about acting beyond your vote, Brandon rallied for the march on Blair, and we passed out lots of fliers for the march. So---- win win loose?

And now--- I'm sitting on the porch (where it is a lot warmer than in the house), listening to our little stream roar, catching glipses of Frankie running by, preparing myself for delving back into my to-do list (and thinking about how things on my wish list- like spend time outside and post blogs 2x a month, seem to be the first to fall off), being excited spring is here (to spite not getting in a sledding adventure), and getting excited for a quick weekend visit to columbus of a statewide fracking strategy session (plus- seeing Mattie, Megan, Mom, Ian, Bobb, Erin...).

(oh and trying not to think about what seems to be the apocalypse just around the corner...)