We belong to the mountains. It’s just a feeling we have deep inside us, rising up, bursting forth as we stand in front of our ridges that surround but often isolate us. We were born here. Born of women who belonged on that mountain just as much as the mountain laurel that dot the rocky sides. Shaped by those women just as the cool water shapes the rocks on the steep waterfalls.
Our female ancestors were strong like the oak tree. They could withstand the many hardships and brutal winds that twisted them. To survive, she must have bent to the many patriarchal rules of the mountain culture. The mountain woman, like the oak, held on to the ground with all her might, clinging to all she had, never letting go even when even she had to fight, kick, crawl and scream to pave her way. When the storm was over, there she was standing tall, proud and unshaken.
Our mother of long ago worked hard in these mountains. She plowed the fields alongside her man, hoed and dug out the gardens making the hilly earth become the unimaginable: fertile soil which sustains life as it gives over its harvest. Just as the mountains gave us its harvest, so did the Appalachian woman; bearing as many children as God would give her. She nurtured her children, carefully protecting them so they would thrive and multiply.
Our mountain ways will never leave us. We are Appalachian in the way we talk, out dialect and cadence recognizable outside our mountains. It is in the way we are wary of strangers until we get to know them. The mighty mountain strives to reach the sky but even in it’s majesty it knows in the scheme of things all of God’s world is just as important as she is. Whether we be endowed with a great supply of formal education or a lack of it, the mountain woman will never make you feel inferior and should you have a feeling of superiority, we are quick to put you down a notch. It will never leave us as we stubbornly hold on to our ways of a dying heritage.
In the land of beautiful voices and shaped note hymnals, we were taught by our grandmothers to sing praises and laments to God just as the birds sing the sweet songs of springtime. And those women taught us to pray for each other because we are all in need of a Savior. The sounds of an old-timey mountain woman, praying on her knees while at home or in a church service is such a pure tone. Surely it is a pleasure to God’s ears to hear her crying out to Him in deep reverence.
We women were taught to make sure everyone has had enough to eat. Our children always have good clean clothes even if they aren’t the best. But the saddest teaching of all, dear daughter of the mountains, is to never ever put yourself first. From waiting until all the family is fed before fixing a plate for yourself or going without the material things just so your children can have what you never could, the mountain woman will put her needs last so everyone else is taken care of first. This self-sacrificing attitude is almost a requirement for the mountain woman.
We women of the mountains can leave but in a sense the mountains will never leave us. Like our mountain mothers, their essence will remain in our hearts for a lifetime.