Tag Archives: WV

West Virginia

Sunny, But Saturated

I love extreme weather. Lightning, thunder, heavy snowfalls with big, fat flakes. Many of my most vivid memories involve weather. I remember sitting inside the storm door excitedly as a child, counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the following roll of thunder to yell out how many miles away the lightning struck. I remember the first time I saw snow rollers, a rare meteorological phenomenon where cylindrical snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by the wind. Daddy said, “you may never see them again in your entire life,” and I have not seen them since.

I remember sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s cabin in Blue, West Virginia, watching a hailstorm approach from across the field as we strung beans. The roar grew louder and the hayfield flattened in a line that drew closer until the hail pounded and dented the metal roof in a pounding percussion. I remember the night my mother woke me from sleep so we could take a walk around our neighborhood through fresh-fallen snow so crisp that it twinkled like stars beneath the streetlights.

I remember the spring blizzard of 1993, which began the first day of my spring break from college and snowed me in with my parents for eight days, forcibly canceling my plans for a week at the beach. I remember the ice storm of 2003 when our snowy world was covered in a half-inch of ice. I walked through the crunchy fields, listening to the trees on the hillsides creak, groan, and snap under the weight of their encasement.

I remember standing in the garden, totally unprepared when the 2012 derecho hit, how the wind knocked me off balance into the mud, and slammed the lawn chairs against the garden fence. I remember the first time I saw the floodwaters take over the fields here on the farm and watched a round haybale float past me as I waded up our water-covered driveway. I had heard the stories of previous floods but had not been able to conceive how our lazy creeks and trickling streams could expand across acres. I remember hurricanes: Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma.

Today, Sunday, is sunny and bright. Perfect fall weather, with the sounds of katydids and crickets in the air. The day is a lovely break between the rains of last week and the passing of remnants of Hurricane Laura, and the rains predicted to arrive perhaps this coming week. After 20 years here, I now know the guessing game of times like this. How saturated is the ground? How high is the creek? How much more rain can fall before it rises beyond its banks? How high will the waters rise?

The answer is a gut feeling. A feeling that comes from knowing the past, from knowing the land, from knowing the local waters. A feeling I had watching the weather predictions on June 22, 2016, a sense of dread when I went to bed. I knew people would die that night. I knew, in the darkness, 8-10 inches of rain on the hills would become roaring deadly waters in the valleys. By morning, 23 West Virginians were dead. Amongst my horror and tears, I was grateful. The storm front lost its strength just east of our Steer Creek watershed, and most of the rain fell just south of central West Virginia. If the storm had reached across a few more miles or if the heavy rain lasted a few more moments, we too could have been devastated.

Human beings often seem surprised by extreme weather. We act as though we didn’t know such damages could happen, as though Mother Nature has freaked out or is punishing us. How quickly we seem to forget the power and pressure of water, the grip of ice, the strength and will of wind. But I am amazed and awed by such things. They imprint in my mind, and I remember.

Floods are one of West Virginia’s most frequent and costly disasters. According to storm data from NOAA, every county in the state reported at least 14 floods between 1991 and 2016. Since 1988, eleven flood events in West Virginia have claimed 20 or more lives. In these eleven floods alone, nearly 400 West Virginians have died. The deadliest, Buffalo Creek (125 dead, 4 missing), was a man-made event, but the remaining are all due to natural weather. Four of those eleven deadliest floods included high levels on the Little Kanawha River.

How well do you know the waterways around you? Can you tell, looking at rising waters and gauging the rainfall, when the time has come to start moving your life to higher ground? When I first moved here, I assumed the flood threats would come with spring rains, but my memory and history tell me that floods come at all times of the year including September (1861), November (1985), January (1937), June (2016).

On average, in floods across the country, about 25% of flood insurance claims are outside the delineated flood plain. Approximately 68% of individual assistance claims from FEMA are for properties outside the flood plain. Every year in West Virginia there is a 1-5% chance we could have a repeat of 2016. Throughout the State of West Virginia, approximately 78,000 residential buildings are in Special Flood Hazard Areas. Only 12% of those structures are covered by flood insurance.

You may not live in the established flood plain, but if you live on low-lying land, or near even a small run of water, you are at risk. Maintain the drainage around your home and develop a plan. Where can you relocate your valuables and family if/when the waters rise? Can you evacuate if the roads are covered or gone?  How quickly do the waters rise during a downpour? How high do they rise when the ground is already saturated, as it is right now,  and more rain is predicted? Those of us who live in the valleys have little choice but to watch and wait when the waters begin to rise. Those who have experienced floods know the nearby waters intimately and have a plan for when future floods come. Even on sunny but saturated days like today, the local creek levels are still in the back of our minds.

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A Good Year for Tomatoes

Finally, it’s tomato time. We haven’t had a garden in a few years, but 2020 seems the time to revert to some of our prepper tendencies. The four hens I purchased this spring should start laying soon, and I hear the “pop” of jars sealing on pizza sauce downstairs.

There’s a comfort in a full pantry, one that many in this world do not have. Pizza is my go-to meal when I’m feeling too lazy to cook, and I know from past years, we simply cannot can enough. Every pint jar is enough for three or four pizzas, three or four meals.

Normantown Historical Community Center recently held an online auction as a fundraiser, selling off all the things Gilmer County Schools left behind when they closed Normantown Elementary School. Desks, books, file cabinets, lockers, sinks, shelves, chalkboards, and whiteboards, etc. When I visited the center to make arrangements to pick up the item I won (a set of lockers for 20 bucks), I was offered a tour of the facility.

The Community Center was cruisin’ along when COVID came along. Monthly craft classes, weekly basketball night, exercise classes, and more. A clothing closet, and also, the food pantry. For the most part, everything came to a halt in the spring–and all focus turned to the food pantry.

After seeing the set up for the food pantry, I now understand why people begin lining up at 7 a.m. on the second Friday of every month. I understand why traffic has lined up on Route 33, and why Normantown draws people from at least four counties on pantry days.

The food pantry in Normantown is a tremendous operation. Without restriction, anyone can drive through and be provided enough food–meats, cheeses, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, pies, cereals, and more—to last at least a month (depending on the size of your household). I cannot even imagine the volunteer effort required to manage the pantry itself, much less the one day a month the pantry is open.

During my recent tour, I was also told they are considering re-opening the Clothing Closet. While the room that serves as the closet smells a tad musty from being closed so long, the items I saw available were in good shape, even though they may need washing. Though it is 93 degrees today and tomatoes cook down on the stove, winter is coming, and I saw a variety of nice coats available.

I work when the food pantry is open, but I am comforted by the full jars lining up in our pantry, and knowing if I truly need the pantry, it is there. Here, in my community. I am comforted knowing that others in our community have no need to be hungry, no need to be cold. Volunteers in our community are making sure of that.

As is in most places in West Virginia, the volunteer group trying to maintain these services and resources is older, from generations ingrained with the concept of giving back, of service to others. They can use assistance. At Normantown Center, a volunteer mows the yard, while another repairs pantry freezers, another writes grants to get the roofs repaired. Clothing donations for the Clothes Closet need sorting, rooms need the dead ladybugs swept out of the windowsills and up off the floor.

I have to wonder: how many of those who line up for the pantry those second Fridays ever return to give back?

If you need the Food Pantry or the Clothing Closet, I urge you to make use of them. What I witnessed was the set up of quality efforts, with significant choices and options. And whether you make use of them or not, I can see that our Community Center needs more volunteers. Can you push a broom? Run a weed eater? Unload a truck? I started this column to help promote the center, and though COVID has sidetracked some of their plans, it has done nothing to dampen their dedication or their efforts. Their organization meetings are the 2nd Tuesday of every month, and the 2nd Thursday and 2nd Friday—food pantry day and the day before—must be their days of greatest need.

When we look back at how COVID has changed us, and our society, I hope we can look back and say that 2020 was the year we stepped up, the year we recognized the importance of community, of family, of friendships, of time outdoors, of giving. In a year that seems destined to divide us, I hope the opposite is the actual result. I hope this becomes a year we can look back on as a time of fresh beginnings, and as a good year for tomatoes.

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If you would like information on Normantown Historical Community Center, visit nhccwv.com or facebook.com/groups/Blair58. You can subscribe to Lisa’s seasonal email newsletter at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Dog Days 2020

Oh, this heat. The Dog Days are upon us, the most oppressive period of summer, between July 3rd and August 11th. Why are these days called “Dog Days?” The Farmer’s Almanac tells us it is because, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, and this is why Sirius is sometimes called the Dog Star. (It is also the likely reason why Sirius Black of the Harry Potter books can turn into a dog named Padfoot.)

Canis Major as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set
of constellation cards published in London c.1825.
The bright star, Siris, marks the dog’s nose.

I discovered during this heat how much ducks need water—and of course, after one being bitten by a turtle, my ducks just flat refused to enter the lake out back. After refilling a kiddie pool twice a day for a week or more, I decided to find the ducks a new home. Of course, I still have my four young hens, who are nowhere near as messy or demanding. This heat is also hard on the garden. We have taken to watering at night with soaker hoses to keep the tomato plants from dying. I forgot about a lovely hanging basket on my front porch, and by the time I remembered to water the basket, it was far too late.

I worked from home for ten years. Maintaining ducks, flowers, chickens, and the garden was much easier when I could address their needs as they arose. But animals and plants do not care if you have to go to work all day. When plants need water, they need water. When fences need mending, delay can cost you the whole garden. And when animals have a crisis or problem, a lack of immediate attention can cause injury or lost lives.

I think about the farms and gardens when West Virginia’s “outmigration” began in the 1950s when fathers, brothers, sons, families began leaving the state to find work elsewhere. “Outmigration” means leaving a region or community, to move or settle into a different place than one’s home territory. Outmigration is a significant problem in West Virginia. What started in the 1950s has continued since.

A statistical brief from the West Virginia Health Statistics Center said more than half the Mountain State’s overall loss from outmigration during a 50-year period (1950-2000), occurred from 1950-1960. When the major 1950s outmigration started, over 40% of the nation’s produce was grown and harvested from family gardens and farms, and I imagine the percentage was higher in West Virginia. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, and meat at the store was almost always sourced from a location less than 50 miles away.

Imagine the West Virginia farms and homestead in 1950 — especially after President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged every American to fight food shortages of World War II with a home garden. In 1943, twenty million “Victory Gardens” existed in the United States. But then the war ended, the demand for coal bottomed out, and the outmigration of people essentially drained a whole generation from West Virginia. Victory Gardens were neglected or abandoned, and workers here were forced out of the state to make a living. Gardens, hayfields, and meadows and hills were left in the care of those who stayed behind – or were simply left untended.

Singer Steve Earle wrote a song titled “Hillbilly Highway,” recorded on his 1986 album Guitar Town. The Hillbilly Highway refers to the emigration of Appalachians to industrial cities, primarily in the years following World War II. While most often used in this metaphoric sense, the term is sometimes used to refer to specific stretches of roadway.

Why? Because, during long weekends, holidays, and lay-offs, workers who left along the Hillbilly Highways returned home. More than any other migrant industrial workers in America, Appalachians traveled home. During layoffs in Flint, Michigan, as many as 35% of the Appalachians left for the hills. I often think they came to help put up hay, harvest the garden, and mend fences — literally and metaphorically. They returned to the homestead, but many came home to unkempt and unchecked environments.

Since then, family gardens in Appalachia have declined, at first in tandem with the levels of outmigration, and then (as land and knowledge were passed less often to the next generation) nearly disappeared. While industrialization and commercialism made our lives busier and “easier,” Americans handed nearly all our food production concerns to a few massive corporations. Who has time to grow and weed a garden? Who has time to water ducks when the ducks are less than 50 feet from a lake?

This heat reminds me: we don’t control nature. Nature controls us. If you have a garden, you must constantly respond to the garden’s demands. If you have livestock or pets, you must diligently provide for their health and safety. I know what a neglected garden can look like after being abandoned for three weeks. Imagine the Appalachian migrants who left these hills for months or years and what they found when they returned home. How much changed in their absence? How much was lost?

Happy Dog Days. While you are staying safer at home for COVID, remember to stay safe in this heat. Avoid strenuous activities and take frequent breaks. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, and avoid direct sun. Drink plenty of hydrating fluids–alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help. And of course, NEVER leave people or pets in a closed car. Come mid-August, it is likely we will experience fewer days at peak heat and humidity and Dog Days will be behind us. We can only hope it’s the same for the virus.

Normantown News: Why Did it Have to Be Germs?

Just as I was getting used to quarantine, the push to end it comes barreling along. At my age, I’m a proponent of the “better safe than sorry” perspective, but I also know we can’t stay home forever. Our economy cannot bear it. I watch the numbers of those infected, of those who have died, but I also watch the state’s revenue numbers, the numbers of people applying for unemployment, “forgivable loans,” and other assistance.

When a human being experiences a traumatic event, that person is permanently changed. We may wish to return to normal, to the being we once were, but we have been altered by the event and there is no reclaiming our former self, no un-doing of the changes made to us. Just as it is so with human beings, I believe it is so for human cultures.

During quarantine, I have heard and myself have expressed, a desire to “return to normal.” But in a world contaminated by a virus that is 1000x more contagious than others we have dealt with, zero percent human immunity to it, at least 15% error in the testing data, and no sign of a vaccine in sight, I believe our society has been permanently changed. There is no “back to normal” after this socially traumatic event. Even when the vaccine comes (and it will, though predicted to take up to two years), telecommuting, telehealth, remote work, video conferencing, and an entire generation of children who have been trained to social distance will continue to exist and propagate. I have read articles that note that the ingrained social handshake of greeting will become as frowned upon as smoking.

My father was a Navy Medic who served with the Marines in the Korean War. As a result, personal hygiene and cleanliness (and thus sterility) were important to him all his life. He showered twice a day, every day, and washed his hands more than any man I have known. He had hand cleansers, degreasers, and soaps, and little scrubby brushes that cleaned in the creases and beneath his fingernails. My father was not above getting his hands dirty, but they certainly never stayed so for long. I was raised knowing the proper way to wash my hands–twenty seconds at least and including the thumbs, which are most often overlooked.

During 9-11, I often wondered what Daddy (who left us the year before) would have thought of the events. I longed for his advice, input, commentary for comfort. During COVID, I know how freaked out my father would be. I think of Indiana Jones when he realized the floor of the tomb was covered in snakes. I can hear Daddy saying, “Germs, why did it have to be germs?” (“Germs” being a catch-all term that covers bacteria, viruses, etc.) I imagine he would have had us all on lock-down, with military attention to all methods of sterilization and safety. I know what Daddy would say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, clean everything constantly, stay home. I have no doubt Daddy would be wearing masks and gloves. I can even imagine him in a homemade protective bodysuit of some sort just for a run to the grocery store.

As a library director, it falls to me to develop a plan to re-open the library with the virus still out in the world. Along with my board, I am suddenly responsible for ensuring that our employees and patrons are protected from an invisible enemy of which none of us are immune. I can honestly say, this is the heaviest burden ever placed on me when serving in a leadership position. I cannot insist that our employees wear masks to return to work, but they have all expressed willingness to do so, and the library has purchased n95 masks for all of them, and a cloth mask to wear when washing the other. We have also purchased disposable gloves and masks and will be asking patrons to wear them while interacting inside the library. This is my father manifesting in me. This is me, following my father’s advice.

This morning, I almost cried when I read that two governors re-opening with “mandatory masks” in their guidelines were withdrawing their mandates for masks due to rioting and the concept of violating personal rights. As a librarian and a child of a war veteran, I carry a respect for personal rights that ranks even higher than my personal respect for safety. Like everyone else, I have “thrown caution to the wind” a time or two (likely too many) in my life. But I have been suddenly saddled with the burden of protection. Protection for myself, my employees, their families, our patrons, their families. To my count, that includes about 2,000 people—many of whom will not want to wear a mask to execute their right to library access.

This is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Trust me. I’m a librarian. I’ve done the research. We will not be “returning to normal” any time soon, and masks quadruple protection if BOTH parties interacting (not just one) wear one. If you are not wearing a mask, bandana, or scarf in public, you should be. As West Virginia re-opens, please respect those who ask you to wear protective gear in their establishment. Of course, you have a right to go without one, but don’t the rest of us have the right to feel safe?

From Normantown Historical Community Foundation president Blair Wright:

NHCC will be giving EMERGENCY FOOD BOXES on May 8th, 2020. All workers will be selected volunteers and volunteer firemen. Don’t come before the scheduled time, and if you are not from West Virginia, do not come at all. All special health regulations apply–no loitering, visiting, etc.. You must remain in your vehicle; do not get out of your car until you are told to do so.

ALL VEHICLES MUST LINE UP ON THE WEST (STUMPTOWN) SIDE OF RT. 119. If you are traveling West towards Stumptown, after you pass NHCC, turn around in a safe and legal location, and join the client line from that side. Traffic flow must be maintained as much as possible.  Have your vehicle’s trunk clear or your truck bed reasonably empty. Food dispensing will begin at noon or as near as possible to that time. Questions? Call 304-884-6962.

A special thanks to Calhoun Banks and to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for contributions to purchase food and to fund operations of the NHCC Food Pantry. The pantry averages nearly 100 families each month. NHCC was recently awarded a $2000 grant to assist with the operation of its pantry by Kroger Company. These donations are greatly appreciated.

Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Normantown News — Martha and Her Goslings

I have named the goose nesting on the island in the lake behind our house Martha. As I have mentioned before, she took her position on that nest about the time we were quarantined. Martha laid one egg every one to two days, usually early in the morning, as geese do. She has not left the nest, to eat, drink, or bathe once the eggs started incubating. The gestation period is 28 to 30 days, so there should be some activity over there pretty soon.

The appearance of these goslings will be one of the highlights of our quarantine, right up there with painting the bedroom and putting purple highlights in my hair. I’ve been told only boring people get bored, but I am grateful for that goose and her pending goslings and monitor her every day from the back door window. A few days ago, I noticed that she had turned around on the nest, something she had not done in a month. The next day, she was fidgety, plucking and tucking the ground around her body.

I knew, when the male took up a guard position three feet from the nest, that something was happening. The female on the nest had poofed out her body, but remained with her head tucked back into her wings, but the male did not move. He did not pluck at the grasses, did not paddle around the lake, did not falter. For the most part, he had left the female alone for a month, but now he was diligently by her side.

The next morning, the nest was empty, and no geese or goslings to be seen. But, after 22 years of observing this spring ritual, I did not panic. Instead, I looked to the yard and the fields. Geese mate for life, and nest close to the same spot every spring. There has been at least one nest on the island every year since we moved here, so I go on the assumption that this couple has raised several broods on this lake. I likewise assume they know what I know: at least one massive snapping turtle lurks beneath the lake’s waters.

We witnessed the day, several years back when the snapper tried to pull a chicken-sized gosling off the bank of the island. It was large enough to dig into the mud with the free leg and flap its wings enough to keep from being pulled into the depths. But the turtle did not let go. To our amazement, the larger parents took turns, jumping on the turtle’s back, stomping on it, and pecking its head. This battle continued for nearly thirty minutes, and that was the day I learned: a snapper WILL let go. But, it takes a long and brutal beating before the turtle will admit defeat. That gosling grew up with a dysfunctional leg joint but is still living a normal goose life.

To my count, two snappers keep residence here in the warmer months, but the one is truly huge. The last time I caught him crossing the yard in the spring on his return to the lake, his shell alone was 15 inches long. Throw in the head and the tail and you’re looking at a two-foot snapper. Like most snappers, he has a surly attitude, and he can pull a gosling beneath the waters without so much as a ripple. This is why ducks don’t nest here. They have never adapted to the danger beneath the surface, and lose all ducklings, silently, within the first week. They’re just there paddling on the water, and then, with the slight sound of a raindrop, they’re gone.

But the geese who raise here and were raised here know the danger, and freshly hatched goslings are not taken to the water. Today they pluck around the yard, splashing in the puddles made by the second day of rain. Right now, the clan is high on the bank that runs the lower side of the lake, the father tall and diligently watching, the mother resting with her head partially tucked under her wings. But her eyes are open and she keeps them on the five goslings waddling around her body. Another goose has nested on the lower ponds, and that clan will keep their goslings closer to the water at first, though I haven’t seen signs of hatching yet at that nest. Eventually, when the goslings are all big enough, both clans will bring their young to the lake out back. Each year I watch to see if the turtle has goose for dinner.

So, the next phase of goose observation is just that – to see how many survive. This phase comes with mixed feelings because, in truth, geese are a nuisance around here. Goslings are cute for a very short period, then go through a rather ugly phase. Then they become geese. Geese are noisier than you can imagine and prefer mowed grass. Thus, goose poop is an issue in the yard. Also, their defecation in the lake increases the water’s nitrogen level, promoting the growth of problem water plants and duckweed. Duckweed looks like algae on the water’s surface but is actually a plant. It is spread by birds flying between ponds with the tiny plants clinging to their feathers. The plant is prolific and given enough nitrogen, can produce a new plant every 24 hours. In two weeks, a single plant can produce up to 17,500 more to cover the entire surface of the water.

It is difficult to root for the survival of all the goslings when I know I will come to hate them later. Sometimes, in years when the geese have especially large broods, I root for the turtle.

Normantown Historical Community Center’s May food pantry will be on Friday the 8th, for emergency box distribution. They will need the same volunteers as the April pantry, likely because they know the safety procedures. Thanks again to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for their donation of food, and for the previously awarded grant to repair the roof on the brick concession building. Also thanks to Ken Roberts for his contribution.

Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.

The Normantown School Alumni Association Reunion has been canceled. They are currently looking at Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, September 5, 2020, as a possible reschedule date. It will be appreciated if you could remit your Scholarship Fund contribution now so the program can grant its award on schedule rather than waiting. For more information, contact Gary Smith. I see also that the Gilmer County High School All-Class Reunion has been cancelled.

Have you submitted your 2020 Census questionnaire yet? This is the first time in my working-age life that I have not worked for the Census when it came to town. The results determine how much federal funding flows into West Virginia each year, and your completed questionnaire can be worth more than $22,000 in federal funding to our state. You can respond online, via phone, or by mailing in your questionnaire. https://2020census.gov/

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

 

Quarantine Week 6: Easter Sunday

     I spend my time on the back porch gazing over at the Canada goose nesting on the edge of the island in the lake behind our house. She took her watch about the same time we quarantined, and I wonder who will be released first–her upon the eggs hatching, or me upon the passing of the plague. The goose has been more vigilant than I at social distancing—I have only seen her leave the nest once, briefly. She has remained on the nest through freezing temperatures, hail, rain, high winds–just kind of hunkered down and flattened out. We should all learn quarantine methods from her.

   The male goose doesn’t bother her, but plucks the grasses around the lake, waiting and watching for any invaders. If another goose arrives or hawk circles overhead, the male flies down to the water in a ruckus. The female lowers her body and watches his defense. For some reason, the male permits the ducks to visit, and the white egret popped in again this week for a day or two. I still have not seen Mr. Holiday, the eagle, but perhaps since it is Easter, he will make an appearance. I don’t think the male goose would welcome him though.

       We are about six weeks into this stay at home experience, and since West Virginia is supposedly at the peak of our curve (a month earlier than once predicted), I guesstimate we have about six weeks to go. I’ve found my quarantine routine, and my sleep schedule is almost back to normal – down by midnight and up by nine. I say I guesstimate we have six weeks to go, but in truth, I am mentally willing our little micro-climate to reopen by May 30. There’s a vibration in the center of my chest that thrums only for that purpose. I wonder if that’s how long-distance runners endure to the finish line–a central concept of energy within that works to draw them forward.

        When I do go to town, I have my plastic gloves and my makeshift mask created from a white bandana and two hair ties. A friend has promised to bring me a lovely hand-sewn mask with a wire inside the top to form tightly over the nose. That way my glasses won’t get foggy when I breathe.

       This is the first Easter in many, many years that I haven’t been sitting next to Mother on the pew in her Parkersburg church, her beaming with excitement over Christ’s resurrection and with pride of her daughter at her side. In recent years prior, my aunt Sybil also sat with us. In not so recent years, we sat on that same pew with my father, grandmother, and grandfather. If we were in that church this morning, many of the Easter lilies along the altar would be donated in their memory.

        Last year, Easter service was Mother’s big return to church after many miserable weeks of recovery from back surgery. After the service, it was quite the to-do to get Mother (purse and Bible), her walker, and six Easter lilies out of the sanctuary, down the chair elevator, and out into her car.  And then, of course, out of the car and back into the house. She wanted me to come this year, to drive from here (with zero confirmed cases), through Wirt (two confirmed cases), and Wood (recently noted as a cluster), into Washington County, Ohio (30+ cases). I shivered at the thought. Here, in my home, in our small rural towns, I am not very fearful. But the thought of traveling into an urban area brought back that childhood fear of the cooties. As internet comedian Heather Land would say, “I ain’t doin’ it.”

        Upshur’s Strawberry Festival was canceled right after the state-of-emergency, and now Calhoun’s Wood Festival has been canceled, as has Gilmer’s Folk Festival. I’ve been told the last time the Folk Fest was canceled was during World War II.  Since these festivals both have annual June dates, this troubles me about my May 30 goal… (Of course, you can’t truly prepare for such large events while social distancing either.) I suppose I’ll have to focus and pray harder for a Back-At-It June.

       While all other events at Normantown Historical Community Center have been canceled at this time, the Food Pantry was still held for April. Volunteers from the Glenville Fire Department included: Billy Jenkins, Mae Bailey, Tina Frymer, Herb Frymer, Mike Hess, Debbie Hess, Bobby Moore. Volunteers from NHCC included Jennifer King, Patricia Stump, Anna Carpenter, Dianne Jenkins, Carolyn Keaton, Molly McLaughlin, Diane Goodrich, Chris Dean, Roxanne MacKatee. Thanks for all the great help.

       HEY! If you have a cell phone with a 304 area code (and a cell signal) you can access Overdrive, Gilmer Public Library’s digital book collection, without a physical library card. Get your free digital library card instantly, and access thousands of online eBooks and audiobooks! Available at the top right of this web site: https://wvreads.overdrive.com/account/ozone/sign-in.

       Donations to NHCC can be made at https://nhccwv.com/donation, or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.

 

Normantown News – March Week 4

Frank and I have now been home and off work for two weeks. Early in the second week, I started taking naps in the afternoon around three o’clock, that time of day when I get drowsy. On my third day of napping, I slept until almost 8 p.m., and now my sleep schedule is all wonky. I get up at my usual time, nap in the afternoons, and then I’m up again until one or two in the morning. About the same time the napping started, I lost track of what day it is. Not that it really matters, since I have nowhere to go.

I am so grateful that this quarantine hit during a time when the weather permits comfortable time outdoors. I have cleared all the flower beds and the herb beds, and Frank brought out and serviced the riding mower. I’ve been spending more and more time sitting on the back porch overlooking the lake. This is my Zen time, my calming space… My reprieve from the world, the news, the life that happens inside the house.

Spring is the return of light. In my heart, I celebrate the time change more than any other holiday. Suddenly time makes sense again, and the days adorn their evening accessories for the season. Evening walks are no longer dim adventures in the darkness, morning sunrises include sun rays that shine from the hilltops down into the valley. The gray of winter is gone, and I am glad. The coronavirus was confirmed in West Virginia the day before spring’s official arrival. COVID-19 may have dampened spring plans for humankind, but the West Virginia hills are unaffected and are bursting forth with life and color.

Spring is the return of sound. The peepers sing first, a nice change from the winter cawing of crows. Then slowly, different bird songs sing out to join them. Robins, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, thrushes, finches. Somehow, I feel as though I can breathe better when the birds are singing. The birds bring activity back to the hills, flitting from hither to yon. I know the sound of the finch landing on the rim of the gutter, of the blackbird fluttering into the air to snatch a bug in flight. I know the sound of a duck coming in for a landing, the splash of their successful set-down upon the water.

Wild ducks come and go on the water all winter, and the geese joined them for a few weeks, until the regular pair chose their nesting spot on the island. After that, the spring turf wars began, and all geese but those two are forbidden at this body of water. The pair doesn’t mind the presence of the ducks, or the gray heron, the kingfisher, or the muskrats. But if another goose tries to stop by for a visit? Oh, the ruckus. Frank and I have observed this spring rite now for 21 years.

Spring is the return of color. My forsythia bushes are just glorious this year. They’re like botanical suns glowing at each end of the porch. The undergrowth in the forest glows light green at the base of the trees all in various stages of budding. After a day of rain, the hayfields were suddenly green again, no longer that faded beige they wear during winter. I see hues of pink here and there on the hillsides and in my yard—the redbud getting ready in the woods, the quince blooming along the fence.

The lake out back is a stopping point for white egrets on their spring migration, and two of them appeared two days ago. Their stark white was such a contrast to the background that their presence in the scenery as I passed the back door window stopped me in my tracks. Their purity almost glowed. The same day, I read about egret sightings on the Ohio River, and in Tucker County. The pair stayed for one afternoon, and moved on. In previous years, they have stayed up to a week. I have not seen Mr. Holiday, the eagle, in weeks but I have seen a hawk fishing—dive bombing the water like the kingfisher, from the branches of the ancient hickory tree on the far edge of the water.

My daffodils are blooming, daylilies and what I call Easter lilies are all up and growing, the hostas are peeking through and the sedum looks strong and steady. When I take Daisy (beagle) and Dandelion (yellow tabby) for our walks, I make sure to stop and check on the asparagus patch. A peeking sprout today could be a harvestable stalk tomorrow.

A friend and I recently discussed how painful and unfair it can be that life goes on following tragic events. We’re given no time to recover, no time to grieve, process, and adapt to the drastic change. But at the same time, how comforting that when the world of humankind screeches to a halt (individually or worldwide), the redbud will keep on blooming. Egrets continue to migrate, geese continue to nest and lay eggs. The robins and finches are not social distancing, the hawk is not afraid. How blessed we are to be quarantined amongst the spring beauty of these West Virginia hills.

Social distancing does not mean “stay inside.” Unlike those in urban areas, we have the space to wander and walk. This year, spring seems especially magnificent. Don’t let current events cause you to miss it.

While all other events have been canceled at this time, the Food Pantry at Normantown Historical Community Center will still be held the 2nd Friday of April. They are working on the guidelines for doing the pantry on April 10, which will include traffic control, taped boxes, etc. If you aren’t aware, the National Guard is helping Mountaineer Food Bank continue serving these community food banks, and how thankful everyone is for their assistance in keeping folks safe and fed. Keep an eye out for the new guidelines. Last month’s pantry fed 87 families with 217 people included in those families.

Vendors who paid for tables for the to-be-rescheduled Spring Vendor Event at NHCC will have their payments returned to them. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for

Thanks to Rose Beall for the freezer moved to NHCC, and thanks to George Rose for purchasing another freezer and refrigerator. Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation, or mailed to: NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share with community readers or any personal messages you want shared in local media, by Sunday morning for the upcoming week, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

What Day is It? Update

Wednesday. It’s Wednesday, right?

As far as I can tell, our phones have finally been repaired. For a good while, we could not receive or make long-distance phone calls. That basically means that for nearly a week, I couldn’t contact my family. Keep in mind also, we live in 354, and work, stores a majority of our friends, etc. are in 462. So, the first week of our (self-imposed) quarantine, I couldn’t contact anyone I really felt the need to speak with.

Governor Justice gave us just a little over 24 hours to get ready for the state-imposed quarantine. I went to the library yesterday. I watered the plants, filled the birdfeeders, took out the trash, checked email. Libraries across WV (and the US) are pumping out all kinds of posts and links for free digital entertainment and education. You can follow Gilmer Public Library for the ones I’ve been sharing, or visit the WV Library Commission’s site for a list of links that’s being updated several times a day.

Since we were already set for a big bug-in, I hit the liquor store on my way out of town. I’m not much of a drinker, but …. well, it does help me sleep when I’m stressed.

The house is already the cleanest it has been in years, and no one will witness it. Such a shame. I was tempted to run to Ohio and grab Mother on Sunday and bring her here but didn’t. I’m still not sure if that was the best decision. Since then, a case has been confirmed in her county in Ohio, and in one of the WV counties I would have to cross to get to her. I know that cousins and neighbors there are keeping check on her, but I would feel so much better if she was here with us.

I also have this huge impulse to find a way to get family in Southern Virginia here. In all my prepper scenarios, family came to us. We have free gas, free well water, and pretty much all you need except a cell phone signal (and reliable landline service). We have satellite internet, and I expect will be adding to our data package this month.

I spent one evening online shopping. Not too much damage–a ring light for possible future video broadcasts, more wooden stamps to decorate the letters I write, and four pullets (chickens just past the chick stage) to arrive in May.

It’s just my luck that we were ready for the apocalypse (or economic crash) for ten years, and three years after we relaxed a bit about it, this happens. When I announced I had ordered hens, Frank said, “I thought we were going to wait on that.” Yeah, well… I’ve got that “We’re not ready for impending doom,” panic going on again in the pit of my gut. I’ve been sorting our pantry, lamenting all the empty canning jars that could, and should have been full. I’m sure within the next week I’ll order the converter that converts our gasoline generators to natural gas — the last and only item left on the prepper list we set aside a few years back.

Frank watches COVID-19 news all day. West Virginia’s number of cases damn near doubled yesterday. It churns my stomach hearing the constant bad news and reminds me why we disposed of our mainstream television service after 9-11. I was tired of the daily doses of new terror. The lack of air traffic overhead also reminds me of the time following 9-11. Air traffic here is quite common, but the skies are unmarked now. At some point each day, I steal the remote from Frank and pop in a movie or TV series (currently binging Supernatural, Star Gate, and Star Trek: DS9; checked in with movie classics including Hunger Games, Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, Lonesome Dove, Forrest Gump, and The Stand, of course).

Reading? Currently “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, and all kinds of articles I’ve printed out from the Internet.

Projects include working on a new non-fiction book, teaching myself watercolors, prepping to launch an online writer’s workshop/retreat, purging and organizing the file cabinets. You guys know I’ve unfriended lots of people on Facebook over the last few years. I check on some of them now online but am relieved I’m not getting all of it in my news feed.

I also make sure to catch the almost daily press conferences by our governor.

I’ve never been a Jim Justice fan. And, I admit, on TV he comes across as a bit of a twit. “Now” (my father was a “Now” person), “and everything,” (lots of folks say that), and “shape, form, make, or measure,” (yeah, getting tired of that one). BUT! All that being said? I’m proud of him. I am comforted by his simple down to earth approach. Jim is Jim. He knows this state I think. He knows his and our weaknesses…

I’ve come to the conclusion that “Big Jim” doesn’t have the ability to bullshit us. And Jim has sense enough to surround himself with experts. He doesn’t need to pronounce right, doesn’t need to speak the details. He has folks to do that for him. I’m okay with that.

Today, West Virginia has a non-denominational day of prayer. It may be corny, but that’s WV too. I’m okay with that as well and will be watching. You can catch it on the WV Governor’s web site or YouTube channel at noon.

I had planned to return to town on Friday, to help hang a new hand-made door on the library’s outbuilding. I may or may not do that. Next week, I had hoped to order sand for the library’s paver-patio project. I will likely still do that. My need to see progress “in spite of” is damn near overwhelming. Besides, our board quickly voted to continue paying employees during this closure and I need to go in and do payroll.

I’m not capable of staying home for weeks anymore. Ten years I did that. My daily walks with the cat and dog help but I can only go so long without checking on the library — 19 miles away. (These visits to the library are permitted under the current stay-at-home order, by the way.) I have the road to myself on the commute now, and there’s no traffic at the county’s solitary stoplight. I see few, carry sanitary wipes, etc.

Last week I noted I would not stay home for weeks on end, “Coronavirus be damned.” I still will not. I’m not going to go out willy-nilly, and won’t be licking packs of toilet paper in the Dollar Store. But, stagnation is not in my nature. I am one of those people who can barely sit still for 30 minutes. I was completely relieved to learn that I have a legal reason to leave the house, to check on the library. I am quite grateful for that.

Right now, my stay-at-home skills seem to last about five days. Frank has taken up the habit of pointing out how many times I touch my face during the day. I’m pretty sure that’s going to cost him dearly very soon.

So. We’re surviving it, and will be fine. I’m a little antsy, but it is what it is. But, if we lose our long-distance phone service again, I may have to drink some liquor and post a slam against Frontier.

Stay well folks. My love for those who are homebound, and to those “essentials” who are still out there.

Peace and love.