Some of you all know we have a place in West Virginia, in Hampshire County, about 2.5 hours away from our Columbia home. My husband had the property before we married, and we built a small home on it three years ago. It is our escape from the craziness of life in the Baltimore- Washington corridor.
There are many things I love about living in Columbia: the trails, the rivers and lakes, the variety of restaurants, good schools, and the abundance of easily accessible shops. I love that there is good medical care near by, as well as museums and other cultural events. In short, I think it is a great place to live.
On the other hand, while traffic in Columbia isn’t bad as long as I avoid 29 at peak traffic hour, getting anywhere else to take advantage of the great things that are offered in the surrounding cities, including our jobs, means battling traffic, occasionally for hours, with the rude drivers that accompany it. After a week or two of that, we are ready for an escape, and to West Virginia we go.
Our place in West Virginia is pretty much in the middle of no where. It isn’t where I would want to live full-time, but it is the perfect place to get away. We have 6.5 acres, so we don’t have any near neighbors. The people who live in our community within a hairpin bend of the Cacapon River value nature like we do and enjoy the quietness and solitude, as well as community events and friends. Here in our West Virginia home we have a large screened-in deck with sunset views and nice panoramas of the river about 8 months of the year, and river peeks the other four. Here I saw the Milky Way for the first time. Here I sit right now, writing this at the base of our property on the river watching my grandson swim.
Our dog Maggie absolutely loves our West Virginia place. We got her when we were building this home, and we took her with us every Saturday as we checked on the progress of our build. We had to stop the car frequently because she was just a pup and needed potty stops and fresh air to not get car sick. Somehow all that driving made her an excellent travel dog. She has made two cross country trips to Dallas with us by car. She has also come to love West Virginia and exploring. All I have to say to her is “Do you want to go to West Virginia?” and she gets very excited. Here she can run free around our large fenced yard. Here she can explore off leash, running up and down hills as fast as she can. She can bark at squirrels and we don’t worry about disturbing the neighbors. In short, West Virginia means she can be fully dog.
Our community here in West Virginia, called The Crossings, has its own fireworks show we look forward to, with no crowds, no traffic, and a great show. We have community picnics and shared common areas. People support each other. One of our neighbors has sculptural art which he has created along the edges of his property, just across the road from us. This is community also has a lot to offer.
Sometimes I wonder if we can have a genetic connection to a place. My dad was born in West Virginia, in Charleston, and my family were some of the founders of the Greenbrier area back on the 1700s. I grew up in Texas before moving to Maryland in 2003, but as soon as I came to West Virginia I felt at home. There are parts of the history of West Virginia and of my family that I wish I could change, but also stories I love.
For example, my great-grandmother fell in love and married when she was only 14 years old. When she married, her fiancé picked her up in a buggy and they went to a church, but she was too shy to go inside, so the preacher came out and married them in the buggy. She loved her husband till the day she died, many years after he did. And she never stopped loving West Virginia. She became a published poet who wrote about her love of West Virginia and family.
That love of poetry, West Virginia, and family runs deep in my father’s family and in me. I grew up hearing poetry, loving God, loving art, loving science and valuing education, loving nature, and loving family. This was my heritage, and these all make up who I am. I can see some of these things in my kids and grandkids. And I find myself wondering if the memories and loves of our ancestors are truly imprinted on our DNA.