Hi, folks. I’m Bianca Spriggs. Welcome to my stint as guest blogger for Tidal Basin Review. In my own time, I primarily blog for a local newspaper, and I also sporadically keep up with my own blog, “Best Invention Ever of the Day.” So, I thought, for the month of June, it’d be kind of fun to take my best inventions and bring them to TBR, sort of like a foreign exchange blog. In conjunction with that, to feature the best images possible, I’ve employed the eye and lens of Angel Clark of Parkour! Media Design. I hope you enjoy the view from our border state.
It’s June, and for the first time, consistently feeling every bit like summer. If you’ve never been to Kentucky during this season, just imagine wading through vegetable soup that kinda smells like mulch and you get the idea. But what a riveting cornucopia of green the summer brings. It’s the perfect scenery for a road trip.
This past Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, I took a field trip with some of the staff from Pluck! The Affrilachian Journal of Arts and Culture, on a hunt for our ongoing photo essay documenting black folks who are from or who still live in the mountains. We were en route to a place called, Lynch, Kentucky, smack dab in the middle of coal country.
It’s a touchy issue around here because most of the people who live in coal country come from a long and strong mining tradition which has existed as the livelihood for many a community. However, the environmental and health issues that arise because of the effects of mining coal are complex and ever-evolving. If you’d like to learn more about the effects of mountaintop removal, I’d suggest starting with this Op/Ed from novelist Silas House.
Lynch is the kind of place where strangers call you, ‘Baby,’ and park your car for you in a tight spot. It’s also a place where you wave to people. And I don’t mean just wave to your friend, I mean you wave to everybody. By the end of the day, I started to feel like I’d wandered into a Dr. Seuss rhyme scheme: “I wave to people from the car, I wave to people near and far, I wave at people right to left, from the corner church to the porch steps….” It’s amazing how soon you get used to having your hand in the air, a slight smile touching the lips, a “How you doin’?” to the fellas astride their motorcycles, the brothers popping open a beer in front of the grill, the mothers keeping tight eyes on their children. Waving is the most efficient way to feel like part of the community.
And Lynch is a small community. Having dwindled down from a population of 15,000 to something more like eight or nine-hundred, house after house in the valley stands abandoned, and entire streets that used to wind up the mountainside have been reclaimed by the flora and bears and rattlesnakes. People have moved away searching for greener pastures, or they’ve died. But because it’s Memorial Day Weekend, everyone comes home for a quasi-family reunion, goes to church to listen to a sermon by the pastor who’s also Chief of Police, eats BBQ, cleans off the family cemetery plot, plans to go to ‘The Club’ later. There’s plenty of dancing, laughing, and the occasional firing of pistols at empty beer cans to go around, even for the strangers.
And while I’d gone into the mountains expecting to be more of a passive observer, I suppose I wasn’t expecting to be embraced so fiercely by people who look like they could be my own kin. For someone who hasn’t really kept close with her extended family, it meant a great deal. So we promised we’d come back for a wedding in August. And drop by the official family reunion in September.
So, what does any of this have to do with a classic black Sharpie®? Well. Sometimes you just have to leave a little something of yourself behind with a place that’s just gifted you such resonant memories.
It goes like this. We pulled over for this view:
And the railing alongside the highway was covered in tags (and crawling with spider mites). Sweethearts, tourists, people just passing through, seemed to feel a little like we did going home and left messages to whomever would read. What is it about humans that we have to make our mark? Make sure people know we were there? That we want to leave something behind for folks to remember us by? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know we were mighty glad to find a stray Sharpie® in the car so we could do the same.
Happy summer, everyone! It’s gonna be a great month.