I’ve been living in the mountains of southwest Virginia for about five months now, and it really took no time for me to adjust to the new terrain around me. I grew up in southeast Michigan and Florida, and then lived most of my adult life in west central Ohio…some of the flattest places on Earth! So the mountains were always a point of fascination to me, and to live surrounded by them is an unexpected joy.
About two months after moving to Virginia, I found myself back in Ohio for an overnight trip to do some research for my novel. As I traveled along the freeway, I realized with a start that no matter what direction I looked, nothing blocked my view. The sky was big, and the horizon was a distant, flat treeline. It felt so profoundly different from our new home, where there’s a mountain or a ridge or a hill EVERYWHERE, that I actually became uncomfortable.
I had gotten so used to the mountains, that to have none made me feel wild and uncontained.
This is probably a feeling that a lot of people seek. I can imagine the early settlers, striking out from crowded cities to find freedom in the open plains. I can imagine the desire to see breathtaking sunsets and to feel powerful winds sweep across one’s body. (And I do miss Ohio sunsets, terribly!)
But when I thought back to Virginia, I understood that I’d come to love the mountains because I feel like they’re sheltering and protecting me. To be surrounded by gentle but towering slopes is to constantly have the feeling of being hugged (and if you ask my husband if I like hugs, he’ll probably roll his eyes and say that I love hugs more than just about anything except dark chocolate).
And maybe, just maybe, I’ve been able to embrace our new home so easily because it’s embracing me.