By Jessica Murray
I was raised by loving people in a cultural desert.
I spent my adolescence in a place where you can drive 30 minutes in any direction as if on a street-sized treadmill: QuikTrip, Walmart, Subdivision, repeat. Teenagers paced the malls and snuck around the parks searching for amusement. If you don’t do church, you do drugs (or veg out to video games, I suppose). The trees are split up into acre-sized backyards or paired with streetlights and crawling with city police (aka county parks). It was a world of roads, houses, and stores, and a sense of community limited to the friendly HOA notices requesting you move your trashcan to a place not visible from the road.
Granted, my mother managed to at least befriend the neighbors on either side of our house and found community in her church. But that was pretty much it.
I came to North Georgia to escape the redundancy of what felt like a pseudo-life, to find something real. I looked to the mountains, and I found many things real. Endless forests, trails that lead anywhere, cascades of water giving an illusion of eternity. Eccentric folks, from this where and everywhere, that shared their lives with me.
I learned about worm bins and hemlock trees, sustenance and community. I have found an academic environment that encourages me to indulge in these treasures through exploration, and most importantly, conversation.With my parents, I feel somewhat at home. But where I am “from” I do not consider my true home. I am searching for that, and Appalachia has been my first step. Through the warmth of its people and the guidance of the mountains, I have found my direction.
Belittling the trivialities
By leaving them 4,000 feet below.
Embracing my humility
And allowing the mountains to show me
That the freedom comes from opening the inside
To the Outside.
I feel I am all of this
I feel I am the protector of this
I realize my calling
To preserve the beauty.
Jessica is currently a student at the University of North Georgia continuing her education and her love for Appalachia.