Author Archives: jolynnpowers

About jolynnpowers

I'm a forty something mother of two who was born and raised in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain in Boulder,Co. I have Lived, Loved and Laughed in North Central West Virginia for 25 years with my family. We Live a rural life, full of family, food and the outdoors. I love to take photos and telling stories about the Appalachian Mountains where we live.

Trash to Treasure DYI: Waterslide Decal commemorative Plates

Summer has been busy and my work on the rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building is really fun and taking up lots of my time. One reason is that we are trying to prepare for a  public open house of the project. If you want to know more about this 1902 building and what we are planning to do to save it, check out my first post about the Golden Rule.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

So as part of the reason for the open house is to let the community see the building, take tours, get information about the project and get a chance to see some of the wonderful items we will be selling at a public sale this fall. As part of the Fall Festival Open House we are going to offer for sale a few small items that came from the building that are unique but not real expensive. One of the items will be a commemorative plate that another AmeriCorps member and I designed and made from some of the chipped and crazed dishware that had been left in the building.

The idea came to me as I took my first tour of the building. I realized that their were around 60 or more white and tan dishes in the basement of the building that were just wasting away due to cracks, chips, crazing or staining. I thought it was so sad to just toss all of them into the dumpster even if they were just generic white dishes. So I spent some time on-line and came up with a plan if a friend AmeriCorps was willing to help me. I asked my friend Reid Saunders to do a drawing of the building that I could used for a collectors plate image.Together we could create a very inexpensive souvenir for the up coming events that could be a fundraiser item for the building.

Golden Rule

drawing done by Reid Saunders 2018 of the Golden Rule Cir 1902

I then took the dishes that I found in the basement and washed and sorted them. We chose to use all the large platters and about a dozen salad and dessert size plates for the project. I then took the image and adjusted the contrast and color so the image would print more clearly on to a waterslide decal and added the text.

dirty dishes in the Golden Rule

Abandoned white plates found in the basement of the Golden Rule

large image for plater

Blue image ready to print.

The image is printed on to clear decal paper that I ordered off Amazon. I bought from two different companies and found that I liked the thinner decals better for this project but either seemed to work fine and in the same manner. Also there are two different kinds of paper and two ways to process them depending on your printer. I happen to have two different Laser printers at work so I bought the paper that works for those. I think either printer is good for the decals but I do believe that you have to seal the decals with clear spray sealer if you are using an ink jet printer. In the case of  a laser printer, all you have to do to finish the decals in a low heat oven at 200 degrees for about 20 to make them water-resistant.

Once they are printed, I cut them to a workable size. You should soak the decals in slightly warm to the touch water. They release faster in warmer  water but they also  get stickier and more melted with hot water. Warm Water Only! It will take about 3 minutes to get a decal to release from its paper backing and begin to float. I soaked mine in a very shallow paper plate for about 2.5 minutes, while the decal is soaking I rise my plate in a water bath and drain all the extra water off. Their will be enough water trapped on the plate to move the decal around until you are happy with the placement of the decal. Once the paper is free from the decal, remove it and allow the decal to float free. I place a finger or thumb on the edge of my decal and drain some of the excess water off the area and then pour the decal and remaining water onto the platter. Usually the decal stays on top of the water and rides right onto the surface where you want it to be located. Sometimes they get a fold or roll when poured onto a project, just  wiggle the decal under the water and it will usually unfold itself. If the water is to hot it may melt together and stick. Then place the decal where  you would like it, drain any excess water off the plate and squeegee out any remaining water from under the decal and let dry. Then bake in an oven to finish the platter. I bought my sqeegee off line from a Car Wrap supplier. I loved it and found it very useful I would recomend the felt covered type so you do not scratch your image.

The next step is to bake the decal to the plate. If  you are baking several plates at a time watch them closely. It is possible to singe the decals if they get to hot. Out of 40 plates I had one turn a golden brown around the edges, I knew something was up when I began to smell burning plastic.

baked plates

When the plates are done cooling they are now water-resistant and can be hand washed in warm water without the decal sliding back off the plate. DO NOT PUT IN DISHWASHER! These are now one of a kind hand-made commemorative plates.

Each sheet of decal paper is about .90 cents. So over all we did pretty good on the production cost for the project. The plates were free from the building and each sheet was printed with two images of the building so each plate cost about .45 cents to make plus my time.

Over all this was a fun and creative way to make something out of what would normally be tossed out. The prices on the plates will range from 20 to 60 dollars each. Hopefully the public likes them and we sell out during our events. Wish me luck on raising a few hundred dollars for the buildings rehabilitation.

GR platter

Golden Rule Platter for sale at the Fall Festival Open House Sept 15th

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Categories: antiques, Barbour County, Collector Plates, DIY projects, Drawing, Fairs and Festivals, Fall Festival, Golden Rule, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

1st Land Battel of Civil War reenacted in Philippi, W.V. every June.

My family enjoyed a day full of history, music and food at this spring downtown event.The Blue and Gray Reunion brings history to life in the small town of Philippi, West Virgina every 3rd week in June. People crowd the streets to see re-enactors recreate the 1st land battle of the Civil War. Where men dress as Union solders march their way through the city’s trade mark covered bridge to face Confederate solders who fire muskets at the foot of the bridge. The 3 day celebration is packed with history, music, food and crafts.

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Philippi Covered Bridge build 1876 then burned in the 1980’s then rebuilt. 

Being the only state created during the civil war, West Virginia’s history is forever linked to that tumultuous time in American History. So when I  learned that the first land battle was fought only 25 minutes from my house and they had a festival about the event, that  made it impossible for me to miss.

Our day started on the beautiful Barbour County Court House lawn only two blocks from the Philippi Cover Bridge were most of the canon and musket fire would happen. We took Christopher out to the grass fields where the  solider encampments were set up. He got a first hand look at historically accurate solders accommodations. He asked many questions that the re-enactors answered with responses that were historical correct. The question and answer that surprised even Tom was, “what do you do when not fighting?” The man answered we play rag ball. Christopher and I had no idea what he was talking about and finally he explained that often times soldiers would roll rags into a hard ball and hit it like a baseball with a stick or spend evenings playing cards. We also visited a woman in her tent who had a portable, foot powered, sewing machine and watched as she created a panel for a quilt.She explained that she often made clothes for the solders or did repairs on their tents.

We wandered through the vendor tents on the court-house square seeing a black smith, candle maker and other crafts made by local artists.  Then in the distance we heard solders marching and calling out orders along the back street behind the Court House. They were getting ready for the battle at the bridge. Tom and Christopher chose to stay on the downtown side of the bridge where the  Confederate troops had their camp and were ready to defend the town of Philippi. I crossed the cat walk of the bridge to get some photos of the Union soldiers following them as they marched across the bridge to have a fire fight at the base of the bridge. Canon fire rang out in the valley surrounding the bridge and the smell of sulfur filled the air. I could hardly believe how loud everything was… Compared to a normal day along main street in Philippi.

 

 

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Cannons fired across the Tygert River in downtown Philippi.

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Union troop members march through the covered bridge to meet Confederate troops on the other side and begin the battle. 

As the battle moved to the field along the river I was able to talk to a woman who was wearing a beautiful dress along side the battle field. She had made her own dress and crafted her hat. She explained how each  person at the event had done research on the clothing and uniforms that they wore. She said that correct portrail of the roles was a key point to the people who did historical reenactments. They loved to learn everything that they could the lives of people that they portrayed.  She explained that it was a labor of love and some people would have hundreds of hours of research done before their 1st reenactment. The day before she had been dressed as a morning widow at a memorial service held for those who lost their lives in battle. Dressed in black from head to toe for the funeral services. She and a friend had walked down main street to the local Civil War area church were singing and poetry had been part of the “services”.

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Lovely hand-made dress at the Blue and Gray Reunion. 

The kids loved to see the solders reload their muskets and shoot round after round of black powder into the air. When the battle was over many of the men shook hands and walked away as friends to the local gas station for a cool drink. But only in West Virginia have I ever seen three men walk casually into a “Sheets” gas station with large rifles slung over one shoulder and no one seems to mind. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole town becomes part of the action during these three days. Walking down the street we stop under a tree in the shadow of a house that was used as a hospital  during the war. We see an army doctor performing the first Civil War amputation with a dummy. The “Dr.” explains how the procedure was preformed and how to care for the amputation wound after the limb was removed.  Christopher was amazed that they could do this kind of thing in a tent on the grass. The only thing I could think of was how lucky we are today to have hospitals and better medications than these young men had back then.

 

We then followed the crowd up the street for some live music and a hot lunch on the court-house steps. Then to our surprise the music stopped and a ring filled the air as someone tolled the iron bell in the county house belfries for those who were “killed”. An emotional reminder of the history of my state and the generations of people who lived and died as part of the Civil War.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

 

With our part of the events over we headed home while many more people enjoyed spending time with friends and family at a late afternoon and evening concert. The Blue and Gray reunion was as much fun as education can get for young and old. I only wish that I had planned more time to enjoy the activities that the event offers. The Blue and Grey Reunion organisation website or their  Facebook page  can help you make plans for next years event or help you learn more about the battle and the history of Philippi and the first land battle of the Civil War.

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Friends take time a hot afternoon to get a cool drink and visit while sharing their history knowledge.

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Blue and Gray Reunion, Civil War, Covered bridges, historic locations, history, Philippi, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Joy of CreatingCommunity Art

When I graduated from college with a degree in art, I never thought that I would be a public art advocate or a muralist. Of course, I never thought I would be on TV or an AmeriCorps Service Member either. Today working on community art projects is one of the things that gives me the most joy.

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AmeriCorps Volunteer murals start to appear in the windows of the Golden Rule Building, Belington, WV

Art has always been a passion of mine but taking my skills to the size and scale of murals to be displayed in public spaces is new. I have always used art as a tool for my personal  expression, never thinking about doing art for the public. Now as a mature artist, I am sharing the feelings and passions of communities, programs, and groups of people. The change is fundamentally new to my understanding of what it means to create and to be a creator. I see my work now as a tool for positive change in a community. A gift that will have lasting effects in many of the small rural towns where I live and work.

 

Over the last month, two more quilt panels that I was the project manager for and head artist have been installed, 6 window murals have been installed that I helped to create with volunteers, and the beginnings of an office mural, that I am personally painting, is ready for paint application. I am also on the board of an Art organization called Mountain Arts District that is in the process of installing a collection of student art work  in a city park in June. It is over whelming when I stop and look at the amount of people and projects that have passed through my life in the last 3 years.  Yet, this is not my main job and I only do what I can for non-profits who rarely have the funds to pay for such projects. I am doing most of this work as a part of my AmeriCorps service but also as an educational experience to those around me. Public art is a niche skill just like any other field and the leaders of our communities rarely understand or feel comfortable talking with arts, I aim to change that.

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line drawing on the wall of my new office Barbour County Development Authority, Philippi, WV

 

I often paint with non-artist volunteers and spend much of my time helping and teaching interested community members skills that they can use to make community art themselves. It is a joy to share in the process of watching an idea come to life, then see people learning to make art, then watch the pride that comes to their faces when they walk through a downtown seeing art that they have helped to make. It is sometimes the only real change that they can point to and say “I did that” in their community.

Community art is best when people who live and love a place take part in the creation of their culture. That could mean painting murals,  taking part in community dances, attending festivals of live music or creation of community gardens. It is when people begin to see that they have the power to create positive change that things begin to thrive.

Even if I never planned to be doing this kind of work and I am surprised everyday that I get paid to create these images, I am thankful to AmeriCorps for allowing me to share my skills.I am fortunate to work at sites that have allowed me the time away from the “office” to work on these up lifting projects and I will have the best memories of my service time.  It is my final wish that as I leave AmeriCorps next spring that I can continue to make a difference in my community with art in some way. I know that it has changed me for the better and I hope it is always part of who I am.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

installation of one of the 8 panels I helped to create for the Elkins Main Street project 2017

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

History Lives at Adaland Mansion, Philippi,WV.

I was recently invited to have a lunch date with some friends and co-workers at   Adaland a Victorian mansion high on a hill in Barbour County, West Virginia. The historic register mansion is a pre-civil war home, built-in 1870, that has been restored and is now open to the public. The Adaland Mansion received its name when Federal Judge Ira E. Robinson bought the home in the 1920’s and renamed the property after his beloved wife Ada Sinsel. It is in her honor that the home has become one of the regions most loved locations for weddings and fine events.

front veiw of Adaland Manison

Front view of Adaland Mansion

Adaland Mansion Philippi WV backside

Rear entry area of Adaland Mansion

 

 

The 13 volunteer caretakers of the home and acreage offer seasonal home tours, high tea’s, theater performance and lunch buffet to tour guests and families who rent the home and pavilion for special events.  The home’s history is long and well documented. Even at one time-serving as a coal mine superintendent’s home and engineering office. Anker Energy company was the last owner of the property before donation to the City of Philippi in 1996. At that time, the house was ready to be razed, the barn had collapsed, the land was overgrown and the farm was generally forgotten.It took a dedicated group of volunteers to begin the restoration of the home and do the fund-raising necessary for the project.

volunteers at Adaland Mansion

Susie and Karen two of the many volunteers in dinning area of Adaland Mansion.

I was taken back by the quality of the restoration and the amazing luck that most of the historic detail of the home had remained.The black walnut trim and paneling in the house are original and were produced on the farm.The bricks from the house were also formed and fired at the farm property. The furnishings are mostly donated from the local community and the decor was researched and replaced to the correct time period and installation method.  The experience is time traveling back to a more elegant and formal way of life. The home originally housed servants (at least three at a time) and has servants quarters and an additional  kitchen in the basement. Adaland was also a way-station for travelers so the house plans included a bedroom just for them, with a separate entrance for people traveling the Staunton-Parkersburg turnpike near Philippi.  Here a rider could get out of the cold, get a hot meal and sleep in safety while in one of the mansion’s bedrooms. There is also a large and grand lawyers office next to the travelers room, both are on the main floor and I wondered how many times the Judges clients traveled from all over the state to see him and stayed in the little room next door to his office. The office holds many of the books and documents that Judge Robinson used while serving the people of West Virginia.

Servent stairs and travelers door way Adaland Mansion

second story porch with servants staircase and travelers room door on porch with on interior access to the family

Law office of Federal Judge Ira E Robinson

Judge Ira E. Robinson’s office Adaland Mansion

 

We eat a lovely meal that I wished I had photographed, but it was just plain rude to take photos at the table while we enjoyed the company of friends and co-workers. The meal included a garden salad,  BB-Q pulled pork, roasted chicken, home-made bread, corn, bake beans, mix vegetables, boiled potatoes and  desert of many kinds. I chose a serving of peach cobbler with whipped cream. It was wonderful, fresh and homemade in the kitchen of the house.

lunch at Adaland Manison

lunch served in dinning room of Adaland Mansion. All food is homemade in the kitchen in the rear of photo.

buffet in dinning room of Adaland Manison

flowers on buffet in front room of Adaland Mansion converted to seating for luncheon.

Our tour shared lots of information about the families who lived and died on the farm over the century. There is a small cemetery on the property,and barn that is open to visitors. The barn also hosts historical demonstrations of trades that took  place in the early 1900’s when events are held.Visitors are also encouraged to explore the 22 acres that the house still sits on today.

Barns of Adaland Mansion from house

barn and shed below Adaland Mansion

The outdoor pavilion is a new addition to the property and is the main location for weddings and family events during the summer months. Making Adaland a perfect location for large groups and a place where a bride and groom can stay away from the hectic pace of town and sleep in historic bedrooms before, during and after a wedding.

 

 

I hope to return to Adaland over the summer to see one of their Murder Mystery Dinners. Events sell out quickly and reservations are needed to have a meal at an event. Their website includes an event calender for the full year so visitors have pleanty of time to stop in. It was wonderful to stop my hecktec day and slow down to relax and enjoy this very unique home. I hope you enjoy a visit too.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Building rehabilitation, Cemetaries, historic locations, history, Home, museums, Nonprofit, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Part # 1 The Rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building, Belington W.V. Begin’s.

In the small town of Belington, West Virginia stands a 116 year old building that is reminiscent of West Virginia’s heyday of coal and the money it once brought to Barbour County. The Golden Rule building owned by the Shinn family was built to serve the local community as a grocery store and later a furniture store. 70 years later with the closer of several coal mines, decline of the population and the loss of jobs, the 3 story building fell on hard times just like the community where it stands. Left to decay and become an abandoned storage building the Golden Rule’s future was questionable.  In 2014 the historic building, having one of the only water powered elevators in North America, was listed as an endangered property by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. It took another 4 years for things to change for the future of the Golden Rule.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

1902 Golden Rule Building Belington West Virginia

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water powered elevator pulles in basment of the Golden Rule. photo use with permission of the PAWV.

As the building name implies, The golden rule,“Do on to others as you wish them to do unto you” the Woodlands Development Group of Elkins, West Virginia is taking on the challenge of bringing the structure back from abandoned and returning it to usefulness. In March of 2018 the building officially changed ownership and the slow work of rehabilitation began. With use of historic tax credits, forgivable loans and grant money, the plan includes converting the upper two floors of the building to 10, one and two bedroom apartments with at retail space on the first floor. The ground-floor space will have the Durbin& Greenbrier Vally Railroad ticket booth, a small museum space and an artist market and coffee bar. The additional building on the property is planned to house a community space with a working kitchen and outdoor seating. Woodlands Development Group is working in partnership with the Belington Revitalization Committee and The Barbour County Development Authority to meet the needs of their community with quality housing and new jobs within the building itself.

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messages and images similar to these will appear in the Golden Rules windows. These appeared in store front windows in White Sulphur Springs, W.V after their down town was flooded in 2016.

The first stages of change that community will see are the boards going into the window spaces in the upper levels of the building. The boards will be painted with brightly colored images and inspirational sayings to help residents visualize that positive change is happening. The other less obvious change is the clean-up of the interior of the building. Loads of trash and recyclable items have been left all though the building and must be removed before any serious construction can begin.

barral with mop at Golden Rule

mixed recyclable items with trash and barrel inside the Golden Rule.

With some of the items left behind the partners hope to have a fundraiser for the rehabilitation of the building. I have been asked to help create Golden Rule commemorative plate with an image of the building on some of the stoneware plates you see below. What was once trash will be sold in commemoration of the building and its return to usefulness.

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bottles and plates found in the basement of the Golden Rule. This plates will be decorated with a decal to commemorate the rehabilitation of the building 

As often is the case, the previous owners of the Golden Rule have just walked away, leaving some else to clean up the mess. It will take months of AmeriCorps service hours to clean, sort, recycle or reuse the buildings contents but in some way it is all a sign of positive change for everyone involved.

empty shoe boxes at Golden Rule

Empty boxes line the shelves of the sales floor of the Golden Rule Building. 

The project is expected to take around 3 to 4 years to complete with completion of the community building taking a little longer. Today I watched as AmeriCorps members removed the arched windows of the front of the building so that they could be repaired. It is just a small step towards the final goal of seeing this building being a vital part of the downtown of Belington, West Virginia once again.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, antiques, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Building rehabilitation, Collector Plates, Golden Rule, historic locations, history, mythology, Time Capsule, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Different Presective on Life: Macular Degeneration.

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

Yellow Flowers at Stuarts Park near Elkins WV

So about two weeks ago I was told that the inherited eye disease that my family carries is beginning to do damage to my eyes too.The usual end result is legal blindness, although they say I may still be able to see some at the edges of my vision field. I am not sure if we ever knew what blinded my Grandmother but we are positive that my mother has battled “wet”  Macular Degeneration for about 20 years. She began to notice the changes in her sight in her late 60’s with a very quick loss of vision over about three or four years. In my case I have a type of “dry” macular degeneration or Age Related Macular Degeneration. The outcome is almost always the same with either disease,  although the my condition is a chronic slow loss of vision and my mother had a very acute fast-moving loss of vision, we both will end up blind at one point or another.

So far there is no real treatment for this type of vision loss and they can not predict when or if I will go completely blind at any point. So I am faced with the most challenging obstacle in my life. A unknown cloud  will slowly yet steadily take away one of the things I have enjoyed most in my life and make even everyday tasks become almost impossible to do on my own. This new challenge has changed my perspective on things that I can hardly explain here.

How do you quantify the value of your sight, or hearing, or the ability to touch taste or smell??? How do I explain the feeling of loss that is trying to drag me into the darkness without even allowing me to try to fight back. There is no recovery,  rehabilitation, cure or corrective device for this progressive loss of sight. So how do I learn to keep my balance in life when I am not even given something to fight against. I am left with trying to make peace with my situation…. and if you know me at all, making peace is not my best quality, by nature I am at my best when the fight is on.

The Dr. suggest that I change my diet to lower my blood pressure and lower the sugars in my diet to at least slow the progression of my loss. Diabetes and high blood pressure cause all kinds of damage to our vision. If  I can reduce my risks for other complications I may reduce the chances of going blind faster. Strange that I am hoping to just slow down something I can’t control in the slightest.

So you may see posts from time to time about my new situation and how it changes my perspective on things in both a literal way and a figurative way. I have a new pair of glasses which I hate… and can’t hardly use comfortably. I now have to see my eye Dr’s every year with other visits if I discover any changes. I was lucky I went for an annual exam when they discovered the changes were more drastic than I thought or could have imagined.

I now  live and look at things with a more studious eye. Drinking in the colors and textures of the things I love as if I may not every see them again. I will continue to read as long as I can. I will read all of your wonderful blogs and drink in the words as deeply as my heart allows. I have made it a point to enjoy more books too. Real books with paper pages and smells of old books stores with torn edges that I can annotate and dog ear. I will reread and re-watch my favorite books and movies until I know them and they become a part of me. I will create this blog until the time comes when I can not see the words on the page but only get to hear them read back to me with a computer voice. I will learn to work with it, around it  and through it and move forward into what ever wonderful things that God still has for me.

In a decade they guess I will no longer drive or clean my house. So I must have something wonderful to do some other way…. Maybe I will become Agatha Christy who dictated every one of her books and had a wonderful editor who transcribed them for her? Who knows maybe I am to be a painter of impressionistic flowers that tour the world as “works of the blind”?? Or  Maybe a Philosopher who spends too much time alone thinking about the meaning in life and discovers the “One Thing” that explains life as we know it.

So my perspective is changing on many things, but mostly on what beauty is and how we express it; What is Art and how do we enjoy it and what is Joy and how to find it.

 

 

Categories: About me, blindness, blogging, family health, health, Love, wellness | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.

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Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

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Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.

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Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.

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Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”

 

 

Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan

 

 

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial, Non-violence, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to Elkins West Virginia

I have left jobs, lost jobs, ran from jobs and wanted different jobs, but I am not sure I am happy about leaving this job. I am leaving my AmeriCorps position in Elkins West Virginia to move on to my final year as an AmeriCorps to a smaller town called Phillipi, West Virginia. After two years serving in the community of Elkins, I would have thought this move would be easier. It’s not easy…… and I am not accustom to leaving work that I enjoy and feel passionate about. AmeriCorps has been wonderful to me and I have learned to love my community and state even more because of the work I do.

Henry Gassaway Davis mounted in Elkins West Virginia

Street View Elkins Sky line

It is the people that I hate to leave… they have opened their homes and hearts to me and I spent two years learning in the shadow of giants. Most of them are under dogs, scrappy  hard fighters who have never had a easy time of livinging in the mountains of Appalachia. Most work long hours often on bugets that outsiders would never be able to open a door with. They make due, they know how to stretch a dollar and work past dark for little pay. It is not easy to carve out a new future from the dark wooded mountains of West Virginia’s past, but they move forward. The community of Elkins is a strong, proud group of people who love as hard as they work.

I will say goodbye the 8th of Feb and take a much need rest before I move on to a smaller more remote community. I am excited and hopeful that I can help another community bring to life their dreams for a brighter future. I can only hope that this move will be just as  rewarding as my years in this mountain town.

So as my far well approaches I thought I would share some of my favorite photos of

Elkins and the people who made my term so wonderful.

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david-cutlip-patrica-mays-thomas-powers-and-christopher-powers-at-the-cutlip-family-home-jan-17

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Art of Elkins Wine Tasting Tammy Dolly and Jolynn Powers

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Driver of the Raminator at the Mountain State Forest Festival

Doug Starcher and Jolynn Powers at Selfie Sation

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. Tom at the edge of run off pond Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge 17 .jpg

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.

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Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.

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Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

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twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.

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Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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