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To Harrisonburg!

Posted on Monday, August 14, 2006 at 10:23PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in | Comments2 Comments

This evening, two and a half weeks after my address to Baltimore Yearly Meeting, I find it hard to connect emotionally to the state I was in on the final week of my journey, as I traveled the final hundred miles over the ridges of the Appalachians and down to Harrisonburg.

On the one hand, I was keyed up. I could feel the message for Baltimore Yearly Meeting taking shape in my heart and mind, even as I had felt was promised in the leading I received that launched my journey. But knowing that the promise was being fulfilled, did not relieve me of my sense that the message would be difficult to deliver.

I was holding Friends’ comments, in the meetings for discernment along the way, in the Light of the Inward Guide, as I walked and drove and sat with the land. And these comments were showing me more and more clearly, not only that we Friends are not yet united in our understanding of the environmental issues, but also that we are not addressing those issues very effectively. I saw that I would have to talk directly, both about our lack of unity and about our lack of real effectiveness.

And yet it was clear at the same time that God was not calling me to sit in judgment, or to condemn. God may want us united, God may want more from us by way of action, but God’s voice is all the same one of love toward us. God would want me, not to carp and criticize and make everyone feel miserable, but to empower and outline the way forward. Could I rise to that high level in my address to Baltimore Yearly Meeting? It might be a challenge!

But even as I was keyed up, I was also — after all those endless days of crossing the countryside at fourteen or fifteen miles a day — absolutely bathed in the presence of the natural world. I had been so long away from the janglings of my job and the demands of meeting the family’s bills that that sort of strain had fallen away from my mind. My conversation, all through each day, was mostly with the creatures and the landscape. And so, under the sense of being keyed up, I was becoming, almost without noticing it, more and more serene.

Writing now about how that was for me then, I can feel a bit of it once more, both the keyed-up-ness and the serenity. But what I feel now is only a trace of what it was then.

jul 23-24.jpgFrom Alum Bridge (the push-pin marked 22 on the map above) to Elkins (the push-pin marked 24) the isolated hills of central West Virginia gathered themselves together and merged into long, long ridges — the ridges of the Allegheny Mountains — and the road I followed became one of long, glorious climbs and descents to a highway-traffic soundtrack, each one culminating in the clamorous crossing of a little city at the end of the descent. Then, just past Elkins, my route plunged into the narrow valley at the head of the Cheat River, wound upward into and out of national forest land, and emerged into the spectacular mountain scenery that people go to West Virginia to see.

As soon as I left the valley of the Cheat I entered a new culture. In place of the mountaineer world of the transplanted Scots-Irish, with its oft-shabby homes and struggling towns, which I had been crossing ever since the Hocking Hills in Ohio, what I now saw more and more of was the farming world of our cousins the Mennonites and Brethren, a world of wide gardened valleys between the long great ridges of the true Appalachians, watered and helped to prosper by the streams of tourist money flowing upward to it from the east.

jul 25-28.jpgMy route took me the long way around the sides of Spruce Knob, the highest mountain in the state, through Seneca Rocks, where a great dike of igneous rock upthrust through older sedimentary rock provides bare rocky cliffs almost the equal of those in the Rockies, and thence to Franklin. At times the road I followed, crossing the ridges, was a winding two-lane paved highway with a 9% or 10% grade (very steep and dangerous for truckers!) and with no safe margin on either side for me to walk along. At other times my route took me along graveled tracks remote from the traffic, past sheep and cattle grazing on high mountainsides, or under a forest canopy in almost-wilderness. When I passed branches of the Allegheny Trail, it was hard not to turn aside and follow them!

Each evening, and parts of each day, I’d sit and listen upward, to try to hear what needed to be said to Baltimore Yearly Meeting at the conclusion of my walk. I made notes on my computer, because I’ve found that note-taking helps me gain clarity and perspective, and what I needed to say began to take form and structure in my consciousness.

jul 29-31.jpgA Friend from Baltimore, who has been more directly involved with Quaker Earthcare Witness than I have these past few years, joined me at Franklin, where I’d been forced to stay an extra night because the one motel in Brandywine was fully booked, and walked with me for a day. I was able to manage five miles of fairly steep walking at a decent pace beside him, and we talked at length about the condition of our Society vis-à-vis environmental matters.

We held an impromptu meeting for worship together on the final First Day morning of my journey, and camped the final night in a sweet, stream-crossed Forest Service campground in George Washington National Forest, at the foot of Shenandoah Mountain. (This was neither the push-pin marked 29-Sun 30, nor the one marked Sun 30, but a spot in between.) Then he left to catch a plane for his next business engagement, and I went on over the final ridge — one of the steepest of all, and one that looked and felt very much like a reduced-scale version of a pass in the Rockies — and down the other side, into Virginia.

There the road wound down through increasingly hot and steamy sunshine (the temperature was only in the upper 80s, but the humidity was suddenly very near the saturation point) — across a region of badly overworked pastures, into the suburbs and then the city of Harrisonburg, across the sprawling campus of James Madison University, and finally up to the yearly meeting registration table —

And they did seem pleased to see me!/

And I’d arrived at last!

You know, it felt like walking into a brick wall — my forward motion was suddenly arrested, and I felt stunned.

But now it would be time to wrap it all up: to deliver the promised fruits of the journey into the care of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends, and into the care of my monthly meeting back home, and into your care, dear readers!

My report on that will, I think, occupy all of the next several postings —

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Reader Comments (2)

This Friend (You) speaks my mind. Yes, I agree that we are divided about environmental issues; it seems we’ve only begun to consider them in our everyday lives. And, perhaps there is very little support for those who are environmentally conscious. Even if I think about HOW we can save the environment in small ways, I find myself making choices that are NOT environmentally friendly. I guess what I’m saying is the struggle to cherish our environment is not only an external one among various groups of people but also an internal one.
How can I support others in their efforts to save our environment?
How can I support myself in my own environmental efforts?
What sacrifices, both external & internal, am I willing to make that will further support & enhance the survival of life on our planet?

-- comment posted by Glenn Neumann, http://tonglenuron.cc/
August 17th, 2006 at 11:27 a.m.
Sep 4, 2006 at 12:19PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Those are all excellent questions, Glenn!
Sep 4, 2006 at 12:22PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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