Grounded in the Mountains


My latest novel, an Appalachian mystery, is set in West Virginia. It’s not something I ever saw coming. Twenty years ago, I was dead-set on getting out of the mountains’ grip for good. I wanted big skies and open spaces. I read Architectural Digest in college and pictured myself, CEO of a huge firm in Manhattan, wearing spike heels and a tailored suit.

Then we lived in Manhattan. New York City and I go together like…manure on a prom dress. Sorry, only analogy I could come up with. I didn’t fit. Not enough land, and you’d better not DARE walk barefoot.

So here I am, many years and several moves later, back in West Virginia. I drove up those winding roads and the mountains grinned and offered me the chunk of my heart they’d been hanging on to for me.(Click to Tweet!)

My brother and I were talking about why the supernatural has shimmied its way into every book I’ve ever written. We deduced it might have a lot to do with growing up in the mountains, where ghost stories weren’t just stories and the supernatural seemed tangible in every greened-up forest and every shadow-ridden valley.

I’m not going to high-gloss life in the mountains in my books. That’s because the mountains don’t high-gloss things either. They hem us all in tight, together. (Click to Tweet!) “Look at the grief,” they tell us. You can’t hide in anonymity, like in the big city. If one person goes through a tragedy, many do. And we all have to work through it and come out the other side, to open our arms to the skies on top of the mountain and thank the good Lord above for our lives and health and “having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.”

I wouldn’t be who I am today without the mountains’ bittersweet blood running through my veins. It’s my prayer that I bring this to life in my books.

****How about you? Where do you feel most grounded?****

11 thoughts on “Grounded in the Mountains

  1. Great post! The mountains bring back great memories and a since of pride about where I am from and the foundation that was laid in my life early on. You would never know that you would miss them till your gone and their the first thing you notice when you come back, thanks for sharing!

  2. I feel most grounded at home. But oddly, I also feel completely at home in the Bolivian Andes. I feel a deep connection with the people there and know that God Himself built the Andes as His footstool to heaven.

  3. Mountain views always make me feel grounded. I would love to have your view everyday, but for now it's a retirement dream. 🙂 I can't believe you lived in Manhattan. Like me, you'll always be a WV gal!

  4. Hmmm… "mountains' bittersweet blood" – Heather, can't wait to read this next creation of yours..Hoping you take me into the forests like Tolkien did. I love the bush (we call it bush here in Oz not forest). The sounds, the smells, the peacefulness. God is present. But the beach at sunset or sunrise is pretty magical, too.Ian

  5. This is lovely. My husband's family is from West Virginia (family reunion next month, lol) and I know that the country there is gorgeous. Beautiful place. :)My favorite country is the desert southwest. I am most at home the land of sage and sand, with sharp-edged rocks that reflect the sunrise with a sparkle and the sunset with a warm glow. However, I am thankful my grounding isn't subject to location. God has moved us around a lot and I'm thousands of miles from my point of origin. My heart's happiness comes from knowing I'm where I'm supposed to be – even if I'm not comfortable there. And when I am content, I am grounded. Even if I feel transplanted. I guess I'm not someone who needs roots. 🙂

  6. Ah, yes, definitely trying to explore those forests with my books, Ian. I've always thought the bush sounded so interesting, too! And Sandi–I know–if we're where God wants us, we can be satisfied. My Grandma used to live in AZ and it was just beautiful out there…I still remember that type of beauty/sunsets. But I'm definitely the kind of person who needs space and privacy and room to run barefoot and climb trees.

  7. Hmmm. I'm going to say Texas, since its where I established myself after coming home from the Philippines back in 2001. That's the trouble with a nomadic life. But God always tells me where to go, and that's been enough. 😉 I love the WV mountains! I drove through them with my family once, so I know what your talking about. Stories seem to hide in the trees.

  8. Love. Love. Love. :DBut you probably knew that ;)One of my favorite quotes is by Annie Dillard "Mountains are quiet, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into the mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded." Ah. This makes me happy. Saw your beautiful pin on Pinterest…and you drew me right in. Happy to hear that your writing is bringing you back to your beautiful roots!

  9. Joanne–LOVE that quote. One of my fave poems is The Mountains and the Sea (I think it is a Rachel Carson poem?). It captures those differences so well. Thank you for your support, my Appalachian-loving friend!

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