Saturday, January 14, 2006

Not Southbound, Just Waterbound

I' ve mentioned here how lately I feel what I can't describe other than homesickness. Recently smacked out of another "I can make it work!" reverie, I'm also feeling the pull of the combined forces of the mining disaster, another terrific David Sutherland documentary called Country Boys, a visit with my family last weekend, and just the direction of my life in general.

You can take the girl out of the Valley, but you'll never take the Valley out of the girl, no matter how old she gets or how far she travels.

I came of age along the Ohio River, in the valley that separates Ohio from West Virginia. The river is a powerful memory, and the economic driver for that region. Today, eastern Ohio and the northern panhandle of West Virginia are suffering from a complete lack of economic growth. There are no high-tech companies vying to get into Bridgeport or Martins Ferry (if my friend and mentor, Eric Fingerhut, can turn this around, he gets my vote for Governor of Ohio). There are only ghosts of steel mills and other factories, remnants of the glory days when life along the river meant security and even prosperity.

My mother's house is gone now, but oh! how I remember sitting on her porch on those warm river nights, gazing into the black wall of mountain foothill that rose from the thick veil of river mist, listening to the barges roll up and down as they taxi coal, steel, waste. I remember before then, how the river was my witness to countless rites of passage into womanhood along the banks in her tall grass. When I drive east to reach her now, and come around that bend that brings us together again, I feel safe, known, believed. The last time I drove back produced an ache I did not ever expect to feel or believe for someone who had worked so hard to get away from all that never could be possible in small river towns.

Now as I turn another bend in life, all that I know is that other things are possible, and that what may someday make me possible is attached to the other end of the golden thread that keeps my heart anchored gratefully in that place, those now grey towns that gave us Lou Groza and poet James Wright, Dean Martin and Clark Gable. I am not a Southern woman, but I am waterbound, and in full moon's light I see with extra clarity, the running is over. The realizing begins.

I want the river now, to wash me clean, give me one more chance, tell me what I need, where to go, what to be next. This song by one of my soul's champions, Dirk Powell, practically puts me in a trance, helps me give myself over to that longing that will not be denied. Listen just a little, please.

Dirk Powell, Time Again, 2004

I went out late one night
Moon and the stars were shinin’ bright
Storm come up and the trees come down
Tell you boys I was waterbound

Waterbound on a stranger’s shore
River risin’ to my door
Carried my home to the field below
I’m waterbound, no where to go

Carve my name on an old board wall
No one know I’s there at all
Stable’s dry on a winter’s night
Turn your head you can see the light

Black cat crawlin’ on the old box car
Rusty door and a fallin’ star
Ain’t got a dime in my nation’s sack
I’m waterbound and I can’t get back

It’s” I’m gone and I won’t be back”
Don’t believe me, count my tracks
River’s long and the river’s wide
I’ll meet you boys on the other side

So say my name and don’t forget
The water still ain’t got me yet
Nothin’ but I’m bound to roam
I’m waterbound and I can’t get home


At January 14, 2006 1:51 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

Even though the area has for years been in economic turmoil, there is something magical about MF (Martin's Ferry) and the surrounding area.

Whether it is in the mix of water and land or hills and flat places or maybe just the "homeyness" of the place, but I fell in love with it the first time you took me there.

I still long in some small way to move there and open that combination card room/cold confection parlor.

So maybe it's not so much home sickness as a yearning for that magical feeling that driving along the Ohio river and into that sleepy town, wanting to see those fire works from the high school over the highway, sitting with a cold beverage and leading the oooos and ahhs as we watch the UFOs and wonder if our ample is ok the parking lot.

I got similar feelings from seeing Brokeback Mountain. Can't wait to meet you in less than an hour so you can see if the movie helps or adds to your yearnings.

At January 14, 2006 11:33 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Shannon, maybe you're right. I'd like to think it was magic, growing me up while I wasn't looking. I remember those July 4 moments, with June Anne's chairs lined up along the sidewalk. We could take in everything.

Is it so awful to want something so simple? I thought I had what I wanted, to get away from there, make it BIG, in the BIG CITY. Big whoop.

Cold confections. Used to be an Isaly's in town, that was the big deal on a Sunday in summer, to drive all the way into town for ice cream. I loved peach, and black raspberry. My dad's best friend ran it. Oh, I'm not going there just now. Cards, anyone?


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