The Mountains That Made Me
The Appalachians are among the oldest mountains on Earth, born of powerful upheavals within the terrestrial crust and sculpted by the ceaseless action of water upon the surface. — Encyclopedia Britannica
Those mountains still stand, mostly intact, though smaller now than they must have been in the Precambrian era, or the Paleozoic age, or even the Permian Period — those abstract calendars to track the world’s unfolding, some of which predate animal and plant life. Then, there was only heat and pressure, a recursive destruction that created new substances, again and again, giving birth to our most treasured and unyielding forms: marble, quartz, granite.
I imagine visiting such an era. At first, it would be a welcome respite from the clanging world, quiet and still. But that vast silence would grow, as would the invisible threat of a lifeless world. And then the earth would collide into itself once again, erupting and exploding. When the echo of that deafening blast finally faded and the waters receded to claim their oceanic thrones, the Appalachian Mountains would be born: majestic, beautiful, singular.
This land was formed by powerful upheavals of the terrestrial crust — eruption — and ceaseless action of water upon the surface — erosion. I think about the American Indians who were upheaved, their culture eroded, whose history is lost to many of us who call this place our home. My grandmother was supposedly part Cherokee and many Kentuckians freely claim that heritage now, though so many of our ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland.
This was the Appalachian Revolution, a vast interior crumpling resulting from the stress placed on huge masses of subterranean rock. — Encyclopedia Britannica
Just after the rich coal beds were formed in a largely lifeless world, the same pressure that forced the land into folds, cracks, and buckles, also forced parts of it upward, hiding those coal beds. Nobody knew back then just how hard a man could work to dig coal. They didn’t know how mountains could tremble, hollowed out by robber barons. Nobody knew how it would feel 300 million years later to live in a trailer on top of a mountain that had been mined, how one day, your…