My dear friend, Lauren, has been living and working on a farm in West Virginia for a little over a year. Her life there, for the most part, had been a bit of a mystery until I finally went to visit her in October. The closest I’d been to West Virginia before this trip was to Washington D.C., and that’s obviously nothing like rural West Virginia. West Virginia is different than anywhere I’ve been in the U.S. Experiencing Lauren’s slow way of living near the small town of Alderson for a few days was such a breath of fresh air… and autumn in the Appalachian Mountains made for some stunning scenery as we spent most of our days driving and camping and hiking and exploring.
Actually getting to Bethlehem Farm, where Lauren lives with a community of volunteers and helps tend to the farm’s garden and animals, was a long journey. Lauren picked me up at the airport in Charleston, North Carolina, and we made the three-hour drive toward Alderson. We arrived in the dark, at 1 a.m., nearly hitting a cow in the pasture that bumps up to Bethlehem Farm’s property. The next morning, I woke up to a perfect autumnal view of the farm and hills in every direction.
Lauren spent the day showing me around the farm and introducing me to chickens, donkeys, and Roxie, the old farm dog Lauren is more or less in charge of.
We spent the next afternoon and evening with the other four volunteers Lauren lives with at a campsite in Pocahontas County, about an hour from the farm. We skipped rocks and played frisbee and cooked and talked. The campsite was completely empty, which was pure perfection.
After a lunch in Fayettville the next day, Lauren and I spent the afternoon getting fully lost among trees and mountains and hills and doing just whatever the hell we felt like for the rest of the day. That included collecting leaves and hiking and blasting music as loud as we could in the car. I experienced some beautiful bits of West Virginia that day and gained an appreciation for natural beauty in the Eastern U.S. that I really haven’t seen enough of.
A great weekend with Lauren ended like it always has lately — at the airport, saying, “see you soon.” While all my friends live around the country, lack of communication with Lauren because of her remote location is tough. And, before visiting, it had been hard to imagine what about West Virginia had kept her there. It was so humbling to see the amazing work she’s doing and how much she’s learning and growing, and it all makes perfect sense to me, now. West Virginia holds a big space in her heart, and I can certainly see why. There’s a beauty and way of life there that left me with a desire to spend much more time there. Until next time.