Sunday, January 1, 2012
Happy New Year! (Originally Written 1/1/10)
Several generations of both sides of my family scratched out a living from among the Jemson weed and the sassafras of those fragrant mountains. When I go back, the odors stir something almost feral in me. When I drive up into those tangled hills, I can fancy myself a woman from a bygone generation with some nostalgic name, trying to keep alive a laying hen and a cow when the clay and sawbriars, the possums and foxes, and the creeping moss all conspire to erase any trace that I have even been here. I know this is the way it was for my ancestors. My grandmothers and great grandmothers waged war against the very earth that sustained them. The tales are rich with heartache. Still births, rabies, the assaults of axe, adz, thief and war all served to keep my foremothers on their knees and to kindle that deep, far away sadness that lingers in the eyes even of the century faded photos in my mother's home.The men had it hard, working through injury, illness and hunger to keep body and soul together, but it was the women who were most intimately acquainted with the bonds that heartache ties between a person and the ground, between blood, sweat and dirt. Today, amid the e-mail greetings and happy new years, I was tempted to write and ask, 2012? Here, at my house it is still 1929! I was encouraged in my thinking by my mother's insistence that the Great Depression has not ended in the hills of N.E. Alabama. After talking with her today, I decided to bring into my home some of the old traditions of Appalachia. For dinner we had black eyed peas, pork sausage, rice, collard greens and bread for sopping up the pot liquor from the collards. In the poverty and superstition steeped history of the Appalachians (probably brought over from the Scots and Irish) these items had great significance. Small things, like rice, peas, beans etc. represented coins and eating them on New Years Day insured lots of coins in the new year. Greens represented paper money. Eating pork (the meat from an animal that pushes forward as opposed to an animal that scratches backward ) would increase your likelihood of progressing in the new year rather than experiencing reversals.
Of course, being believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, my family (and my ancestors) cannot be superstitious. Even so, I decided to share the tradition today with my family. After I shared the ideas behind the traditions, we had a good visit about how wonderful it was that our faith was not in superstitions. We talked about how wonderful it is that Jesus loves us whether we are rich or poor. That the primary currency of blessing in the life of the Church age believer is the riches of Christ, namely, forgiveness, eternal life, life more abundantly, justification and all the other blessings and privileges that go along with being born again. I suppose, even deeper than the depth of root that my family has in the red clay of Appalachia, is the mighty tree of abundant eternal life that grows up from the crimson blood of our redeemer Jesus Christ. Tonight, whether you are on the high desert, the rain forest or the snowy mountains, whether you live in 2012 or are stuck in 1929, this precious heritage and shimmering future are yours for the asking. Don't know how? Just leave a comment with your e-mail address and I would love to share with you.
God bless you!