On this special day — the 151st anniversary of West Virginia’s statehood — here’s a pep talk:
West Virginians are lucky because they live close to nature, engulfed in green hills, surrounded by shady ravines, clear streams and ever-present wildlife. No other state is graced with so much rural beauty. This is the only state composed entirely of mountains, which bring nature almost to everyone’s doorstep.
Summer begins Saturday, so this is a good season to appreciate the “wild, wonderful” essence of the Mountain State. Soaking up nature is good for the psyche. Every forest patch, winding trail or backyard hideaway has healing power.
Washington Irving wrote, “There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.”
Henry David Thoreau had the simplicity of enjoying nature in mind when he wrote, “That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”
As urban congestion grows, most of America is becoming a noisy, stressful sardine can. U.S. population has tripled within the lifetime of senior West Virginians. But this state didn’t follow the national pattern. It didn’t bloat.
Here’s an example we sometimes cite: In the 1940 census, both West Virginia and Florida had 1.9 million people. Today, the Mountain State remains at 1.9 million — but Florida is expected to pass 20 million soon.
As the rest of America swells and crams, the peaceful hills of Appalachia offer an alluring getaway. West Virginia’s brightest prospect may be to serve as a vacation and retirement refuge for the teeming East Coast — as well as a business location for firms that want a safe, serene life for employees.
Therefore, all West Virginians and their leaders must be vigilant to protect and preserve the exquisite gifts of this rugged land.
Shakespeare said “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” And legendary naturalist John Muir (1838-1914) wrote:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”