I don't understand how someone can revere the very thing that brought this nation to its knees and wrought the bloodiest battles of its history. Study it, of course. Learn from it, assuredly. But regard it with pride? I shake my head sadly. The very word adopted by the secessionists, "confederate," is defined as a plot by henchmen, an unsavory deed. That is not my Virginia.
My Virginia is the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling softly like the spine of the land. It's the softness of the vowels and flat As spoken by those native to the southern end. It's the dogwoods exploding in the spring along Skyline Drive and the Beltway. It's the Southern land cradling the nation's capitol. It's Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, those who built and nurtured the nation. It's the names of rivers and mountain ranges foreign-sounding to a native of the West. It has more universities than you can shake a stick at, each with its own rich history and personality. It's an eclectic mix of rich and poor, urban and rural, crowded and cavernous, that threatens to divide itself yet again but won't. And so I share this poem, celebrating its beauty. Enjoy.
Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg, cluster of lights sharpening as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge darkened. Not stars but blue-black mountains rose before me, rose like sleep after hours of driving, hundreds of miles blurred behind me. My eyelids were so heavy but I could see far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing, lightning sparking from cloud to mountaintop. I drove toward it, into the pass at Ironto, the dark now deeper in the long steep grades, heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted with evergreens, with spruce, pine, and cedar. How I wished to sleep in that sweet air, which filled-- suddenly over a rise--with the small lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere they drifted, sweeping from the trees down to the highway my headlights lit. Fireflies blinked in the distance and before my eyes, just before the windshield struck them and they died. Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass their bodies clung like buds bursting the clean line of a branch in spring. How long it lasted, how many struck and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say. Beyond them, beyond their swarming bright deaths came the rain, a shower which fell like some dark blessing. Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on what an eerie glowing beauty faced me. In that smeared, streaked light diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened, alive with wonder far after the blades and rain swept clean the light of those lives passed, like stars rolling over the earth, now into other lives.
by Michael Pettit