Rediscovering your roots
I grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. I barely saw the beauty of the mountains, hardly noticed the verdant valleys and roaring streams, couldn’t find an ounce of appeal in the winding country roads. I refused to wear cowboy boots and flicked the dial at the first twang of a country tune. I fought everything about the place.
Fast forward a couple of decades. By now I’ve lived on two continents and speak Dutch like a native. I’ve learned to tame my accent in English to more southern belle, less country hick. My wanderlust is still strong, so much so I had to have pages added to my passport. My old life in Tennessee feels a million miles away.
And then I began writing my second book. For some reason I didn’t really think about at the time, I set my story in Rogersville, a tiny blip on the map about a half hour from where I grew up. My heroine, a woman with a gypsy soul who fled Rogersville the summer after high school, thought she’d never return. Write what you know, right?
I thought the country music I started listening to was purely for research purposes. I thought I would have to dig deep to remember the area’s landmarks and expressions and speech patterns. I thought nothing could make me fall in love with a place I spent the first two decades of my life trying to escape.
I was wrong about all three. Because sometime in the course of writing that story, I began to appreciate the slower pace of Appalachia, to feel homesick for the blue ridges and green valleys, to long for a tiny slice of Dixie, just for a day or two. I’ve dusted off my old boots and downloaded every song on the country billboard list. And as soon as I stopped fighting the pull of my old home, I felt it, just like my character did – that cool mountain water flowing through my veins.
All along, I thought I just had wings, but turns out I have roots, too.