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Africa and Appalachia

The Nada Tunnel, just a few minutes from where we live.
When You won’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move…
--Lauren Diagle

A handmade quilt of clashing colors hangs from a paneled wall, flaked, bubbled and cracked from the passage of time and water damage. The quilt features POWs and MIAs from this tiny town, fabric photos of beloved and lost soldiers, some carrying Asian blood-smeared children and others bowing their heads in despair. Another quilt across the room reminds us, “All gave some, some gave all.” Still another, slightly more threatening, displays a man in a machine gun stance amidst a border of stars and stripes. “Sorry if my patriotism offends you, trust me, your lack of spine offends me more.”

Where am I?  A flicker of disorientation wavers. None of this is vaguely familiar. The ancient but clean kitchen wafts a tantalizing smell of country ham and biscuits snapping me into sharp focus. The waitress brings me a steaming bowl of pinto beans and I can’t resist dipping the corner of my cornbread into the fragrant soup. Snatches of conversation swirl around me. 

A white-haired man sits by himself staring blankly, reciting Bible verses into vacant air. “People don’t believe their Bible anymore…” his southern drawl is a complaint and a reproof. The lunch crowd occasionally glance at him; tolerance for his failing mind is the warm embrace in this small town.  

A waitress talks with a twang and a cadence that reminds me of the bluegrass music that fills these hills. She lilts a story about her diabetic father who’s losing his toes. An aged patron a few tables away bewails the rising river in town from the endless rains here in Eastern Kentucky.

I close my eyes and hear the starts and stops of his banjo intonations.

I’m deep in the heart of Appalachia, and it’s as foreign as Africa to me. My mind drifts back.

Last I wrote, Greg and I were eagerly awaiting the written judgment from the case that “kicked us out of India.” We were forewarned that the Indian legal system takes a long time to arrive at a final conclusion, but nothing could have prepared us for this grinding, agonizing stretching of days into months into years.  The judge still has not written the judgment since the concluding arguments almost 2 years ago!

Greg waited, poised for flight back to India “any day,” for over a year and a half.  I stayed in India, waiting for my last two children to graduate from high school. We wanted their education and physical stability to continue unhampered by the government of India. 

I stopped writing. There was nothing to say. No good news, no resolution, no answered prayer, no conclusion, no closure. I could not bring others into this journey.  The optimism of my earlier blogs, so full of hope, so sure of vindication trailed off into the untidy, unraveled yarn of disbelief and endless shock. The incongruities of our lives lived 10,000 miles apart in two separate worlds, defied explanation.

The word “bewildered” comes to mind. Bewildered by the judge, bewildered by the “Leave India Notice,” bewildered by the sudden loss of my last three horses in the midst of great loneliness, bewildered by what God could possibly be saying, bewildered most of all by finding myself here, when I’d rather be there.

Morgan graduated in June 2018, and the next day we left our home in the hills of Ooty, boarded a series of flights that brought us to England, and then America, and more specifically to a little half-built log cabin in the middle of the Daniel Boone forest.

The last six months I have wandered a wilderness of doubt and confusion, having lost one corner of the universe, I continue to wait for the promised land that breaths permanence and home. Displacement is real. The state of the uprooted is a true predicament.  It’s the scream in the night, “I’m here but I’m not home.”

I can’t help glancing again at the POW quilt, as the waitress fills my mug yet again with freshly brewed coffee just for me. This thoughtfulness touches me. Perhaps parts of me too, are missing in action. I reach to gather the memories that span across the years and the continents. I wait for the rising flood that threatens to engulf, to subside.  I wait for the now to become actual and real.  I wait for the spectator to engage.  Today I break the silence and write!  Tomorrow perhaps I’ll have a conversation.


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