Thankful for the Simple Things
Now that we have finished with the costumes and candy of Halloween, and we await the holy and joyous celebration of Christmas, we find ourselves right in the middle of one of my favorite months of year – November. I know, I can sense your bewilderment as I write these words. “November, what’s so great about November?” I understand. By the time November arrives in Pocahontas County the warmth of summer has faded, the vibrant leaves of fall are colorless and carpet the forest floor, and hardly a single snowflake has fallen from our soon-to-be winter sky. For some, November is nothing more than a transition month between summer and winter. Still, for me, November holds a certain appeal.
When the month of November becomes the topic of conversation, Thanksgiving Day is the first thing that comes to the minds of most people. Right behind Christmas, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; because for me, coupled with the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving Day was also an opportunity to spend some quality time with my father. Growing up in West Virginia, for as long as I can remember, my Thanksgiving Day revolved around two events, a morning of deer hunting with my dad and an afternoon with a house filled with family and the aromas of turkey and all the trimmings. These were the two things I looked forward to more than anything else the year would bring. Now, on the surface of things, both events were customarily chaotic at best. My father and I, usually at the last minute the night before, were stumbling through the house gathering guns, gear, and all the other necessities to go hunting on Thanksgiving Day morning, while my mother was busy in the kitchen, trying to manage all the pre-cooking preparation she could before the big day. We were all running in different directions with different goals in mind. And while I am quick to recognize the glaring differences between the two outcomes of our pursuits, the quiet solitude of hunting with my father as opposed to the noise and chaos of a big family dinner, I also see a common denominator within the two events of the day – despite the chaos, they were both simple things.
An appreciation for simple things has been deeply etched in me. I grew up in a very middle-class, moderate-income family. We may not have had the newest, brightest gadgets the marketing corporations doggedly tried to convince the general public you must have to make life happy and complete, but we had what we needed. I was raised to be happy with what I had, and I don’t recall a time when I ever, truly had to go without. In other words, I grew up learning to appreciate the simple things of life. So, when I look back on my first dozen or so Thanksgiving Days, I tend to look at things from that point of view. A father and son sitting in the cab of an old International Harvester pickup truck, waiting for an inky-black sky to reveal just enough pre-dawn light to allow them to slip into the woods, shivering as I leaned against a big oak tree waiting for the sunlight to creep up and wash over me with its warmth, and walking back to that old truck with my dad to eat a cold sandwich and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. It never seemed to matter if we got a deer or not – all hunters know the real work begins when the deer is down. What mattered to me was the fulfillment of a simple desire; time spent with my dad and that was all I needed.
The experience of being home that afternoon was as different as night and day compared to the morning of hunting. The house felt too warm compared to the woods. There were people in every room, and everyone was talking at once (the woods were never this crowed or this loud). But, in spite of the differences in the day, I was happy to be together for a day of family, fun, and food. It never mattered that we weren’t using the “good silver” (we didn’t own any) or that all the cups and saucers didn’t match, and it certainly didn’t bother us to have dessert on paper plates; either because we ran out of clean dishes or by the time we got to dessert, someone suggested paper plates would cut down on the clean-up time. The point is, even though my Thanksgiving Day dinner had a lot of moving and chaotic parts, it boiled down to this, sitting down with the people most important in my life and sharing a meal. You can’t get much simpler than that.
My Thanksgiving Days have changed in many ways over the years. Dad is no longer with us, and I dearly miss him. My own kids have grown and now make their homes elsewhere, making family get togethers a bit of a scheduling challenge to say the least. But my appreciation for the simple things of life still remains. I think that is why I am so content to call Pocahontas County, West Virginia, my home. There is an honest appreciation for the simple things here. Working for the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor Bureau, I have the opportunity to introduce many of the simple pleasures of Pocahontas County to folks visiting our county for the first time. My responsibilities can range from giving quick directions to a single destination, to offering enough suggestions and information for a week-long stay. And after a few years of doing this, I’ve noticed a common thread among our visitors. Whether they want to ride a bike trail, rent a cabin, hunt or fish, do some skiing, or find a serene lake for a little canoeing, people visit Pocahontas County to get back to nature; to enjoy the simple things of life. It’s why our monicker, Nature’s Mountain Playground, is so fitting. People come here to reconnect with the outdoors, to get outside and play again, and get back to a simpler way of life. Many of the people I encounter travel a great distance to get to Pocahontas County. In many cases they have read something about this place or have heard what a remarkable and relaxing time a visitor can have here, and they are compelled to check it out for themselves. As I talk with them and offer suggestions of places to visit and things to do, I can see the excitement build as they plan their stay with us. Inevitably, most of them thank me for the help and then usually express their gratitude that there are still places to be found like Pocahontas County. A place where those living among the daily grind and hustle of a big city can get away from all the chaos and reconnect with a slower, simpler way of life, if even for just a weekend. A place to recharge, not the phone or the computer, but the soul. To explore a forest trail, enjoy a quiet mountain stream, or just relax and watch the sunset. There’s room in Pocahontas County to be alone with your thoughts, to get away from the noise and confusion of a hectic life, to revive your spirit, and to reach for and take hold of the simple things again.
Admittedly, November can be a hectic time of the year. Unfortunately, it seems to be a month that has been demoted to that brief time after Halloween and before Christmas, when most of us are preoccupied with worrying over gifts and sorting through boxes of tangled decorations. But November is meant to be a period when we pause to give thanks (in reality, we should probably show a certain level of gratitude for each day that is given to us). And from my point of view, at least once in a while, it would benefit us all to slow down, unplug, watch the sun set, and be grateful for the simple things of life. And to be thankful there are still places to be found like Pocahontas County, where the simple things of life can be enjoyed to their fullest.