Fifty years ago, I was on the outside looking in. A young man in awe of a state knit so tightly and beautifully -- a place whose people are so closely connected but who welcomed me and shared their treasured home.
A place where the mountains touch the heavens, and dirt roads lead to home. Suppertime is family time and neighbors always give with both hands.
Where summers mean 4-H camp and sugar maples glow in the fall. Winters test resilience and the sound of spring peepers bring us joy.
It's a place where glass is blown and handmade quilts get blue ribbons. Buckets of blackberries end up in cobblers. Ramps have their own festival and buckwheat does too.
Where doors are held open and smiles are shared generously. Where we call friends "aunts" and "uncles" because they're just like our own.
A state whose pride wells with the crack of the Mountaineer's musket. Who cherishes a university that grew strong out of impossible tragedy.
It's where John Denver sang of misty moonshine and Rocket Boys reached the sky.
Where we know the sound of train whistles and the smell of newly-baled hay in the sun.
Where we raft our rapids and fish our streams. Hike our trails and ski snow-covered slopes. Climb our peaks and camp in valleys.
It's a state where weddings are planned around football schedules and prayers said every night. Kids catch bugs in mason jars and know the state song by heart.