I am a Wisconsin guy by birth and a Virginian by choice. I have been in Virginia, with gaps for diplomatic duty, since 1984. Some people say that you cannot be a Virginia unless your family has been here for at least three or four generations. I don’t know about that, but I feel part and accepted in my adopted state. I have owned a home in Virginia since 1997 and forest land since 2005. All three of my kids graduated Virginia public universities: UVA, James Madison and George Mason, respectively.
A “disposition to preserve” combined with an “ability to improve.”
That is what I found in Virginia, what I treasure about Virginia. The deep history and heritage is remarkable. We can visit Washington one day, Jefferson, Madison & Madison the next. I know that people now sometime disparage our history.
It takes a smart man to be cynical but a wise man not to be.
My guess is that I know history better than most of those critics. They generally are intellectual adolescents, who have discovered flaws and are eager to signal their “insight” aggressively. They don’t yet know what they don’t know. Intellectual adults understand that all humans have significant faults and individuals who accomplish great things also often have bigger than average ones. The same energy that produces greatness enables and accentuates good can also empower flaws, or at least make them more salient. The same fire that makes our civilized lives possible can also burn and destroy.
Putting down deep roots
The Virginia I know best, however, are the Commonwealth’s forests. This was a big surprise for me. I didn’t think of Virginia as a forest state, but 62% of Virginia is covered in forests. Trees cover only about half of Wisconsin, and a lot of that is up north in national and state forests. Most of Virginia’s forest land is owned by non-industrial individuals and families, and I could get in on that.
What a hare-brained idea, an urban Yankee becoming a forest landowner in rural Virginia. I had a lot to learn. I knew next to nothing about forestry in Virginia and some of what I did know was wrong, but I got a lot of help. My new neighbors in Brunswick County were eager to give me good advice. They knew “my” land intimately, having hunted, hiked & sometime cut timber there for generations – literally generations. Loggers and other contractors were honest and easy to work with. The Virginia Dept of Forestry guys were so available. Virginia Tech and others provided free, or low-cost events to learn the business. The evidence of their friendliness and competence is that an unconnected novice like me could so quickly thrive.
I drive a lot around in Virginia and there is no part of Old Dominion that I have not visited, yet I am always finding something new and interesting. Change is inevitable. Virginia has changed remarkable in my time here and I expect it will continue. This fitting and proper and I welcome positive change, but I take offense at the implication that we should reject and even obliterate old Virginia.
I think we need the ability to improve, but with the disposition to preserve.