I like to watch dawn break and the morning sun some up from our hot tub. On this cool, crisp Sunday morning, the thermometer on our back porch reads 35 degrees and the steam rises off the swirling waters as I relax and let the heat relax my muscles and prepare my body for the day ahead.
Our hot tub is a therapeutic model with five different “stations” that provide jets that deal with different parts of the body. The tub played an important part of my recovery from back problems late last year and I start and end each day with 30 minutes of hydrotherapy in it.
It also helps clear my mind from the dream demons that visit in my sleep and the real ones I face during the day.
We live in troubled times and the problems of modern life that many who moved to Floyd County to escape are now part of daily life in this rural area. Crime is rising, along with prices. When it costs more than $60 to fill up a Jeep Wranger you know things are tight.
Coming home to Floyd County in 2004 was a little like going to a high school reunion that never ends. You face the good times and bad. I didn’t care much for the county as a teenager. I was unhappy here and went to summer school and took a full course load with no study halls for two years so I could skip my junior year and graduate a year early. I wanted out that much.
We left the Washington area and came back here seven years ago primarily because my mother’s health was declining and I knew she would need help and soon we will face the question on whether or not to remain.
At this point, I can’t say with certainty that we will stay in Floyd County after my mother is gone. In many ways, we love it here but but Floyd has changed a lot in the last four or five years and I hear comments — pro and con — about those changes over breakfast at the Blue Ridge and over coffee at the Country Store almost daily. In the past year, more than two dozen people we’ve met since coming to Floyd have left, saying the area is becoming too commercial or too crowded or too complicated. We came here with the idea that this would be our last home. Now, we’re not so sure. I have a past haunted by ghosts and and personal demons and some of them live here.
Some raise legitimate questions over whether or not Floyd’s changes are good or bad for the community. Concern over crime, traffic and other problems normally associated with more urban areas are discussed more often. So is a fear that Floyd is becoming a “manufactured” parody of itself instead of the sleepy rural community that attracted so many newcomers over the past three decades.
Some complain about what they see as competing interests that try to mold Floyd into their vision of what the town and county should be. The charm of Floyd is that it once evolved naturally on its own.
Some say tourism is the answer to the county’s economic woes. Others say tourism will ruin the area’s charm. Some see music as the glue that holds the community together. Others point to the artistic community. Agriculture — once dominant in the county — sneaks into the conversation less and less.
Sustainability is a hot topic in the county but some see the effort more as a marketing gimmick than a true movement. While their efforts are laudable, I wonder if they are trying to do too much too quickly without taking the time to come up with a plan that benefits the broadest segment of the community. I’m not sure and because of the time it takes to deal with my mother’s health, I frankly haven’t had time to be an active participant in their efforts. Maybe later, maybe not.
What I see is a community still struggling to define itself and that struggle is complicated by strong personalities who want to move the area into differing directions. Each of these folks should be congratulated for taking an interest in the community but it would help to see more cooperation and less competition.
Perhaps those competing interests should take a deep breath, step back and let their passions cool a bit before trying to move too far too fast. Evolution, not revolution, is a long tradition in Floyd County.