Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hillbilly Bohemian Heathen

I'll start this off by sharing a little about the title I chose for this blog.  The word hillbilly for most people appears to either draw up an image of Ellie Mae and Granny Clampett, country music stars retiring to Branson to live out their last years performing in the comfort of their own theater, or those kitschy gag gifts that almost every convenience store and gift shop in the Ozarks has that are all labeled as 'hillbilly' something.  A bag of pinto beans is labeled "Hillbilly Bubble Bath!" among other oh-so-clever products.  For me though, it just brings to mind living in the hills.  Growing up we lived on the ridge with the James River flowing through a nearby holler.  Early in the mornings, the fog would rise off the river and the sunrise would color it with brilliant shades until it looked like a magical cloud of fire, rising and dissipating between the hilltops.  We weren't the intentional 'modern homesteaders' you read about these days, growing organic health food on our land and butchering meat in order to get it hormone free (although these are excellent things to do), for my family it was just living.  We raised and butchered our own meat because it was cheaper than buying it at the store.  We grew a garden because seeds were much more affordable than the produce section.  We lived 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store anyway, so running to the store to pick up some last minute ingredient for supper just wasn't an option.  We lived in the hills because it is where our ancestors have lived for the last three centuries in America, and they lived in the hills of Scotland before that. So in my view, hillbilly isn't a slur, a joke, or some exalted label I choose to apply to myself, it's just a word that implies how I grew up.

Bohemian in its most proper sense refers to a native or inhabitant of Bohemia. In the more common vernacular it is a descriptive of a style of dress or decor, or a person who's rather unconventional, and usually artistic.  For me the word evokes images of antique tea-stained lace, velvet and silk patchwork, tea leaves being read, simple people in exotic places, and exotic people in simple places.  This image is something I relate to.

Heathen is an interesting word.  One of the central aspects of the majority of it's definitions appears to be the concept of being 'unconverted', primarily in relation to the Big Three, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  And this describes me perfectly.  I am unconverted by any of the dogma of accepted religious or spiritual thought, even outside of the big three.  The truths that I have taken to heart are few, and they are based on my life experience. Reading ancient texts on spiritualism and mythology is interesting to me and contains valid information, just as reading modern books where contemporary authors have recorded their experiences is helpful and can provide new insights. But for my way of living, none of those can ever be accepted on faith, or could ever take the place of experience. I remain an unconverted heathen when it comes to alignment with any organized religion.