Welcome to MidMountain!
We are a project in constant growth, and this is Beacon: the very first volume of our evolving attempt to chronicle this journey via the MidMountain MidMonthly.
I am also a human project of constant growth, and I am many other things: non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, and disabled among them.
But at my core, I am a storyteller and a person obsessed with the way that narratives shape our reality. This is, in large part, because I think sharing thoughtful stories is how we build empathy with each other—and how I hope we can grow something together here.
Ultimately, I believe artists are oracles: That they have the power to be beacons that contextualize the past and the present to imagine a better future.
So this year, at MidMountain (the literal place—five acres, an old house, outbuildings, and river frontage on the outskirts of what is now Natural Bridge Station, Virginia) we are growing a creative community focused on sharing time and natural space to develop and reflect upon the art of storytelling and literally nourishing our neighbors.
We’re starting by hosting folks in a flexible residency program to explore storytelling as an art form across multiple platforms while laying the groundwork for a native food forest, vegetable garden, and seed bank—and using this evolving literary space (the MidMountain MidMonthly) to reflect on it.
Stories have great power, no matter if they are song, visual design, or words on a glowing square connected to billions of other glowing squares in your pocket via a metaphorical cloud we’ve built our entire lives around most of us having the time to stop and think about how it works.
In my own yet-unfinished narrative, stories taught me I could challenge the bigotry ingrained in parts of the communities where I grew up and escape to places where I could explore what it meant to be myself.
(I honestly was always both an adventurer and a storyteller, and this project feels like both.)
Stories based on facts are also how I built a career in journalism and survive in our current economic structures as I try to understand and explain the depth of the digital connections in our world. And at times, I get burned out by the pace and incentives of an industry continuing to adapt to our collective awareness of our connectivity.
I believe we can—and in fact through our experience of life, must, at times—be simultaneous heroes and villains in humanity’s shared story, depending on the individual perspective.
History is the retelling of that shared story, but we are able to more deeply understand and place ourselves in it when we close information gaps by sharing experience—including very real gaps that have grown around concepts that we as humans have collectively created, including gender and race.
This shared story was always there, but is made more complex—multiplied, transformed—by digital connections.
Through the internet, we now live in a mass, continual retelling of the human narrative at a speed no one has ever experienced before. The inputs can be so overwhelming that we often forget that they are also ultimately, somehow, people or derived from people’s decisions.
Too often, personal narrative becomes a meme, leaving people struggling to even understand let alone assert their own story.
It’s happening even now, as I try to reconfigure and edit our way out of the dystopia as I type.
And it’s a lot to process.
But disconnecting and finding the luxury of time and space in nature to process the complexity of my own role in this shared narrative helped me reconnect with the value of my own creative voice and transformative power of storytelling as art. Instead of being worried my brain is broken, I understand it is beautiful for being able to understand and translate the fragility of our systems to others.
And now I’m grateful to be working with friends to cultivate a creative community and sustainable agricultural endeavor, MidMountain, where we focus on mutual aid while growing resilient bonds rooted in our shared humanity.
This feels like tangible good we can do together.
And that feels urgent now in a world on fire with greed, with hatred, with plague, and with a constant barrage of information that makes it hard to stay hopeful.
But fire can also be a beacon—an act of rebellion that inspires or illuminates better paths.