Brightside Acres
West Virginia Wildgrown®

My Trip to Mountaineer Wind, Thomas, WV

Jan 24, 2010

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but there is no substitute for seeing something in the flesh, with one's own eyes.

There are thousands of photos and videos of wind turbines on the web. Over these past few months, I've looked at a good percentage of them. These super-human structures tower so far above the trees and houses they appear fake, pasted on, surreal. They are so grossly out-of-proportion to everything else in the landscape that the mind simply can't grasp it. Not really.

Intellectually, I have compared wind turbines to skyscrapers. But the context is all wrong. By definition, there are no skyscrapers on forested ridgetops. Skyscrapers belong in cities.

Since I've had no frame of reference for such a bizarre circumstance, seeing a skyscraper-sized wind turbine in a photo or on a video has only taken me so far toward believing such a thing actually exists.

Could it really be that monstrously huge and alien and utterly out of place? Surely not.

And I've held out hope. I know this now. I've been secretly hoping that they weren't the abomination they appear to be. I just haven't been able to believe it.

Yesterday I saw the Mountaineer Wind plant near Thomas, West Virginia with my own eyes. I am a believer now. But let me assure you, this baptism contained no joy.

The 345-foot turbines are so much more of a sensory shock than I ever imagined. I drove around a curve on US Route 219, knowing I would see them at any moment, but not knowing exactly when, and there they were. Simply gargantuan. Adjectives do not suffice. I leaned into the steering wheel and gasped. Then I pulled over.

I stepped out of the car and suddenly, unexpectedly, began to cry.

In a stunning natural environment, they were overwhelmingly dominant. Nature entirely dwarfed and subsumed by their towering presence and grinding movement. My first thought: We're giving God the finger.

Then I heard the whirr and thump, like tennis shoes in a dryer, exactly as it has been described. The words that came to mind then were "science fiction." The headlong rush to create an increasingly sterile, entirely Human-designed world, where all of Nature is consumed to feed endless Human greed.

Is nothing God created sacred to us? What's left of God's creation that we value enough to place it's preservation ahead of our short-term wants and addictions?

Not the Alleghenies. Not yet.

Of course, if you've never rambled around the twisty highways of eastern West Virginia, you can't know, not really, what it feels like to be so swaddled and cradled by Nature. And at the same time to feel so very much "put in one's place." Sure, one can deny it, even West Virginian's do, but the message of this land, so much of it still wild, is that it doesn't belong to us.

Not to any of us. Regardless how much money we have and how many lobbyists and lawyers we can buy to advance our particular version of "science fiction," this land and the wildness it contains ultimately belongs to God.

We are temporary stewards here. And the blessings of our stewardship come with strings attached. To whom much is given--and God knows this land is a gift--much is expected. At least in terms of rational inquiry, and long-range planning, and resistance to wishful credulity. Not to mention our inherent obligation to show the Creator some modicum of respect.

I stood looking up at the Mountaineer turbines and I thought: This can't be good. Giving God the finger. It just can't be the wisest choice.

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That's me, the figure in the foreground.

I well know that if you haven't stood next to a 345-foot-tall turbine, these photos won't convince you of their reality anymore than similar photos convinced me.

But I have to share them because, in the same way all of us snap photos of important places and encounters--the Grand Canyon or the Empire State Building or the Mexican ruins--all the while knowing there is no way a 4X6 photo will capture it or do it justice, I want so much for you to know what it was like, and I hold out hope against doubt that these pictures might somehow help.