I live in West Virginia. I wear the blue and gold state colors, on the appropriate days. I cheer on the schools' sports teams and applaud their academic achievements. I get a rush every time the WVU mascot fires his rifle at football games or "Almost Heaven" is sung by Mountaineer fans.
While I know the state bird is the beautiful red cardinal and the rhododendron springs eternal across our green valleys, I had to look online for the state fish. It's the trout.
And the black bear is our state animal, but I've only seen one from a distance or in a zoo.
"Mountaineers are always free" continues to be our motto - yet sometime I wonder what it means. Then I look at our meadows filled with spring flowers and I know we live atop fertile soil. When I was lucky enough to spot a bald eagle fly over while visiting a garage sale in Bethany, I knew our air and streams, for now, were free of things that disrupt that glorious bird's habitat.
When I attended my first symphony concert at the Capitol Theatre years ago, I knew a good thing when I heard it. As I sat at the Towngate Theatre and enjoyed an "artsy" film, I was pleased to have the opportunity to view something a little different than the standard Hollywood fare.
Sometimes when I'm walking on the paved trails along the rolling Ohio River, I feel sorry for people whose only "walks" are down the steps into the depths of a subway system.
I take heart in the fact that most of the local meetings I have attended - government and social service - aren't afraid to start off with a prayer to the same God.
But then I pick up a State Police report and find that two brothers in Mercer County were cited for conducting brutal, senseless cockfights. Countless other reports over the past few months have shown just how bad the illegal drug trade and meth making is in this state, too.
What a shame that we, who see the beauty in living simple lives in a state full of natural resources, have to constantly defend against the negative publicity from such crimes. Thank heaven for the folks at West Liberty University who brought our state into a positive light during the basketball season and for the likes of country music star Brad Paisley, who, despite his huge fame, has led a wholesome life that reflects well on his hometown and West Virginia hills.
Life is not perfect in the Mountain State but there aren't many places today that are. West Virginia has its negatives, there's no denying. What sets us apart is that every time someone knocks us down, we get back up with even more resolve to prove them wrong. We don't give up. Maybe that should be our state motto.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.