A thank-you to West Virginia

I am moving to Baltimore April 22. I am leaving a love note to West Virginia here:

Dear West Virginia,

I am leaving but I wanted to depart with a final message.

Thank you for letting me find myself here. I am a kinder and less judgmental person for knowing you. Thank you for letting me raise my child here — he has grown and thrived and loves you back.

Thank you most of all for the Monongahela National Forest, the million-acre forest that has been my playground for the past 18 years. I have hiked, biked and swam many miles here and still not seen it all. You have allowed me to see deer, bear, coyote, eagles and my beloved pileated woodpecker. Working as a rural librarian in Appalachia allowed me to get a full scholarship to pursue and achieve a master’s degree in information sciences. I am truly grateful. Thank you for letting me have a job as a prison librarian, a position that has allowed me to work with one of the most under-served populations in the U.S. Felons are people, too.

There are some things you can do to improve as a state. Please allow me a few parting suggestions:

Let go of coal. It is dirty to mine, dirty to burn and a finite resource. Bye bye, coal.

Please take actions to protect the drinking water and natural beauty of West Virginia. Say no to dumping coal sludge in streams and mountaintop removal. Make West Virginia water potable and possible for future generations who will treasure this unique and beautiful place.

Value education more. West Virginia spends twice as much on inmates as they do on education. Reverse that formula because science shows a lack of education creates felons.

Decriminalize marijuana, please. Legalize it if you can. West Virginia needs new and substantial income. Don’t wait 50 years for this to happen.

Be entrepreneurial and start your own businesses. There are no giant corporations who will move here so you have to create your own income and industry.

West Virginia is the number one heroin overdose state and the most medicated state in the union. Please, treat addiction as a health problem, not a law enforcement problem.

Although I am moving back to Baltimore, each night as I fall asleep, I will imagine my face pillowed by moss, deep in the mighty Mon with frog peepers and crickets singing me to sleep. Thank you, and goodbye.