Born in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, Virginia has lived in several places around the United States and has visited several countries around the world. She has lived in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky, longer than any other place, where she lives with her husband, Chet Sygiel. Chet and she are the parents of two daughters.
She sponsors two children through World Vision and is a member of
Retired from the practice of law in 2007, she writes an op-ed column most weeks for the Jackson Times-Voice. She thanks the nuns of SacredHeart Academy in Louisville for teaching her to write.
Reprinted with permission from the Jackson Times-Breathitt County Voice.
The War Against Coal
I am coal. I was created by God.
I have slumbered within the folds of the earth for eons.
I support the land with its trees, plants, rivers, oceans,
rocks, deserts, homes, and larger buildings.
A few centuries ago, people began to dig up small pieces of me.
In the last century, machines have scraped off the surface of the earth to expose my layers.
Heavy machinery gouges and scoops up large segments of me and takes them away.
I am blasted with dynamite so that more of me can be taken away.
It feels like there is a war against me.
I am being destroyed and carted away, little by little.
Although there is still much of me buried deeply in the earth, nonetheless, as more and more of
me is extracted, the land may collapse in larger and larger segments.
Why is my beneficent role in supporting the land being compromised?
People say it is so that they can have electricity.
But if solar power were used instead, there would be no less sunshine.
If wind power were used, there would be no less wind.
If hydro-electric power were accessed, the streams and rivers would still flow freely,
just as full as before.
With the mining of my seams, there is less and less of me.
I could become extinct, forever.
I would prefer to lie peaceably within the cool bosom of Mother Earth,
to continue playing a quiet role of support for the land and its people.