Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Hunt for the Statesville Mummy

Ages ago, a friend mentioned that there is an Egyptian mummy in a museum in Statesville.  Ever since, I have hoped to check out the museum on one of our trips to visit Bill's family.  Well, it seemed, this was the weekend for it.  We were headed to visit with Bill's uncle, so we packed up some snacks and it was Statesville or bust!  Rain in the forecast, plus a tight timeframe, had us in the car, rather than on bikes, and off we went.

I had done a quick (too quick, it turned out) search for the Statesville mummy and found the website of the museum, but I simply left it open for later persual.  We were visiting with the family when I checked the hours--ack!  They are only open till 1:00 on Saturdays!!  What a disappointment!  All this way, and we would not see the mummy.  But wait, what's this?  The mummy is no longer on display--instead, the mummy rests in storage until the town can raise enough money to greatly increase the size of the museum to make room for the mummy and other exhibits.  

I noticed an article from April celebrating a recent fundraiser that raised several thousand dollars.  Good luck, Statesville, a few hundred more of those fundraisers, and you'll be on your way!!  (Direct quote from article:  “As growth is eminent, we have the space to grow into,” said Getsinger [President of Board of Directors]). 

So this was not the day to see the mummy.  Plans had to change.  I again left the adventure in Bill's capable hands, and he again turned right--this time all the way in to Virginia, where we swooped along gorgeous, curving roads, ultimately landing at Smith Mountain Lake, where we stopped to take in phenomenal views and some fried food.  The man-made lake has scores of coves and over 500 miles of shoreline, some of which sit at the bottom of a gorgeous, tree-covered mountain.

The roads there and back toward home were amazing.  We curved through farmland and mountain vistas.  The fog became incredibly thick, and for an hour or so, we couldn't see more than a few yards.  The road emerged in front of us, out of the gray mist, with each stretch and turn unfolding like a ribbon.  At one point the light became much brighter, although the gray still surrounded us--I couldn't see any more of the road, but it was obvious we were no longer surrounded by trees.  "Is it a lake?" I asked, "or a field?"  All I knew was there was an open space on either side of us, but we couldn't tell if we were next to grass or water, the fog so thick, nothing could be made out.

At one point a yellow sign appeared suddenly next to us, with the black silhouette of a bear, informing us of their potential presence on the roads.  I gave a startled yelp, laughing that if a bear suddenly loomed in front of us, tense as I was driving through the soup, I would freak out!  "And now I'm hallucinating a dark shape in front of us," I said, and Bill replied that it was actually a car.  Oh dear!  Sure enough, its squarish outline could be made out in the distance, but soon enough it disappeared as the driver pulled just that much out of our visibility.

The fog would startlingly break at times, too, as we dipped below the cloud line.  Suddenly the beauty of Skyline Drive and similar roads would be in front of us, the wet forest, the black road, the beautiful creeks and mountain trails, the gorgeous pine-and-hardwood skyline.  Beautiful.  Breathtaking.  And then again as quickly, back into the deep fog, the world shrunk again to the monochromatic mist outside our windows.

Now, I know, those of you who come from other mountainous regions laugh at the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.  "Hahaha," you say; "These are not mountains!  These are merely HILLS!!  Real mountains are TALL and have CLIFFS and GRAND DROPS and stretch to the sky, so high they have snow year-round."  Yes, yes, I understand your need to laugh at our little bitty mountains.  You go right ahead.  Cuz let me tell you something.  The mountains of North Carolina and Virginia are the oldest mountains in the world.  In.  The.  World. 

Other mountains may be bigger and grander and all that, but ours sing with a deep resonance of ancient wisdom, beauty and strength.  Stand quietly on a mountain in the Appalachians, and you can feel the history of an entire continent beneath your feet.  Before the Europeans, before the Vikings, before the indigenous peoples, the mountains have stood here--right here.  The New River, which runs through Virginia and NC, exposes rocks that are one billion years old.  A BILLION years old.  What do you imagine the world looked like a billion years ago?  A BILLION years ago. 

Want to feel small?  Don't stand in front of a tall mountain reaching high into the sky; stand on one of our mountains, and know that it has been here for a BILLION years.  How many creatures have stood, skittered, slithered, swum, flown, scootched, marched, run, and skedaddled in that exact spot--that exact spot--over the last BILLION years?  Who will stand in that spot a billion years from now, and not care one bit about us and our fog and our families and our thwarted mummy adventures?  

These are the thoughts that run through my brain as I twist through our beautiful state and its delightful neighbor.  And when you see the lake, it's a rare time when you can look up at one of our mountains and have a fairly flat vista in front of you.  The lake is a result of damming in the 20s, so I could not indulge a fantasy that the lake stood at the foot of this mountain for long, but the beauty of thick trees stretching overhead and rolling into the sky, made low by the tumbling fog/clouds, took my breath away.  

So I didn't get to see a 6000-year-old mummy, but I got to listen to a billion-year-old mountain. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jen! Thank you for searching for our mummy. We have some great news for you! We are opening an exhibit featuring our mummy in Mid-January. We'd love for you to come visit us. If you would like to be added to our database for emails, then you are welcome to email me at randers@iredellmuseums.org; also "like" us on Facebook Iredell Museums and on Twitter @IredellMuseums.