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A Tribute to John Prine

I’ve long had a faded memory of being a five-year old riding in the backseat of a car in Central City, Kentucky. The memory is linked with a sense of impending doom and a visual out the car window of dirt. Acres and acres of dirt with no hint of green in sight.

I’ve always worried that something vile happened to me connected with that scene, since I don’t recall whose car I was in or where we were going. It’s a faded memory that has always had a haunted feel to it.

The mystery was solved when I heard John Prine’s song “Paradise” on Roots Radio. Memories came flooding back of living in Muhlenberg County and knowing that most people worked at the coal plant named Paradise (yes, dripping with irony).

I found a YouTube video where someone had taken the song and coupled it with photos from the 60’s of what happened to that piece of Kentucky paradise when Peabody Coal came to town.

The images rocketed me back to my five year old self in the back seat. The images were of strip mining and I had an immediate knowing that something vile had indeed happened to me when I was a tiny girl. I witnessed the land being raped and my sensitive soul couldn’t bear the image.

The memory got locked in as trauma that I’ve held for fifty years. I’m struck at how deeply I felt connected to mother earth and also how not having emotional safety to process my feelings was an aspect of developmental trauma.

When I hear people who are new to recovery say they don’t know what they were numbing out because they don’t have trauma or abuse, it’s this kind of example that I share. We alcoholics/addicts are highly sensitive people and it is events like strip mining that get locked away in our cellular memory and it’s deeply painful to a sensitive soul.


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