Not seeing the forest for the trees

Sheila Gresinger

Somehow, life here in Rappahannock seems to have become a place where some want it to be a world of absolutes, an “either/or” type place.

However, there are still plenty of people able to move through the tumultuous times we have been experiencing for several years and moving on with ways to improve the place while preserving the values from the past.

We need the knowledge and wisdom of people who have lived here quite awhile, who know the history of Rappahannock well, to give proper perspective to some newly arrived who seem to be presenting a picture of doom unless their ways are accepted immediately . . . or lawsuits will follow.

Actually, [former U.S. congressman and Harris Hollow resident] Ben Jones was recently quoted on a popular listserv, saying, “There was a time around here when a handshake agreement meant more than a piece of paper.”

And there was a time when mistakes could happen, could be acknowledged and corrected in the time that it sometimes took without threats of lawsuits or mayhem bought about our heads.

Recently, some talk has turned to what I perceive to be verbal attacks on how some among us earn a living, and in a negative way.

Remember that over time, nearly 20 percent of our county has been put into protective easements, preserving the vastness that tourists and most living here enjoy. Those open lands have preserved the significant dark skies that visitors travel to see the Milky Way, and yes, can be observed from space.

One of our realtors has been involved in the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection as well as the Dark Skies project for many years. Another realtor purchased an old industrial building and is rehabilitating it for use, already able to house the Virginia Chutney Company whose owners grew their business here. Entrepreneurs much needed.

Just this past week there have been discussions about the proposed [golf] driving range, with pointed questions about the viability of it succeeding, completely missing the point that it is not a stand alone, but an enhancement of a business that is already thriving in Sperryville, adding needed jobs. That enterprising young man was, I think, the force behind the refurbishing of an old yet substantial barn on the property, where it serves as a shining example of where Headwaters was able to celebrate its 20th Taste of Rappahannock, raising thousands of dollars to benefit many organizations where neighbors help neighbors, awarding scholarships to students, showcasing the talents of the high school’s culinary students.

Change happens, has been around here a long time. There are rules, and there are ways to address and to accommodate change. Think those are called variances. There is no either/or and never has been in the ways our county has managed to grow through the inevitable changes that have come our way for one reason or another.

There are groups actively pursuing avenues for more support in success for our farmers; there are others seeking ways to find housing solutions, all challenges for which our creative, intelligent, strong citizens will find solutions, as many have before, and not in ways described as attempting to go behind the scenes to “thwart the will of the majority and/or best interests of the citizens” as someone stated on a local listserv.

Interestingly, though, there was also an invitation on that post to join the Rappahannock Citizens for Community Empowerment, touting it as a 501(c)3, and confidentiality of membership protected by law.

Not seeing the forest for the trees is a way of thinking that focuses on what’s wrong with a place — being the trees, in my opinion, and the forest which is the whole of Rappahannock, which is filled with our active neighbors doing their best to work with each other to keep this county the best place most of us love.

The writer lives near Washington

About Staff/Contributed 5589 Articles
The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to or call us at 540-675-3338.