Reflections on living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as they metamorphose from farmland and self-sufficiency to commuter subdivisions dependent on cars and asphalt. Holland (Endangered Pleasures, 1995, etc.) came to the Virginia Blue Ridge when she inherited her mother's summer cabin. She couldn't afford the upkeep on both her Philadelphia apartment and this rural retreat, so she opted for for the ``one-bedroom, one-bath house without furnace or insulation,'' but with ``flush toilet, electric stove, and a phone.'' Holland is both cautious and adventurous as, ``stiff with sophistication,'' she tries to carve a niche for herself in this self-contained community. Establishing herself as a part-time writer of obituaries on the local newspaper, she insinuates herself carefully among the regular customers at a nearby bar and never undestimates how alien she is. From her perches on the bar stool, at the newspaper office, and in her snowed-in cabin, Holland rearranges priorities. For instance, she learns that her neigbors believe that government people don't do much--``What could anyone possibly do while sitting at a desk?'' Doing, for them, is ``fixing the tractor, nailing shingles on the roof . . . motion.'' Nevertheless, Holland gives due to both her long- established neighbors who raise pigs, can tomatoes, and chauffeur children, and to those newcomers who chauffeur themselves back and forth on the highways to city jobs. She explores the history of the region: Its point of reference is the Civil War, and its hero is Southern guerrilla John Mosby of Mosby's Rangers. She celebrates the rhythms of community suppers with supportive neighbors but accepts the inevitable replacement of small towns with the Internet. Still, it was lovely while it lasted, and Holland describes the past and the intruding future eloquently, without whining: ``I was told as a child to eat what was put on my plate.''