Southern Blue Ridge Provinces

Southern Blue Ridge Province: Geographic Location & Influences


The Appalachians — Created between 300 and 250 million years ago as a result of periods of mountain building brought about when the North American continental plate collided with the plates forming the European and African continents — extend some 2,000 miles from Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula to north Georgia and Alabama.  they have been described as “The most elegant mountain range in the world.

The Southern Appalachians can be defined as the ranges south of the point in northeastern Pennsylvania to which glacial ice sheets extended at the height of the Wisconsin epoch 18,000 years ago.  THat region consists of four geographic provinces:  Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Plateau.  The Blue RIdge is by far the most significant in regard to mountainous terrain.

The Blue Ridge Province of the Southern Appalachians extends from just south of Harrisburg PA to the hills of north Georgia just north of Atlanta, encompassing mountainous portions of southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, east Tennessee, northwest South Carolina, and north Georgia.  The Blue Ridge can be divided into northern and southern provinces, with the Southern Blue RIdge Province (SBRP) consisting of the terrain south of Mt. Rogers in southwestern Virginia to Mt. Oglethorpe in north Georgia.

The eastern front or escarpment of th SBRP is clearly defined from Virginia into South Carolina. On its western front the SBRP consists of the Unaka, Great Smoky, Unocoi, and other massive ranges.  Connecting the eastern and western fronts are transverse ranges:  Blacks, Great Craggies, Great Balsams, Nantahalas, and many others.  THe Appalachian system as a whole reaches its greatest elevation, largest mass, and most rugged topography in the SBRP where 125 peaks rise 5,000 feet or more, with 49 of them surpassing 6,000 feet. (From Mt. Rogers in Virginia northward to the Gaspe Peninsula only Mt. Washington in New Hampshire exceed 6,000 feet.)

This topography profoundly influences the region’s average temperature (and thereby its plant and animal life, which exhibit strong northern affinities).  The principle of verticality states that for each 1,000 feet gained in elevation the mean temperature decreases about 4-degrees F, equivalent to a change of 250 miles in latitude.  (This means that if you travel from the lowest elevations in the SBRP at about 1,000 feet to the higher elevation above 6,000 feet, it’s the equivalent of traveling more than 1,200 miles northward in regard to the habitats you will encounter.)

The SBRP is situated where winds bringing saturated air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Coastal Plain are cooled and lose much of their content.  (Air cools while rising to pass over a mountain range and can hold less moisture than warm air; therefore, heavy condensation occurs when large fronts first encounter massive ranges, as is the instance along the Blue Ridge divide.)  The heaviest rainfall in the entire Appalachian region occurs along the GA-NC-SC borders, resulting in annual rainfalls of over 90 inches in many area. (As much as 145 inches have been recorded with regularity since 1935 along the GA-NC line by the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab located near Otto, NC). Taking this into consideration, some professional observers now refer to the area as a temperate rain forest. The higher elevations of the SBRP can be thought of as a peninsula of northern terrain extending into the southeastern US where typical flora and fauna of northeastern and southeastern North America flourish. The region features approximately 1,500 vascular plants (man of which are considered to be showy wildflowers) and 125 species of trees (in all of Europe there are only about 75 species).

–George Ellison, Bryson City, NC





Bad Fork
Photograph and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017

Geography of Place

I’ve lived in Western North Carolina now for three years, and have kind of gotten a feel for Asheville and Greenville and Hendersonville; of the falls and some of the mountains around my home area.  But I’ve taken several literary classes this year that have dealt with the literary and geographic aspects of Western North Carolina and I have found that I am now spreading my wings, so to speak, and developing a wider expanse of this place I now call Home.

I am enjoying discovering the richness of the mountains, the culture, the lore, the music, in addition to the fresh air and sunshine that I have been enjoying since I moved here.  I have been honored to meet some of the great literary authors of Western North Carolina, and that and their writing has made this a year of openings and beginnings and new experiences.

I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I am just east of the Great Smoky Mountains.  I know the history of how these mountains became part of the National Park System and the highs and lows of building that system.

I know the thrill of opening up my blinds every morning and looking out at the French Broad River; of seeing it flowing past, and thinking “I am so lucky to be here”.  Quite frankly, a day never goes by that I don’t drive somewhere, look up to see the mountains and think, “I live in a picture postcard”.

This is a poem written by George Ellison, who is a prolific writer and journalist in Western North Carolina.  He lives here with his wife Elizabeth, who is an illustrator and artist, and he has loved these mountains for the last 40 years.  He dedicates this poem to their granddaughter Daisy Ellison:


When Salamanders Sing

When water and stone whisper

of faraway places with no name

of clear springs and dark pools

of currents that swirl and fade

of leaves blinking in the wind

and of surfaces dimpling as droplets

descend from the blue-green high country

heralding the steady rain in which sloe-eyed salamanders

bedecked like clowns in silver mottles or yellow polka dots

bedecked like ladies sporting regal chevrons and crimson checks

bedecked like warriors with lightning down their backs

will emerge from dank burrows and fallen logs

and mica-flaked crevasses in nearby cliffs

to sing the farewell song they always sing

for those who have become their friend

–George Ellison

(from Permanent Camp)


Walking up the Cowee Mound Photograph and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2018


Towards the Cowee Mound Photograph and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2018


Country Church, Western North Carolina, near Cowee Photograph and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2018


May it Continue

May the brown earth and green leaves
thrive in color and in grace.


May it Continue


May the clear air and the cumufocirrus clouds
be there in the sky and in each breath, always.


May it Continue


May the water made of sweet minerals and salt
in small streams and large rivers
flow forever and forever flow to the seas.


May it Continue


May the beautiful birds of Hawaii and
the luminous parrots of Peru fly far and fast
and may their number grow.


May it Continue


May the sun shine warm and bright

and the moon give light at night—-shining from shook foil.


May it Continue


May the deer and elk, the antelope and the ibis
move and migrate, leap and lope across plain
and wooded plateau.


May it Continue


May the whale and the dolphin and the manatee
swim deep in dark oceans and lagoons and sing.


May it Continue


May the elephants forever in families roam,
trunk to tail, trumpeting bliss.


May it Continue


May waves of warm frost linger in bush and blaze
that puts fire in the peat of loam. And let lick cry from ripe vine.


May it Continue


May the rose climb through
the cold murmur of morning dirt.
May dark mulch coax tendrils from sleep.


May it Continue


May wild words come flying from green coils and
may each breath rustle through the beard of blue moss
in the sound of song.


May it Continue


——–Thomas Rain Crowe




                              Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio, 2016,



The World has new needs in 2018

For thousands of years, religion has been used to promote different political and economic issues. Religions have often been abused and twisted to make them fit what is needed.

The Dalai Lama is speaking out now about what the world needs to counteract the increase of hatred and violence that have descended on our world. The Dalai Lama is the refugee who has been the world’s longest refugee. He has been a refugee since China invaded is home country of Tibet in the 1959. He and many of his fellow citizens fled for their lives to India. They continue to reside in India to this day.

He has been a tireless advocate for peace and non-violence. His motto is that “He has no enemies, just people he has not met yet.” He has toured the world doing speaking engagements. I met him in 1989. He is a quite fascinating individual.

He has been looking at the world and its values. The world’s morals are changing due to the Nationalism being found everywhere in the world. Does religion address these issues? The Dalai Lama does not think so.

For centuries, violence has been committed and justified in the name of religion. Religions have often been intolerent and often still are. Religion is often abused by many even by religious people. Often their purpose is to further political or economic issues. We need a new form of ethics that goes beyond religion…anyone’s religion. The Dalai Lama speaks of an ethics that goes into a new form. A secular ethics for over a billion atheists and an increasing number of agnostics. These ethics would address human spiritualality. Humans need inner values, no matter what religion we have, we believe in life, benevolence,and affection.

Human beings need inner values and ethics. Ethics run deeper and are more natural than religion. We must learn that humanity is all one family. We are all brothers and sisters: physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are focusing far too much on our differences instead of our commonalities. After all, every one of us is born the same way and dies the same way. It doesn’t make much sense to take pride in our nations and religions–all the way to the graveyard. Ethics run deeper and are more natural than religion.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


Life needs to be filled with beauty. Photograph by Barbara Mattio 2018


Is This Child Safe?

Is This Child Safe?

I have been thinking about holidays and children. Not just American children, but children in the UK and children in India. I have been worrying about children in Russia and in Jamaica.

I have been thinking of children who don’t have good role models or lunch money. I have been thinking about children who are afraid and ones who like to look at books and yet they can’t read. They can’t write their names. This is for all the children around the globe, every last noisy, coughing, running, laughing, crying, dirty, sassy one of them. I hope they have someone to hug them tonight when they go to bed and I hope they did not see violence today.




If the Child is Safe

We pray for children

who sneak popsicles before supper,

who erase holes in math workbooks,

who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those

who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,

who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers.

who never counted ” potatoes”,

who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,

who never go to the circus,

who live in an x-rated world.

We pray for children

who bring us sticky kisses and fistfulls of dandelions,

who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those

who never get dessert,

who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents die,

who can’t find any bread to steal,

who don’t have any rooms to clean up,

whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,

whose monsters are real.

We pray for children

who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,

who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,

who like ghost stories,

who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse the tub,

who get visits from the tooth fairy,

who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,

who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,

whose tears we sometimes laugh at and

whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for children who want to be carried

and for those who must,

for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

For those we smother…and for those who will grab

the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

—Marian Wright Edelman



This time of year, everyone is looking for presents. Some people just have everything or you don’t know them well enough to be certain to find the right present. A lot of time gets wasted on trying to find the perfect item. Well, I have a suggestion. You can go to and decide how much you want to spend. Your money will be added to others and a flock of chicks, ducks or geese will be sent to a village where there is extreme famine and poverty. You can send a part of a cow or goat. It is your choice. These gifts will help to feed their owners and the animals can breed and everyone is better off. You get a card to send to your friend or relative and the family or village gets what you pick for them. Perhaps, this year because of your kindness, there will be more children who will not go hungry and will be ever so grateful for the kind stranger who helped fill their belly.

Heifer. com is an organization which has been around for seventy years. They provide livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of people who struggle to have reliable sources of food. They are currently working in thirty countries. they now  also give honey bees and the training to raise them, llamas, rabbits, stoves, irrigation systems and other items. Not only food but clothes are bought and children are going to school who couldn’t before. Women are becoming breadwinners. Men are learning how to use modern farming techniques. This organization continues to grow and make a larger impact on the people who so desperately need our assistance so they will be able to help themselves. I invite you to go to Heifer. com and give to them in the name of someone on your list this year.



What we can do for a child of this world



Children around the world playing. We can help them to continue to do so.





The Health of Our Souls

We live in a difficult angry cold world. It is getting more angry and violent each day. There are times when many people wonder what is happening to their souls. Tragedy hits them and they wonder if their souls are scarred. Have they been damaged by what they have just survived or what they survived in their childhood?


No matter what you call God…he/she lives within the inner landscapes of our souls. No matter the trauma that we have endured, God is with us and within us. We face nothing  alone. Even when it feels like we are alone, the truth is that we are not. Divinity resides within us and is our strength. The soul is our amazing inner sanctuary. It is a holy place or a Divine Center, an inner voice we can continually return to for strength and for comfort and succor.


“We do not need to search for Heaven, over here or over there, in order to find our eternal Father. In fact we do not even need to speak out loud, for though speak in the smallest whisper or the most fleeting thought, he/she is close enough to hear us.”


—Teresa of Avila


Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time worn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself.   When we meditate we visit this inner sanctuary.  Sometimes people think that if they haven’t been to church, temple or mosque for awhile, or if they haven’t meditated in months, that they can not touch Divinity. This is just not true. We are never far from God/Goddess. It is within. We do not need to hesitate, just turn within and rest in the Divine presence.


Our souls are not fragile, but like wild animals.  It is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy and self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. Believe in this truth and you will survive also. You can take refuge in the sanctuary of your inner landscape.


“As for God his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.

He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.”


Psalms 18:30


No matter the tragedy you might find in your life,  the wild soul is tough enough to take it and resilient enough to get you through the event.