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