The Mound: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 48

Bathed by the Tanase River by Beth Thompson

Bathed by the Tanase River by Beth Thompson

Take a moment to listen my reading of William’s Words, wherein he describes a friend in the language of his time, and first lays eyes on the village of Cowee:

We Couldn’t See…

The Grandeur and silent sentinel of Cowee Mound, rising from the valley floor in quiet grassy simplicity, surrounded by the Jore Mountains and bathed by the sweet mountain waters of the Tanase, nourished by a brilliant sun in the sky overhead.

I visited with a group from the Bartram Trail Conference, but even our numbers of 20 or so were swallowed up by the vastness of the land.

We climbed the mound in wonder. We couldn’t see the village, or the people, or possibly even the sacredness of the mound.

Cowee Mound with Jore Mountains in Distance: by Beth Thompson, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Cowee Mound with Jore Mountains in Distance: by Beth Thompson, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The Grinding Stone

Climbing down, looking deep into the woods, we came across a boulder with holes from years of women’s labor grinding corn kernels and acorns into the stone. Suddenly, it seemed real; the village, its people, the sacredness of the mound. People inhabited this land for many, many years, long enough that the production of food and its preparation ground holes into a mighty boulder.

The Grinding Stone by Beth Thompson, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The Grinding Stone by Beth Thompson, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

What Speaks Home to You?

In our western culture, we honor tall towers, missles, long pointy objects reaching into the sky or flying through the sky. In short, we honor the phallus, and the sun. But here was the ancient home of a people who honored mounds, swelling, heaping, birthing mounds built up upon the land. Small wonder that we didn’t see the mound and say “Home”. Mounds, breasts, swollen stomachs, vaginal mounds, they often get shuffled to the dark side, the shadow side of our culture, as does the Earth itself.

In Cowee Vale, and in other locations throughout the Southeast, are remnants of a culture that found the sacred in Mounds, in Earth, in Plants and Animals.  But for our modern Western culture, what we need is evidence of day-to-day labor to really wrap our minds around this ancient village. What we need is holes ground into the stone, evidence of women’s labor to bring food to the table.

That is something we can wrap our minds around. That is something that Speaks Home to our culture.  What speaks home to you?

Here is an image from atop Cowee Mound in the sun, surrounded by protective mountains.

Jore Mountains by Beth Thompson, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Jore Mountains by Beth Thompson, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Here is a Mound in the Sun, in the Light, Out from Beneath the Shadows.

Sun Atop Cowee Mound by Beth Thompson, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Sun Atop Cowee Mound by Beth Thompson, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Here is the image that was the starting point for Cowee Mound Possible Perception:

Atop Cowee Mound by Beth Thompson from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Atop Cowee Mound by Beth Thompson from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Here is a Possible Perception of Cowee Mound in Cowee Vale, part of a brilliant Sky, part of a deep Earth, and all Mystery.

Cowee Vale Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Cowee Vale Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

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Mountains Piled Upon Mountains: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 47

“Not to be exceeded anywhere…”Speaks William Bartram on the Appalachian Mountains. Take a moment to listen….*

Tree with Mountains Piled  from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Tree with Mountains Piled from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Sublimely Awful…

William was traveling outside of Cowee Vale, near Franklin and Highlands North Carolina when he climbed these mountains and saw the sublimely awful sight of mountains piled upon mountains.  As Highlands is only a couple of hours from my home in Athens, GA, I have visited frequently. However, most of my visits have been in the fall, whereas William traveled the mountains in the springtime.

Dry Falls from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Dry Falls from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Dry Falls…

Of the rocky creek bed he crosses, I have no pictures, but I can well imagine. I photographed Dry Falls, so called because it’s possible to walk behind the falls without getting soaked. Cold even in the warmth of summer, I can only imagine how frigid the waters William crossed in early spring must have been.

Stony Narrow Vale from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Stony Narrow Vale from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Stony Vale…

And there is the narrow stony vale he passes through too.

Of the grassy place beside a sweet rivulet I have no pictures. But! Mountains piled upon Mountains, I have plenty.

Mountains Upon Mountails in Fall: From Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Mountains Upon Mountails in Fall: From Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Obscured Scenes…

I climbed one mountain a few years back with my father. As we climbed, cloud cover blew in, but before it obscured the scenes I managed to get some pictures of the mountains piled up in the distance.

This hike also afforded a sublimely awful scene of a cliff of a mountain, hanging some distance below me.

Sublimely Awful Cliff from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Sublimely Awful Cliff from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Tree and Rock…

With the William Bartram Conference, I climbed Scaly Mountain. Along the way we saw a magnificent tree, which had sprouted on top of a rock, and grown down about the rock to the soil beneath.

Tree on a Rock from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Tree on a Rock from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Quartz on the Beach…

We stopped and talked about the book at the top of the mountain, and the mountains piled upon each other. We discussed how the shiny white beaches of the Gulf Shore owe their whiteness to the quartz washed down the ocean from the very mountains we stood upon.

Scaly Mountain View from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Scaly Mountain View from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

I mentioned the carbon cycle, and the importance of rock bacteria to maintaining the earth’s temperature in a range that can support life. By trapping carbon more and more as the earth heats up, they remove it from the atmosphere, and as the earth cools, so does the activity of the bacteria. This was presented in the Book the Web of Life on Systems Theory, which is a theory that informs my Possible Perceptions. I expand on the link between Systems Theory and Possible Perceptions in my Artist’s Statement on Possible Perceptions.

Here is the view from the top of Scaly Mountain, one of the possible routes William may have chosen through the Appalachians.

Mountains Piled from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Mountains Piled from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

And here is the Possible Perception of that view.

Possible Perception 6079: Piles of Mountains by Beth Thompson

Possible Perception 6079: Piles of Mountains by Beth Thompson


*Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

 

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Dishwasher Catharsis: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 46

Take a moment to Listen to William’s Words on Irises*:

Iris against the Water from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Iris against the Water from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

A Purging…

A cathartic in medicine is a drug that purges the bowels. Who knew that the lovely iris, grown mostly now for its decorative beauty, possess a root that causes the purging of the bowels?

It’s ironic that I am writing this piece about cathartic irises, because catharsis in other meanings means the release of that which is pent up. Apparently the bowels of my dishwasher were pent up, for they purged themselves beneath my beautiful new floor, destroying the kitchen, foyer, and part of the living room floors, 18 inches of the living room walls, and cabinets.

Dishwasher Damage and Dehumidifiers by Beth Thompson

Dishwasher Damage and Dehumidifiers by Beth Thompson

I have had to relocate my computer so that I could work, due to the poor air quality and the relentless noise of the industrial strength fans and dehumidifier working to dry everything out.

Before…

Catharsis has upended my household, much as I expect the illness that William Bartram described upended the day-to-day routines of the village. But for one thing I am grateful, and that is my hope that when we put everything back together, it will be better than it was before.

My Original Kitchen by Beth Thompson

My Original Kitchen by Beth Thompson

My Kitchen Before the Flood by Beth Thompson

My Kitchen Before the Flood by Beth Thompson

A Possible Perception with Yellow…

In my travels to Augusta, Georgia Rick and I found these irises growing by a pond, much like William Bartram described. I guess that cathartic root likes to have its feet wet, unlike myself, especially when I’m in my kitchen, I would prefer my feet to be dry.

The yellow of their blossoms drew me near, as a dear friend has been after me to create a Possible Perception with yellow. Like the modern uses of the iris, this Possible Perception is formal and decorative. It reminds me of a Moroccan Tile piece when viewed small. Below is the photograph I started from:

Iris Close Up from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Iris Close Up from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Wreck This!

During this whole process, which I am calling the Impromptu Kitchen Remodeling Process, I have been thinking about a book by Keri Smith, Wreck This Journal. In it, her premise is that in order to create, one has to destroy. Luckily, I didn’t have to destroy the irises to photograph them. But I did destroy the photograph, slicing a triangular piece out of it, to use as a building block in the creation of Irises Possible Perception.

Iris Possible Perception Building Block by Beth Thompson

Iris Possible Perception Building Block by Beth Thompson

To Destroy is to Create:

Likewise, in order to obtain a more functional kitchen, as in a floor less vulnerable to water, new cabinets and counter top, a working dishwasher, and the like, I have had to undergo destruction of the kitchen as it was, in order to create the kitchen it will be.

A Peek at What the Kitchen Will Be by Beth Thompson

A Peek at What the Kitchen Will Be by Beth Thompson

To destroy is to create. Much like the God Thor, with his hammer, who can use his hammer for building anew, or destruction of the old, to make way for the new. Ironically, Thor is the name of my contractor, and I have witnessed both the destruction of my kitchen followed by its renewal via the Hammer of Thor.

I give you Irises Possible Perception:

Iris Moroccan Tile Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Iris Moroccan Tile Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

*Opening Stanza from the song “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

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The Piscene Rainforest: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 45

Take a Moment to Listen to William Bartram’s Travels regarding the Broad and Oconee River:

*

Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee…

Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee comprise a Piscine Rainforest of sorts, wherein the diversity of terrain, from mountains, to hills, to plains, to coast, and the continual warmth of the waters have contrived to provide habitat for a diversity of fish that rivals the diversity of trees in the rainforests of the Amazon.

Turquoise Darters…

The deep slow moving waters of the Oconee by the Botanical Gardens in Athens Georgia contrasted with the rapids and shoals of the Broad allow for very different habitats for very different types of fish. Here is possibly the best picture I have of a Turquoise Darter, captured for a photograph out of a creek in Georgia. I took pictures of the fish for my Senior Portfolio in college, and the Turquoise Darter was the first fish I caught.

 

Turquoise Darter from Georgia Creek in Madison County.

Turquoise Darter from Georgia Creek in Madison County.

The Seasons of the River…

The seasons on the river are amazing. In my years of hiking the Botanical Gardens I have managed to capture the Oconee River in all the different Seasons.

November, the leaves have changed colors, but have yet to fall from the trees, and the brilliant blue skies overhead are reflected on the water.

Oconee at Botanical Gardens, November. From Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee at Botanical Gardens, November. From Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

A Possible Perception

of the Oconee in November…

Oconee in November Possible Perception, built from the image above it.

Oconee in November Possible Perception, built from the image above it.

February, with no leaves on the trees at all, and the chill of the air is reflected in the water’s surface.

Oconee in February, Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee in February, Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

 

April, where everything is beginning to bud and blossom, and this giant poplar on the river’s edge hangs over a river run red and muddy from all the spring’s rains.

Oconee in April, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Oconee in April, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Finally, May, the river is still full and muddy-red from the rain, but the trees have grown lush and green, hanging over the waters, with a deep promise of summer.

Oconee in May, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Oconee in May, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The Broad River, so called from it lying flat and wide in the land as you can see from the picture below, I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring through the seasons. However, I have had the pleasure of Kayaking down the river, my camera tied to the kayak bow in a dry-bag.

Broad, Flat and Wide, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Broad, Flat and Wide, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

While I didn’t capture any pyramidal hills of crawfish homes, or golden fish flying like lightening from the crawfish, I did capture the sunbeams dancing on the rushing water like miniature bolts of lightening.

Sun Dance on Broad River. from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Sun Dance on Broad River. from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

The rapids were at once fun and scary to run in the kayak. Below is a picture of one rapid, the sky reflected blue off the not-quite-transparent waters.

Broad River Rapids from Beth's Travels on the Bertram Trail

Broad River Rapids from Beth’s Travels on the Bertram Trail

And from that image, a Possible Perception of the Broad, below.

Possible Perception of the Broad River, from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Possible Perception of the Broad River, from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

*Opening Stanza of Reading from song “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare. 

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The Journey to Augusta: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 44

Take a moment to listen to Bartram’s description of his Journey to Augusta:

*

Love Locks on the Savannah River

Love Locks on the Savannah River

A Massive Lake with Rain Predicted…

Rick and I set off for a weekend in Augusta, with rain predicted. We took his camper and found a beautiful campsite right on a massive lake, about 40 minutes outside of Augusta at Mistletoe State Park.  The first day we spent setting up camp and cooking dinner.

ThompsonStormyLake_0334

Rain on the Lake

Cataracts Ahead!

Saturday morning we took off for the Savannah Cataracts Park in North Augusta. To my dismay, things had changed a bit since Bartram wrote about the 4 to 5 foot falls. A dam was in place at the head of the cataracts, and between the mainland and the river there was a canal, so the river’s edge was actually along an island.

Crossing over at the head of the canal, Rick and I saw a sign that he and I at least were on the right track, a series of locks about a metal fence with lover’s names scratched into them. We didn’t have a lock of our own to leave, but having each other, I didn’t feel we needed to leave one.

ThompsonCataracts0016

Savannah River Cataracts

Occasional Break in the Brush…

With the rain threatening, we took a slow stroll down the island, between the river and the canal, slow because I kept stopping to take pictures. Often the riverside was steep and covered with trees and impenetrable vines and brush, completely obscuring the river and its cataracts. Every now and then there would be a break in the brush, and I would clamor down in my inappropriate shoes to get a shot of the river.

ThompsonOverhangingTree0147

Tree Overhanging the Savannah

It was on one of these visits that Rick found the Appleseed bugs, a favorite insect of mine since childhood. Playing in the creeks of Greene County on my father’s farm in Penfield, I would capture these shiny black creatures, so resembling apple seeds, and shake them up in my hands, to be rewarded with the sweet scent of apples. Rick discovered a whole family reunion of Appleseed bugs, swarming in still water close to the bank. I photographed them at relative rest, and then had Rick jump on a floating dock, which shook the anchor chain right beside the Appleseed bugs, and then photographed them moving in high gear.

ThompsonAppleseedBugs0063

The Scent of Apples….

ThompsonAppleseedBugsinMotion0073

Appleseed Bugs in High Gear

Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

I took the following picture on another treacherous descent to the river, with the spring leaves just out on this young tree, and the ripples in the water caused by the famous cataracts of the Savannah. Working with the image I created a Possible Perception from it, Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception.

ThompsonSavannahCataracts0103

The Photograph

 

Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

Savannah Cataracts Possible Perception

The Metropolis Of Georgia!

But what about Augusta? The very metropolis of Georgia itself? The afternoon brought us to the city, and it brought the rain. We took a wet walk along the South Carolina side of the city, finding a wetland pond, and then driving to get closer to the river. It was here, on the South Carolina side, that I could really see this fine, navigable river, the one capable of supporting ships up to thirty tons. However, no ships were in sight, only pleasure boat docks, all the people being safe and dry indoors on this rainy Saturday. The riverside was quiet and peaceful in the rain, and the water silky in my camera lens, peppered with raindrops.

ThompsonSavannahDeepandWide_0244

Deep and Wide, Peppered with Raindrops

The River Walk

Crossing back over, Rick and I had an early dinner and then climbed down the river walk in Augusta proper. From the top I was able to see the skyline of Augusta, this Georgia Metropolis, and photograph it. Cars are now the main mode of transportation in Augusta, the river lay silent and still in the soft rain.

ThompsonRiverWalk0262

River Walk

Below is the Possible Perception of Bartram’s Metropolis of Georgia, his prophecy from long before the crossing of railroads in Atlanta was conceived.

The Photograph

The Photograph

Possible Perception of the Metropolis of Georgia

Possible Perception of the Metropolis of Georgia

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