Bee, Spider, Lizard, Hibiscus: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 50

Year 2011.  I sat on the wooden floor of a friend’s 5 Points Loft apartment in Athens GA. In my hands was a copy of William Bartram’s Travels, just checked out from the library. Did I want to do a blog series with this book, this man, as my muse and guide? Or was it just a passing fancy, an idea to be played with then put away as too expensive, to time consuming, too risky, too much? Then I read aloud to my two friends the following passage from the Introduction:

*

Bee & Wisteria by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Bee & Wisteria by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Intense…

“Whoa Dude! That was really intense!” my friend exclaimed. Nodding, the other friend and she went back to packing, moving, focusing on the tasks of the day before them. I went home with Bartram’s words singing in my head and talking to my heart, and had a powerful dream. I was standing before a giant hibiscus flower, larger than life, larger than me, and it beckoned me to enter.

Hibiscus Flowers by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Hibiscus Flowers by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Except….

When I woke up, the project no longer seemed too much. It was real, and one of the blog posts would be about that plant growing on the beach, that bee, that spider, and the future repast of a lizard yet to materialize. All I really needed was to go to Jekyll Island when the spiders are mating, August, and capture it all with my camera. Right?
Except, when I went to Jekyll, while my grandfather was still living, I photographed the Sea Turtle Rescue Center and never even visited the beach in search of bee-hunting spiders. It was cool and very windy. When I returned to Jekyll last year, I focused on the driftwood.

Jekyll Island Driftwood, by Beth Thompson

Jekyll Island Driftwood, by Beth Thompson

Except, when I finally did get a close up of a spider, it was on my trip to the Birds of Prey Center to photograph Sky Kings, vultures, for Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail, not spiders.

Spider by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Spider by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Except, when I got close to a bee, it was at the Georgia State Botanical Gardens in Athens GA, with no beach or spider anywhere in the image, and it certainly wasn’t feeding on a native plant. Although, according to Bartram, honeybees are a European import to the New World as well as wisteria; which originated in Japan.

Bee by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Bee by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

And finally, when I photographed a lizard, it was on a lovely vacation with my new fiancé, in a most unnatural environment atop a butterfly house in Brookgreen Gardens. And the last thing on my mind was taking pictures for Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail.

Lizard by Beth Thompson

Lizard by Beth Thompson

As for the Giant Hibiscus? Those don’t really exist—or do they?

The Gian Hibiscus by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

The Giant Hibiscus by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

The End of a Journey….

So now I am coming to the end of a journey, a journey begun with a library book written by a century’s long dead person and a dream about walking out of this world and into another through a Giant Hibiscus Flower.  While there may or may not have been any hibiscus involved, my life has changed as I navigated my inner and outer worlds with William Bartram as a muse.
I have experienced loss, which wove its way into the blog with my grandfather’s passing. I have experienced love and am still learning about commitment with my fiancé. I have found my voice in my writing and developed an extensive body of work called Possible Perceptions. I have been blessed with a family that has journeyed with me on the Bartram Trail.  I have learned that when I take the time to slow down, whether its by taking a tripod and shooting slowly in the forest moving from tree to tree, or by spending a day journaling and walking and connecting with loved ones rather than work, I create better, live my life better, connect with others better. That is to say, when I take the time to slow down, I am better. I have learned that when I think I have nothing to say, and I sit down to write anyway, I always fill up the page.

Here is that Spider from the Birds of Prey Center in South Carolina hunting the Bee on the wisteria at The Botanical Gardens in Athens, GA.

Bee and Spider by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Bee and Spider by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

And here is Bee and Spider Possible Perception.

Bee and Spider Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Bee and Spider Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

“Beth’s Journey on the Bartram Trail” will continue to post 52, which will be released in conjunction with my October 2015 Show at the Botanical Gardens, an exhibition titled “Travels on the William Bartram Trail: Beth Thompson’s Possible Perceptions.”

*Opening Stanza of reading from”The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

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Franklinia Altamaha and the Paw Paw: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 49

William Bartram’s Seed Gathering Excursion

It is only thanks to William Bartram, and his Father, John Bartram, that the Franklinia Altamaha, or Franklin Tree, survives. John Bartram discovered a grove of it growing on the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia, and sent his son to gather the seeds.  Take a moment to listen to my reading of William’s Seed Gathering Excursion:

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ThompsonFrankliniaLeaves0129

Franklinia Altamaha Leaves by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

 

A Thriving Business…

John Bartram had a thriving business, selling exotic seeds, cuttings, and roots to a leisure class in Great Britain, who were competing with one another to see who could grow the most exotic plants. Hence the seeds of the Franklinia were saved and propagated, and hence too poison ivy made its way to England.  Meanwhile the tree itself went extinct in the wild, and can no longer be found on the banks of the Altamaha in Georgia.

Franklinia Leaves Against the Sky by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Franklinia Leaves Against the Sky by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

The Clash of Agriculture…

The seeds, I came to understand from Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia, are notoriously difficult to germinate. Which may explain why the tree went extinct in Georgia. Also, although the Europeans didn’t recognize it as agriculture they know, the Native American People may have had much to do with the grove growing along the Altamaha.They practiced a forest agriculture, nurturing the trees and their companion plants and animals to present the bounty of Nature. (As reported in Lecture: “A Cherokee Looks at William Bartram,” by Tom Belt, Elder-in Residence, Cherokee Language Instructor at Western Carolina University) This Bounty Europeans quickly exploited in favor of their own form of agriculture, sometimes with obviously disastrous consequences.

Providence Canyon Pine by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Providence Canyon Pine by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Erosion from European Agriculture…

This can easily be seen at Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon, on the western border of the state, where over farming caused the land to erode dramatically in the 1800’s, within 100 years of Bartram’s exploration of the western portion of Georgia.  Sadly, unwittingly, William Bartram may have opened up the western portion of Georgia to exploitation through his explorations.
So it took a journey to Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia to photograph the Franklinia Altamaha. It was spring when we arrived, and the Franklin Tree was not in bloom. However, I got this amazing photograph of its leaves against a changing sky; the clouds moving in contrasting to the deep blue of the sky to look like a mountain in the distance.

Franklinia Altamaha Tree by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels  on the Bartram Trail

Franklinia Altamaha Tree by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Below is a Possible Perception of the Franklinia Altamaha taken from the image above. It is from the picture above, with the blue of the sky forming a pentagram, and the white of the sky defining it, and the fresh new leaves forming a lacey covering.

Franklinia Altamaha Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Franklinia Altamaha Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Paw Paw

Like William, a short distance away from the Franklin Tree we found the Paw Paw Tree which was in bloom. Its blossoms are red to red-brown, and it is fertilized not by bees but by flies.

Ogeechee Lime Blossom by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Paw Paw Blossom by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

The Paw Paw Blossom Image became the Paw Paw Possible Perception Below:

Ogeechee Lime Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Paw Paw Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

While I have many photos of blossoming trees from following Bartram all over the Southeast and up to his home in Philly, I have yet to encounter Nyssa ogeche, or the Ogeechee Lime Tree. However, I had to discover this fact by first mistakenly confusing the Ogeechee Lime and Paw Paw Tree both in my blog and in an exhibition. Then I dug through my files for a looked over photo of the Ogeechee Lime Tree, which I did not find.

My deepest apologies for any confusion I may have inadvertently caused online as to the blossoms of the 2 trees. For myself, I will take to heart my suspicion that there is more than 52 blog posts to my journeys on the Bartram Trail, and more to be revealed.

*Opening stanza of recording from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare

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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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