Late summer has slid into early autumn. The end of summer officially arrived with the autumnal equinox of Sept. 23, when the sun crosses the celestial equator.
One senses this transition in the cool mist-shrouded mornings we’ve been experiencing of late … as well as by the brown-splotched and red-tinged leaves of the buckeye trees. Communal groups of swallows will gather on wires and branches prior to their annual southerly migration. Monarch and cloudless sulphur butterflies will pass with ease over high ridges and through low gaps headed for ancestral wintering grounds.
In the June 14, 2004, issue of The New Yorker magazine, there was an essay titled “Blocked! Why Do Writers Stop Writing?” Therein one of the Romantic poets, Coleridge, was cited as a prime example of a writer who suffered from that peculiar malady known as writer’s block:
Steam and water-powered sawmills were established here in the Smokies region during the 1870s and 1880s. But full-fledged industrialized logging didn't commence until after the construction of the major railroads was finalized in the 1890s. This opened the region for profitable use by big time interests like Champion Fiber Company, Ritter Lumber Company, and others. These companies hired local men by the hundreds to fell, move and process timber.
[Before moving on to the primary subject of this column (yard gardens), I’d like to share some impressions with you of the eclipse, which (as I’m writing this) took place yesterday. For several weeks before the celestial event (as I grew weary of all the commercial hoopla), I shifted into my “Bah-humbug” mode. When asked where I was going to watch it from, I’d roll my eyes and announce: “My bedroom … it’ll be a good time to take a nice nap.”
For the ancient Cherokees and other southeastern Indian tribes, the greatest causes of illness were the spirits of vengeful animals. They were so angered at the killing of their brethren by hunters they convened a great council and devised human illnesses as payback.
Trying to answer that question, the first source I resorted to was, of course, the Oxford English Dictionary. Therein I encountered the following clues, none of which seem unlikely:
Those who read this column regularly are aware of my interest in the early descriptive literature of Western North Carolina. Whenever possible, I like to collect copies — first editions or reprints — of these often rare books. And I like to share some of the descriptions via this column from time to time.
How many naturalized plants do you recognize from your vehicle this time of year as you drive around taking care of business? My guess is that it’s more than you might anticipate. By “naturalized,” I mean those that were deliberately introduced as medicinals, edibles, ornamentals, etc., but have “escaped” from cultivated situations and become part of our regional or national flora. Some of these — like kudzu, privet, multiflora rose, etc. — are so invasive we’d just as soon they went on back to where they came from.
I bless my lucky stars that I’m a columnist assigned the pleasant task of writing about this region’s natural and human history. At a time when the constitutional underpinnings of this nation are eroding at an alarming rate due to the irrational and possibly treasonous shenanigans of a political nimcapoop, I get to consider the burning question: “Are ‘possums finally catching on?”
Systems of mature trees and shrubs are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks, and protrusions in the form of bracket fungi.