Books and Other Writings

Many have seen it, but few people know it well. Now come visit the Grandfather Mountain in its complete history and full stature as one of the world’s great mountains. Grandfather Mountain: A Profile travels back to the origins of this living entity, then traces its unique development—geological, meteorological, natural, prehistoric, and modern humans—to the present day, where it still stands alone as the grand patriarch of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stewart Skeate says in the foreword, “The beauty of this book is that it tells the whole story of the mountain, from rocks to salamanders to Daniel Boone and beyond. The author shows us that we cannot ignore the human impact on the mountain any more than we can ignore its rich biodiversity . . . that the key to preserving Grandfather’s future lies in understanding its past. That Grandfather Mountain is the heart of this part of the Appalachians we call home, and that its future is our future.”

Copies of this book, either sealed new or signed by the author, are available EXCLUSIVELY FROM THE AUTHOR online or by mail/telephone order at the original asking price of $14.95.  

- Coming soon -

Homage to Appalachia

Stories from the Southern Mountains

Introduction

Bad drivers don’t stand out in Asheville, North Carolina, but this one did.

 

Stuttering through downtown, the compact car darted incoherently through an unfamiliar maze of streets, looking in vain for a sign, divine or otherwise, for the university.

The license plate, New York, told the tale; lost tourist.

One particularly ill-advised move sent a pickup truck onto the sidewalk; the car continued making its turn and the driver’s peak into his mirror revealed the truck yanking itself back onto the road and following.

In town for the environmental conference at University of North Carolina in Asheville, the group in the compact had driven down from the northern Adirondacks, where they watched carefully for rattlesnakes in mailboxes and other indications that such inveterate tree-huggers were almost wholly unwelcome in a conservative rural area.

The compact blazed messages on its bumpers; for wolves, wilderness, and wicca.

And here they were for the first time in the mountain South, darkest Appalachia, not seeking Deliverance, but thinking they were seeing it for real in their rear-view mirror; black beard, baseball cap, gun rack, jacked up pickup truck.

He was following and he was closing; familiar territory for the fox; nowhere to run for the rabbit. 

Finally trapped at a stop sign on a narrow side street, the traumatized enviros watched the unthinkable unfold out of the pickup and approach the driver’s side.

He is, of course, large – LARGE – and he knocks on the now closed window – it is summer – then knocks again. And again; until the driver sees no other option but to wind the window down a crack and take his licking; maybe with luck only a verbal one.

The man leans in.

“Y’all lost?”

- Coming soon -

The Accidental Episcopalian

Saints of the Stained Glass Forest/Excerpt

We leave our house and enter the pine forest that surrounds it, walking two dogs.

Only two now; after weeks of illness, our elder and proud Shih Tzu Zyzzy had to be put down earlier in the day.

So the forest on this evening is suffused with sadness.

But also with light.

The setting sun, brushed with cloud, emits a soft radiance, breaking up in Chiaroscuro as it wends its way through the trees.

Reminding us of the rays cast by the artfully placed high windows cast over our favorite pew at the Church of the Holy Communion; sorely missed and more than 300 miles away.

So we worship here.

We pass by the statue of St. Francis we have placed at the trail head, and as he is dappled in sun and shade on his bed of soft needles, we ponder, not for the first time, if everything here might represent a resurrected spirit.

In actual fact, yes.

Large stands of pine like this – covering a knoll at 4,000 ft. in a bend of the New River - are relatively rare in this neck of the Southern Appalachian woods.

But those that do exist reveal in no uncertain terms the contradictory, even bi-polar, relationship between humans and our fellow sentient beings, indeed our shared Nest on Earth.

Beginning in the late 1800’s, clear cut logging in these mountains hit and sustained a frenzied pace all the way up to 1940, when you could stand on almost any peak and see nothing but ravaged landscape.

In only half a century the greatest and most bio-diverse temperate forest on earth, representing millions of years of creation and evolution, had been essentially destroyed.

In the summer of 1940 Nature responded in like fury, bringing torrential summer rains down on slopes with no roots to hold the waters, and entire mountainsides cascaded and collapsed, wiping out homes, businesses, and entire communities.

And the railroad that had spurred the logging.

As the loggers left, a very different group arrived.   

WPA camps set up by President Roosevelt to provide jobs during the Great Depression had been established years before, and now hundreds of men toiled up the steep slopes not with axes, but with seeds.

The fast-growing Eastern and Pitch pines did just that, and as the trees regenerated, so did fern and moss and flowering herb. The herbs begat herbivores; turkey, grouse and raven; deer, groundhog, and bear.

Nature had again responded in kind; this time bearing what could be considered forgiveness, and resurrection.

Seventy five years after the sowing, a healthy mature forest greets us out our door, bearing no visible scars from what should have been fatal wounds.

 

Virtually all flora native to this place has medicinal or healing properties, from their bark, roots, seeds, leaves, sap, nuts, fruit, berries, flowers.

Poet Wendell Berry says that all places are sacred, just that some have been desecrated.

More than just ‘some’, one could say.

But what to make of a place that has reclaimed its physical and spiritual self after seeming to have lost both body and soul alike?

A place fit for a Saint perhaps; a saintly place?

Fit for St. Francis, we have no doubt.

 

And for Zyzzy.  We had carried our sick little dog outside on his last day, so that he could sniff the air as he liked, and know his spirit would have a home here as well.

 

Did St. Francis believe that animals had souls?

Did he know?

Why, on his deathbed, did he request a psalm that described a being - an animal? - on the run from those “who had hidden a snare for me?”

 

Like restless spirits, writers return to origins, i.e. definitions, even if what they are trying to describe is indefinable.

Like many of us, I would think to know what a Saint is, yet if pressed, don’t really at all.

A near-perfect human?

Someone who has done that much more good than not?

Maker of two miracles?

So… what is a miracle?

What isn’t a miracle?

 

What of an animal, or a refuge that offers nothing but comfort, peace, beauty and mystery?

John Muir, father of American conservation, described these places, simply, as cathedrals.

 

We will ponder all this as we grieve, turning to our stained glass windows – in the church and in the woods - to shed light on the matter, and hope for the blessings of our resident Saint – all our Saints - to help guide us.

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© copyright Miles Tager                                                                                                    Contact at 1-828-434-0409 and via email at milestager@gmail.com.