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Notes from “Appalachia- A History of Mountains and People”

April 22nd, 2009 by NC BTS

Notes From Newsletter Editor, Ina Warren:

I am simply thrilled at the four and a half minute William Bartram segment in “Appalachia- A History of Mountains and People” (Part 2: New Green World).

APPALACHIA A History of Mountains and PeopleDuring the film’s narrations, a visual feast is provided with these beauties: scenes of mountains piled upon mountains at Wayah Bald; wooded areas, an opening dogwood bud, redbud blossoms, cherry blossoms, a terrapin peeking out at the world, Trillium erectum, star chickweed, birch blossoms, toad shade trillium bud, waterfalls, black bear, rushing streams, a meadow of hawkweed, a snake, tall trees, white magnolia blossom, purple rhododendron, red rhododendron and flame azalea; waterfalls, dutchman’s breeches, fire pink, phlox, great white trillium, bellwort and an insect nectaring on a yarrow blossom. Sounds of nature were sprinkled throughout the segment – water flowing over rocks, rain falling in the forest and bird song. Bartram’s portrait was also shown.

Three interviews were included about Bartram: authors Chris Bolgiano and Barbara Kingsolver and Freeman Owle, traditional Cherokee storyteller. The series narration is by Academy Award Winner Sissy Spacek and also features interviews with Dr. E. O. Wilson. The film series is by Jamie Ross and Ross Spears. (By the way, Jamie Ross will be a presenter in the Zahner Conservation Lecture Series this summer at the Highlands Biological Station. Check http://www.wcu.edu/hbs/ for date)

Although not in the Bartram segment, but in other parts of this series, are Bartram enthusiasts that have presented for past meetings of the NC Bartram Trail Society. These include the late Dr. Bob Zahner, Dr. Charles Hudson, the late Wilma Dykeman as well as Freeman Owle.

I recorded the segment on DVD and here’s the transcript of the narration:

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Sissy Spacek: Other European travelers such as the ardent naturalist William Bartram of Philadelphia came to the backwoods for different purposes. Son of John Bartram, the king’s own botanist, young William rode and walked along Indian paths through the mountains of Georgia and the Carolinas in 1773 and wherever his eye fell, he discovered and recorded the grandeur of creation.

WB narrator: “Again mounting my horse, I followed the Cherokee trading path a quarter of a mile and then gently ascended the green beds of the hills and entered the forests. I approached the Tanase River at the fording place which was greatly swollen by the rain that fell the day before and ran with foaming rapidity. I was obliged to swim the deepest channel of it and safely landed on the banks of a fine meadow where I immediately spread abroad my linen, my books and my specimens of plants to dry.

After riding two miles through well cultivated Indian plantations of corn and beans, we mounted steep ascents, like steps one above another. The air felt cool and there we beheld the celebrated beauties of the hills: glorious Magnolia, blushing Rhododendron and Fiery Azalea flaming on the hills, the color of the finest red lead. The clusters of blossoms in such incredible profusion that we were alarmed with apprehensions of the hill on fire. At length I rested on the most elevated peak, from whence I beheld with rapture and astonishment, a scene of power and magnificence: a world of mountains piled upon mountains.”

Chris Bolgiano: “Of course, William Bartram was this great explorer-botanist, this great curiosity and this great appreciation for what he found which at the time was relatively novel. He
he was very enthusiastic and loved basically everything he saw. He found great beauty in it, he remarked on the great diversity, he liked the Cherokees.
If you read other accounts of the times, it tends to be all conquest, and clearing land and progress of civilization. And his appreciation of simply the way things were naturally is
very refreshing and heartening.”

Sissy Spacek: “What William Bartram and the naturalists that followed him discovered was simply the birthplace of North American vegetation, the most wondrous collection of plant life on the continent. More than 3000 seed bearing plants; 130 species of trees; nearly 1000 varieties of flowers.”

Barbara Kingsolver: “I had a botany professor who used to say that it takes a superior mind to appreciate a plant because they do everything animals do – but they just do it is so slowly.”

Freeman Owle: “Many people say that Bartram came to this region to name the plants of the Appalachians. The Cherokee people say he came to rename them- they already had names. So its all in the perspective in which you look at things.”

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To learn more about the series, to purchase the DVDs or the CD of the series’ music, access: http://appalachiafilm.org/

Ina Warren.
NC BTS Newsletter Editor

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