Tag Archives: Appalachia

“To Summer” by William Blake

Claude Monet: Green Garden

Claude Monet: Green Garden

O thou who passest thro’ our valleys in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitched’st here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.

Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o’er the deep of heaven; beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy valleys, on
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.

Our bards are fam’d who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.

Sometimes, you read a poem and it just speaks directly to your soul. I experienced that feeling today when I read this poem. I live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and this poem captures the feeling I get when I sit outside under my large oak tree, or go for a hike along a mountain trail and rest beside a stream, smelling the rich moss and decomposing leaves that fell to the earth the previous autumn. As I read Blake’s words, I could feel the humid warmth that is a part of my summer.

This poem also stirred memories of my childhood summers. There was an excitement associated with summer that is difficult to express in words. The sensation of running barefoot through the grass, of climbing trees, lush with green foliage, of lying about, lazy, basking in the long days. I sometimes forget how much I loved summer as a child.

There is a sense of abundance in this poem, as well as celebration and inspiration. The third stanza makes me want to invite all my friends over to cook out in the backyard, then take out our instruments and play music until long after the sun sets.

I hope you found this poem as inspiring as I did, and may you enjoy your summer.

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“Staubs and Ditchwater” by H. Byron Ballard

StaubsDitchwaterI love it when I can read a short book and after I am done, feel like I got a lot out of it, as opposed to plodding through 700 pages and thinking that the writer could have covered the topic in less time and saved some trees. Anyway, Staubs and Ditchwater is one of those short books that I feel is both interesting and packed with great information.

The book is an introduction to Appalachian folk magic, or as Ms. Ballard calls it, Hillfolks’ Hoodoo. It is a combination of instructions and essays, the essays serving as a sort of memoir to provide background on how she learned the traditional folk practices.

What I found to be the most fascinating aspect of this book is that it provides insight into a way of life that is rapidly vanishing in our increasingly homogenized world. Ballard grew up in a place where people had a strong connection to the environment around them. It was also still a time when ideas and traditions were passed down from generation to generation. This world is nearly extinct. Culture is now dished out through the 300+ cable channels that constantly bombard you with propaganda telling you how you should live, what you should eat, what you should wear, and so forth. It truly seems that the days of your grandmother teaching you homeopathic remedies are gone.

This book is very practical and the recipes (or as she calls them receipts) are simple enough that anyone could try them. Personally, I am eager to try a few out myself, and since I live in southern Appalachia, I have the added benefit of being able to draw upon the energy of the environment around me.

Whether you are interested in folk traditions or not, this book is worth a read. If nothing else, it provides an excellent first-hand account of a way of life that is unique to the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

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