The Poet and the Power of the Land," by Laurence Holden
"The land is like poetry: it is inexplicably coherent,
it is transcendent in its meaning, and it has the power
to elevate a consideration of human life."
- Barry Lopez, Artctic Dreams (1986) p.274
People have doubtless been walking up to the top of mountains for a declaration, a message, or a witness to be be made or acknowledged, forever. Some rituals are so ingrained, we don't even have to know that's what we're doing. So our merry band walked up Rabun Bald, thinking we were doing it just in mutual celebration of such a pleasant day, of the mountain itself, and of our fellowship. (At least us mlountain folk walked; the flatlanders among us thought perhaps it was a hike).
At the top we emerged from a laurel thicket onto a windswept precipice. A real mountain top for sure - the thick roiling cloud cover a low ceiling just above our heads. But a real precipice too, for not only is Rabun Bald a mountain, it is also a weather-scoured ridge that is the Eastern Continental Divide.
It is a great and certain divide indeed, for as we topped the ridge, the mountain suddenly fell away from us down into the steep roadless area of Sarah's Creek. Not a road, not a cldear cut to be seen. Rugged country for real - a place you wouldn't enter without a real back-up plan. A place you hear stories about the "back of beyond." A place for stories.
I'm still preparing my back-up plan for a sojourn there, a trip I know I may never actually make. But it's there. It's actually there. Enough for countless generations of stories. Stories to keep, to tell, andto pass down. That's the way we keep what's sacred in the land, keep it all alive, and us as well - alive to its miraculous presence. As author Christopher Camuto puts it in Another Country: Journeying Toward the Cherokee Mountains, "in a landscape where nothing is sacred, nothing is safe."
We saw it from atop Rabun Bald. I know it's there, there in all its roadless fullness just as I know the waters of Sarah's Creek way down below in a gentle cove where I've gently touched my open hand to its surface, and felt the tremble and the thrum of it all above - all the way up to Rabun Bald.
We sat a while on the top, inveterate celebrator Brooks Franklin passed around his morning's harvest of cherry tomatoes, each exploding in our mouths like bountiful bursts of ripe sunlight. Jill and I each prepared to give our talks, but once there, as we looked about at the grandeur at the summit, I knew my words could not match the experience of being there. But we both did, but each with more than a little humbleness in our voices. Surely we are sewn out of the wonder of the world!