Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Year of Waterfalls - 2

So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in Autumn.

-From Walking, by Henry David Thoreau

September 23
Warden's Falls

All things being equal, I favor accessing Panthertown Valley from the east. But from Cullowhee, it is a considerably longer drive. And really, anyway into Panthertown is the right way. The monarch butterflies were making their annual migration on the day I found Warden's Falls. They were pausing at Duke's powerline right-of-way that runs through the valley.

October 3
Greenland Creek Falls

I wanted to revisit this one at a later date to capture a bit more autumn color, but it will have to wait until next year.

October 14
Skinny Dip Falls
As many times as I have passed the Looking Glass Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the past 30 years, it was only this fall that I followed the short trail (across the BRP) to Skinny Dip Falls, a nice spot on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

October 24
Chasteen Creek Cascade

This is a view looking downstream from the top of Chasteen Creek Cascades in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail begins at the Smokemount Campground and is as nice a walk as you'll find anywhere.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Knowledge of Places

Knowledge of places is closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one's position in the larger scheme of things, including one's own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is a person.
-Keith H. Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places

In Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney discusses the etymology of "Chattooga." Under his listing for "Tsatugi" [the name commonly written Chattooga or Chatuga] Mooney offered possible Cherokee derivations:

From words signifying respectively "he drank by sips," from gatugia…or "he has crossed the stream and come out on upon the other side," from gatugi.

But according to Mooney, Tsatugi was a name of foreign origin, specifically from the Creeks who laid claim to at least a portion of the Chattooga River during the first half of the eighteenth century. More often than not, the Cherokees contested the claims of the Creeks in North Georgia and Western North Carolina:

The ordinary condition between the two tribes was one of hostility, with occasional intervals of good will.

Mooney listed several place names reflecting the former presence of Creeks, as indicated by the origins of their names, among them Coweeta, Tomatola, Coosa, and Chattooga.

According to Jack B. Martin, writing in Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast, Creek is one of the Muskogean languages (including Chickasaw-Choctaw, Alabama-Koasati, Apalachee and Hitchiti-Mikasuki and Creek) - the largest language family in the Southeast during the historic period (and spoken primarily in Georgia and Alabama). In 2000, there were three main dialects of Creek, used in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Florida, respectively, with a total of about 4000 speakers at that time.

[Photos from Chattooga River at Bullpen]

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jeopardy - 2

Languages evolve over the course of centuries to meet the needs of their speakers and to convey the thoughts these speakers choose to express. Each language shows us a unique way of understanding experience; the loss of a language means the loss of all that could be learned through the study of that language about human values, oral literature and tradition, history, and human thought.
-Dr. Lyle Campbell, University of Canterbury

Yesterday, I posted a long list. At least one astute reader recognized that it was a list of extinct native languages. To be more specific, this was a list of extinct languages of North America: languages which have undergone language death, have no native speakers and no spoken descendant, most of them being languages of former Native American tribes.

According to some estimates, at the time of European contact the Western Hemisphere was occupied by 40 million people speaking 1,800 different languages. Perhaps 300 languages were spoken in North America.

Let’s consider a few more statistics from David Crystal, author of Language Death:

There are some 6,000 languages in the world at the moment. And of these, about half – some say more, come say less – are going to die out in the course of the next century. The relevant deduction is sobering: 3,000 languages in 1200 months. That means, on average, there is a language dying out somewhere in the world every two weeks or so.

Crystal points to natural disasters, cultural assimilation and genocide as reasons for language extinction. Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to draw parallels to the current unprecedented rate of extinction for biological species.

In his book, Crystal retells an amazing story:

The explorer Alexander von Humboldt was searching for the source of the Orinoco, in South America, in 1801. He met some Carib Indians who had recently exterminated a neighbouring tribe and captured some of their domesticated parrots. The parrots still spoke words of the now extinct language, and von Humboldt was able to transcribe some of them.

Inspired by this story, Rachel Berwick, a conceptual artist at Yale, designed a special enclosure in which to display two Amazon parrots trained to speak some words from that lost langauge.

In an online story, Sue Farlow recounts her experience of training the parrots for Berwick’s art installation. Farlow worked from a list of about 40 words that von Humboldt had recorded.

OK. I think the von Humboldt encounter with the Orinoco parrots is a great story, and as concepts go, good fodder for a conceptual artist like Berwick.

At this point, I should acknowledge that Crystal prefaced his account of the von Humboldt legend with the disclaimer that it was "probably aprocryphal." One curious blogger who goes by the name "Dr Beachcombing" explored the matter further and I would recommend his story to anyone who remains curious about the veracity of the von Humboldt legend. Dr Beachcombing gets to "the rest of the story."

I would just add that Dr. Beachcombing has one of the most interesting blogs I've stumbled across in a long time -

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I've been wanting to write about this for the longest time, but as with most good subjects I'm not equal to the job. For now, here's the answer. So...what's the question? (I promise you: this is leading up to one heck of a story!)

Newfoundland Irish
Abnaki, Eastern
Costanoan, Northern
Costanoan, Southern
Delaware, Pidgin
Eel River Athabaskan
Island Chumash
Jersey Dutch
Loup A
Loup B
Lower Chinook
Maidu, Valley
Martha's Vineyard Sign
Mattole-Bear River
Miwok: Bay Miwok
Miwok: Coast Miwok
Northern Kalapuyan
Pomo, Eastern
Pomo, Northern
Upper Umpqua

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Year of Waterfalls - 1

Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness. It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let our minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall.
-Fulton Sheen

One can never visit enough waterfalls. And when I look back on the falls I discovered for the first time this year, I just regret that I didn't get around to more.

May 2
Chau-Ram Falls
This one is on Ramsey Creek just before it joins the Chauga River in Oconee County, South Carolina (at Chau-Ram Park on US 76). This was the day I went out hunting for Yellow Lady Slippers in the wild and it wound up being one of the best days of the whole year. Now I want to explore more of the Chauga, a lovely river flowing through what could be my favorite county on the planet.

September 18
Sols Creek Falls
This photo doesn't do justice to the 120-foot waterfall, reached after two-and-a-half miles of paddling across Bear Lake, which was remarkably quiet for a Saturday morning. As I came to shore below the falls, two otter-like critters came scampering over the rocks and into the water. I've come to the conclusion that they were weasels. It was a nice surprise. If anyone asks, I didn't really see this waterfall, I didn't really take this picture. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

September 19
Ledbetter Creek

Pick up the recently-published map of the Bartram Trail in North Carolina, and you'll see this little waterfall on the cover. The hike to this lovely spot begins next to the Nantahala River, not far from the place where William Bartram and Attakullakulla crossed paths in May 1775. If I can ever commandeer a time machine, that meeting is high on the list of events I would like to witness. In 1730, Attakullakulla was one of several Cherokee men who visited London. I'd like to imagine that Attakullakulla regaled Bartram with stories of attending a play at the Globe Theatre decades earlier. The trail to Cheoah Bald crosses Ledbetter Creek before a long, steep climb up the mountain. Just to look at the map, you don't get a sense of what a demanding hike it is (at least for the first couple of miles). Having scaled the toughest part of the trail, I regretted the necessity of turning back before reaching Bartram Falls and Cheoah Bald. It was mighty pretty up there. Maybe next year...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice

For the arrival of the winter solstice on Tuesday here's a re-run from last year:

The Green Man, born on the winter solstice

Over the centuries, many cultures of the northern hemisphere have celebrated this day. One recurring theme is to make it a time of ritual purification. What a novel concept! I don’t think we’d have much luck pitching “purification” to the contemporary American consumer of holidays. But I like it, and so I’ll give some thought to how I might make myself more pure.

Another common thread is the idea of “light overcoming darkness.” At first, this seems a counterintuitive way to look at the shortest day of the year. On second thought, it does fit since each day will now be getting longer.

Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu emerges from her seclusion in a cave

Obviously, the remnant that still thinks of Christmas as something other than a binge of orgiastic materialism could relate to the themes of light overcoming darkness and the birthday of the sun (Son). However, they might find the parallels to pagan traditions too close for comfort. So let’s move on.

I enjoyed learning about the indigenous people of Finland, the Saami, who worshipped the sun-goddess Beiwe:

She travels with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, through the sky in an enclosure of reindeer bones, bringing back the green plants for the reindeer to feed upon. On the Winter Solstice, her worshippers sacrifice white female animals and thread the meat on sticks which they bent into rings and tied with bright ribbons. They also smear their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat the rich food and begin her recovery.
(From Waverly Fitzgerald’s School of the Seasons)

In east Asia, the winter solstice observance has gone by many names, including the Dōngzhì Festival of China. The origins of this festival can be traced to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (復, "Returning"). The Asian observances involve quite a few food customs, and that scores points in my book.

Hexagram 24 (Fu) Turning point / New beginning

Karachun was celebrated by Slavs on the longest night of the year. Hors, symbolising the old sun, becomes smaller as the days become shorter, and dies on the solstice, defeated by the dark and evil powers of the Black God. To honor Hors, the Slavs danced a ritual chain-dance. Traditional chain-dancing in Bulgaria is still called horo. On the day after the solstice, Hors is resurrected and becomes the new sun, Koleda. On this day, the Slavs burned fires at cemeteries to keep their departed loved ones warm, organized meals in the honor of the dead so as they would not suffer from hunger and lit wooden logs at local crossroads.

Based on what I know of my own German heritage, I figured they probably got it right. And they did, according to one description that I read:

Early Germans (c.500–1000) considered the Norse goddess, Hertha or Bertha to be the goddess of light, domesticity and the home. They baked yeast cakes shaped like shoes, which were called Hertha's slippers, and filled with gifts. "During the Winter Solstice houses were decked with fir and evergreens to welcome her coming. When the family and serfs were gathered to dine, a great altar of flat stones was erected and here a fire of fir boughs was laid. Hertha descended through the smoke, guiding those who were wise in saga lore to foretell the fortunes of those persons at the feast".

The fact is, you could borrow from ancient cultures to craft a different winter solstice observance every year, and have plenty to last a lifetime. Which sounds like a lot more fun than the same old same old.

To Juan at the Winter Solstice
-by Robert Graves

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Owassee Prophecy

The most recent installment from E. G. Paine follows. Or, follow this link for all episodes to date.

Chapter Nine

One afternoon in late May, Daniel drove to Mulberry Creek to pick up a flat of heirloom tomato plants that a green-thumbed friend had offered him. Now, he could start counting the days until the first homegrown tomato sandwich, one of summer’s sublime pleasures.

He was curious to see what was happening on the old Charlie Craddock dairy farm and it was only another mile-and-a-half up Mulberry Creek Road, so he decided to drive past before going back home.

Although the long-abandoned farm still looked ragged, he could see that some work had been underway. For the first time in a long time, the fences were free of tangled, choking vines. The lower pasture was no longer dotted with multiflora rose. And the big barn sported fresh boards and a newly painted roof. When he neared the entrance to the farm, he saw a woman setting out flowers at the base of a small sign.

He pulled into the driveway and got out of the truck.

“Hi, Lola. Winona said I’d find you out here.”

“Hello, stranger. It’s been a long time.”

“I didn’t even know you had moved back to Owassee. How have you been?”

“I feel like I’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool. We have a big group of volunteers coming out tomorrow to work on the barn and I want to make sure they can find us.”

“So what possessed you to take on this old farm?”

“That’s a long story. Are you sure you have the time?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then come on up to the house. You look like you could use a glass of iced tea.”

They sat on the porch and caught up on what had happened in their lives. Lola talked about some rocky years, a brief marriage, a difficult divorce and then a return to school in Georgia where she started working with kids. Lola spent five years on a therapeutic equestrian center for young people with autism. Then she thought it was time to come back to Owassee to start something similar.

“Winona got excited about it, too. The stars aligned to make this happen here. We already have six horses in the upper pasture and we’re remodeling some of the old outbuildings as bunkhouses. By this time next year, we should be up and running.”

“I went to hear Winona at the library last week. I admit I haven’t read her books yet, but I enjoyed her lecture.”

“Winona has a gift, alright. She’s trying to slow down, though, and she really needs to. But she’s in Knoxville today, meeting with her agent about a new DVD.”

“This is a fine thing you’re doing here. I’m sure Charlie Craddock would be pleased, if he were still with us.”

“Danny, are you OK? You’ve been rubbing your eyes.”

“Oh, have I? If I’m a little bleary, it’s just that I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I don’t know why.”

“I can tell you exactly what you need for that. Do you know the wild plant, skullcap?

“Sure I do. There’s some growing near my cabin.”

“Good. Take the leaves and steep them in hot water to make a tea. Drink a cup of warm skullcap tea before bedtime and you’ll sleep well.”

“And where did you pick up that valuable prescription?”

“That was a favorite remedy from my grandmother - my mother’s mother. She was an herb doctor. Some of the Anawaya wisdom survives,” Lola laughed, “although you wouldn’t know it from the Anawaya Casino and the all those souvenir shops.”

“No, but that’s progress. I’m surprised you recognized the valley when you came back.” He glanced at his watch, “I’d better go now. I know you have to get ready for tomorrow, and I have tomato plants to put in the ground. I’ll bring you some tomatoes when they get ripe! Good to see you again, Lola. Best of luck with this place.”

Chapter Ten

Daniel took off for the woods again. His destination was up the mountain about five miles from his cabin, next to an unnamed waterfall surrounded by a laurel thicket. Few people knew about the place because it was far from any of the well-worn forest service trails. On previous trips, he had cut a discrete discreet trail through the thicket, commencing at a point that most people walk right past. The place was his own secret and he intended to keep it that way.

As he hiked up the mountain, Daniel saw that it would be a good year for blueberries. The fruit was still green, but the plants were loaded with berries. He would be sure to return when they ripened. By mid-morning, he arrived at what had become his favorite campsite. It was what the old-timers called a “rockhouse,” a large overhanging rock that created a sheltered space as much as twenty feet high and running for almost 100 feet along the face of the mountain. A small stream plunged over the edge of the overhang, fanning out to form an elegant waterfall.

At the opposite end of the long rockhouse, a sheltered flat spot about ten feet wide offered a tremendous view of the Owassee valley. On this terrace, he could work or read or sleep in comfort, protected from any sudden showers.

A couple of months earlier, he has stashed a pile of kindling in the dry, but since the day was clear he gathered more wood to supplement what he’d already collected. A campfire was good for cooking supper and even better for providing companionship to a solitary camper.

He felt at home here, more so than any place he knew. In the past ten years he had lost his grandmother (the last of her generation), he had lost his parent, and he had lost several aunts and uncles he had been close to. He thought about the times his family had been together, and how he would never return to that place of love and comfort and acceptance, except in memory.

Life was different now. He thought about Michelangelo’s explanation, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He imagined his own life as a block of stone. Was there an angel, or anything, waiting to be freed? But envisioning what could emerge from the raw material of his own life was more difficult, much more difficult, than seeing what could emerge from a gnarled chunk of wood.

After he had settled in his camp, he unpacked a sandwich and savored it as he relaxed and enjoyed the summer day. He saw chipmunks close by and tossed crusts of bread where they might retrieve them. As the chipmunks approached, he studied them intently, burning their image onto his memory. He had never carved a chipmunk, but he would like to someday. He did spend the early afternoon on several small carvings he had brought along. He made some finishing touches and then sanded and polished until they shone like glass.

His mind drifted to Lola and Winona. The skullcap prescription was helping. Ever since he started drinking a cup of the tea at night, he was sleeping much better. He had even started to remember bits and pieces of his dreams, and it had been years since he had remembered any dreams.

Daniel had been reading about dreams and realized that the dreams had been there every night, whether he remembered them or not upon awakening. It was almost inconceivable, that such an integral part of his life could remain so hidden from himself. In a book on dreams, he found a statement from Heraclitus, in the fourth century BC:

Suddenly, I was asleep. I had fallen into that deep slumber in which are opened to us the transmigration of the soul, the evolving of the dead, all those mysteries which we imagine ourselves not to know and into which we are in reality initiated almost every night.

He thought about the quantum shift of Winona’s lecture. He remembered the old Chinese story that she shared:

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. But there must be some difference between them! This is what is meant by the transformation of things.

Daniel reminded himself to keep a notebook and pencil on the nightstand at the cabin. He'd heard that writing down dreams immediately upon waking helps with the remembering. He wondered just what he might find within the secret life he led at night.


[to be continued]

From The Owasssee Prophecy, by E. G. Paine

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Machine to End War

A Machine to End War
A Famous Inventor, Picturing Life 100 Years from Now, Reveals an Astounding Scientific Venture Which He Believes Will Change the Course of History

Liberty Magazine, February 1937

by Nikola Tesla
as told to George Sylvester Viereck

Tesla. "It seems," he says, "that I have always been ahead of my time."

Editor's Note: Nikola Tesla, now in his seventy-eighth year, has been called the father of radio, television, power transmission, the induction motor, and the robot, and the discoverer of the cosmic ray. Recently he has announced a heretofore unknown source of energy present everywhere in unlimited amounts, and he is now working upon a device which he believes will make war impracticable.

Tesla and Edison have often been represented as rivals. They were rivals, to a certain extent, in the battle between the alternating and direct current in which Tesla championed the former. He won; the great power plants at Niagara Falls and elsewhere are founded on the Tesla system. Otherwise the two men were merely opposites. Edison had a genius for practical inventions immediately applicable. Tesla, whose inventions were far ahead of the time, aroused antagonisms which delayed the fruition of his ideas for years.

However, great physicists like Kelvin and Crookes spoke of his inventions as marvelous. "Tesla," said Professor A. E. Kennelly of Harvard University when the Edison medal was presented to the inventor, "set wheels going round all over the world. . . . What he showed was a revelation to science and art unto ail time."

"Were we," remarks B. A. Behrend, distinguished author and engineer," to seize and to eliminate the results of Mr. Tesla's work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric cars and trains would stop, our towns would be dark, our mills would be dead and idle."

Forecasting is perilous. No man can look very far into the future. Progress and invention evolve in directions other than those anticipated. Such has been my experience, although I may flatter myself that many of the developments which I forecast have been verified by events in the first third of the twentieth century.

It seems that I have always been ahead of my time. I had to wait nineteen years before Niagara was harnessed by my system, fifteen years before the basic inventions for wireless which I gave to the world in 1893 were applied universally. I announced the cosmic ray and my theory of radio activity in 1896. One of my most important discoveries--terrestrial resonance--which is the foundation of wireless power transmission and which I announced in 1899, is not understood even today. Nearly two years after I had flashed an electric current around the globe, Edison, Steinmetz, Marconi, and others declared that it would not be possible to transmit even signals by wireless across the Atlantic. Having anticipated so many important developments, it is not without assurance that I attempt to predict what life is likely to be in the twenty-first century.

Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors. We may definitely say that it is a movement even if we do not fully understand its nature. Movement implies a body which is being moved and a force which propels it against resistance. Man, in the large, is a mass urged on by a force. Hence the general laws governing movement in the realm of mechanics are applicable to humanity.

There are three ways by which the energy which determines human progress can be increased: First, we may increase the mass. This, in the case of humanity, would mean the improvement of living conditions, health, eugenics, etc. Second, we may reduce the frictional forces which impede progress, such as ignorance, insanity, and religious fanaticism. Third, we may multiply the energy of the human mass by enchaining the forces of the universe, like those of the sun, the ocean, the winds and tides.

The first method increases food and well-being. The second tends to bring peace. The third enhances our ability to work and to achieve. There can be no progress that is not constantly directed toward increasing well-being, peace, and achievement. Here the mechanistic conception of life is one with the teachings of Buddha and the Sermon on the Mount.

While I am not a believer in the orthodox sense, I commend religion, first, because every individual should have some ideal--religious, artistic, scientific, or humanitarian--to give significance to his life. Second, because all the great religions contain wise prescriptions relating to the conduct of life, which hold good now as they did when they were promulgated.

There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without. Owing to the similarity of our construction and the sameness of our environment, we respond in like manner to similar stimuli, and from the concordance of our reactions, understanding is barn. In the course of ages, mechanisms of infinite complexity are developed, but what we call "soul " or "spirit," is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the "soul" or the "spirit" ceases likewise.

I expressed these ideas long before the behaviorists, led by Pavlov in Russia and by Watson in the United States, proclaimed their new psychology. This apparently mechanistic conception is not antagonistic to an ethical conception of life. The acceptance by mankind at large of these tenets will not destroy religious ideals. Today Buddhism and Christianity are the greatest religions both in number of disciples and in importance. I believe that the essence of both will be the religion of the human race in the twenty-first century.

The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out the less desirable strains. Then man's new sense of pity began to interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue to keep alive and to breed the unfit. The only method compatible with our notions of civilization and the race is to prevent the breeding of the unfit by sterilization and the deliberate guidance of the mating instinct, Several European countries and a number of states of the American Union sterilize the criminal and the insane. This is not sufficient. The trend of opinion among eugenists is that we must make marriage more difficult. Certainly no one who is not a desirable parent should be permitted to produce progeny. A century from now it will no more occur to a normal person to mate with a person eugenically unfit than to marry a habitual criminal.

Hygiene, physical culture will be recognized branches of education and government. The Secretary of Hygiene or Physical Culture will be far more important in the cabinet of the President of the United States who holds office in the year 2035 than the Secretary of War. The pollution of our beaches such as exists today around New York City will seem as unthinkable to our children and grandchildren as life without plumbing seems to us. Our water supply will he far more carefully supervised, and only a lunatic will drink unsterilized water.

More people die or grow sick from polluted water than from coffee, tea, tobacco, and other stimulants. I myself eschew all stimulants. I also practically abstain from meat. I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life. The abolition of stimulants will not come about forcibly. It will simply be no longer fashionable to poison the system with harmful ingredients. Bernarr Macfadden has shown how it is possible to provide palatable food based upon natural products such as milk, honey, and wheat. I believe that the food which is served today in his penny restaurants will be the basis of epicurean meals in the smartest banquet halls of the twenty-first century.

There will be enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world, including the teeming millions of China and India, now chronically on the verge of starvation. The earth is bountiful, and where her bounty fails, nitrogen drawn from the air will refertilize her womb. I developed a process for this purpose in 1900. It was perfected fourteen years later under the stress of war by German chemists.

Long before the next century dawns, systematic reforestation and the scientific management of natural resources will have made an end of all devastating droughts, forest fires, and floods. The universal utilization of water power and its long-distance transmission will supply every household with cheap power and will dispense with the necessity of burning fuel. The struggle for existence being lessened, there should be development along ideal rather than material lines.

Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of a new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere "stick" in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies, but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.

"It will be possible to destroy anything approaching within 200 miles. My invention will provide a wall of power," declares Tesla.

Progress along such lines will be impossible while nations persist in the savage practice of killing each other off. I inherited from my father, an erudite man who labored hard for peace, an ineradicable hatred of war. Like other inventors, I believed at one time that war could he stopped by making it more destructive. But I found that I was mistaken. I underestimated man's combative instinct, which it will take more than a century to breed out. We cannot abolish war by outlawing it. We cannot end it by disarming the strong. War can be stopped, not by making the strong weak but by making every nation, weak or strong, able to defend itself.

Hitherto all devices that could be used for defense could also be utilized to serve for aggression. This nullified the value of the improvement for purposes of peace. But I was fortunate enough to evolve a new idea and to perfect means which can be used chiefly for defense. If it is adopted, it will revolutionize the relations between nations. It will make any country, large or small, impregnable against armies, airplanes, and other means for attack. My invention requires a large plant, but once it is established it will he possible tb destroy anything, men or machines, approaching within a radius of 200 miles. It will, so to speak, provide a wall of power offering an insuperable obstacle against any effective aggression.

If no country can be attacked successfully, there can be no purpose in war. My discovery ends the menace of airplanes or submarines, but it insures the supremacy of the battleship, because battleships may be provided with some of the required equipment. There might still be war at sea, but no warship could successfully attack the shore line, as the coast equipment will be superior to the armament of any battleship.

I want to state explicitly that this invention of mine does not contemplate the use of any so-called " death rays." Rays are not applicable because they cannot be produced in requisite quantities and diminish rapidly in intensity with distance. All the energy of New York City (approximately two million horsepower) transformed into rays and projected twenty miles, could not kill a human being, because, according to a well known law of physics, it would disperse to such an extent as to be ineffectual.

My apparatus projects particles which relatively large or of microscopic dimensions, enabling us to convey to a small area at a great distance trillions of times more energy than is possible with rays of any kind. Many thousands of horsepower can thus be transmitted by a stream thinner than a hair, so that nothing can resist. This wonderful feature will make it possible, among other things, to achieve undreamed-of results in television, for there will be almost no limit to the intensity of illumination, the size of the picture, or distance of projection.

I do not say that there may not be several destructive wars before the world accepts my gift. I may not live to see its acceptance. But I am convinced that a century from now every nation will render itself immune from attack by my device or by a device based upon a similar principle.

At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine.

Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a "thinking machine." I anticipated this development.

I actually constructed "robots." Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeing mankind to pursue its higher aspirations.

And unless mankind's attention is too violently diverted by external wars and internal revolutions, there is no reason why the electric millennium should not begin in a few decades.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Along the Divide - Lilburn

If I could write the books I’d want to write, one would be a collection of stories from along the Eastern Continental Divide. Things are especially interesting on the margins, on the edges, along the borders, and that’s certainly the case for the ECD. Of course, I’ve already posted a bunch of entries related to the natural and human history occurring along the divide in western North Carolina, but that just scratches the surface.

Only after a recent trip to Atlanta did I learn that the ECD runs right through that metropolis. This is not entirely coincidental. Atlanta is Atlanta because it was a railroad town. And it was a railroad town, in part, because railways routed along the divide offer the advantage of dodging larger rivers that require long and expensive bridge trestles.

This may have been the case, as well, for early roads. Depending on the route chosen from Rabun Gap to Atlanta, you might cross the divide nine times or more. In metro Atlanta, you don't travel far from the divide to find Lilburn, Georgia and the largest Hindu temple outside of India.

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha opened on August 26, 2007. From a news release and from the BAPS website:

The temple follows similar ones consecrated in Houston, Chicago, and most recently, Toronto.

The pillars of the majestic white structure are intricately hand-carved and each has a story to tell -- taken from ancient Hindu scriptures. As a regular volunteer for over two years, engineer Manish Patel explains that "the Mandir, apart from being a socio-spiritual haven, brings true Indian architecture and culture to life on American grounds. This has truly been a community effort."

It is built according to guidelines dictated in the ancient Shilp-Shastras and there is an inside and outside parikrama , areas in which visitors can circumbulate around the images. It has a tapered ceiling. The structure is built with three types of stones. These stones were hand-carved and shipped from India to be assembled.

The ornate structure is estimated to last for at least a thousand years due to the lack of any reinforcing steel or other metals in its construction. The massive building will avoid traditional elements of decay because it is carved from Turkish limestone, Italian Carrara marble, and Indian sandstone. The building includes 34,000 carved pieces including 391 pillars, 116 archways, and 86 decorative ceilings. About 900 volunteers donated 1.3 million hours of construction to erect the edifice. Seventeen months were required of 1,500 craftsmen at 26 sites in India to complete the stonework.

A 2007 article by a Georgia Baptist group examined the impact of globalization on Atlanta’s houses of worship. In 1980, Baptist churches within the I-285 perimeter claimed membership by 12% of that area’s population. By 2007, Baptist membership had dropped to 4% of the population. Meanwhile, the ever-increasing population of Atlanta had resulted in many non-Christian churches:

A Georgia Baptist Convention staffer has completed a project involving careful and meticulous research concluding that there are 79 Muslim mosques, six Bahai’i worship centers, and 29 Muslim cultural and learning centers in the Atlanta metro area. The same research reveals that there are 52 Hindu temples presently operational or under construction in the greater Atlanta area.

Since photography at the temple is prohibited, the photos for this entry are from the BAPS website.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Panther Watchers Testify

updated 2/28/11

Lately, this blog has been getting lots of hits from people googling "panthers in tennessee." And some of those people have been leaving comments about their own close encounters with the big felines.

Here's a collection of all the reports I've received to date, including several recent ones:

Anonymous said...
About 20 years ago, when I was a little girl, there were black panther sightings near my home in Crossville, TN.

On November 14, 2007, my sister-in-law, who leaves close to me, heard the tell-tale scream of a panther just outside her window about 8 pm. Then, about 4 am, I was awakened by what sounded like dogs being attacked. They were yelping and sounded distressed. The following evening, I came home from work to find a beagle pup on my doorstep. I located his owner, and found that he had just brought home two pups the night before, which had escaped their pen. The second pup never returned. I am sure that it was taken by the panther my sister-in-law heard earlier that night.
November 25, 2007 7:50:00 PM EST

John said...
I was just watching a show on NatGeo about mythical creatures. I was shocked to see the black panther on the list, because my wife and I have seen one. We also live in Crossville, TN, which is weird because I noticed some one else from here posted on this topic.

The night we saw the big cat, we were inside when we heard something making a lot of noise in the garage. Our cat was going nuts, we went outside and saw this huge black cat standing in the road under a street light. It was about three feet tall and looked like it was eight or ten feet long. I was scared to death. It saw us and just turned and walked down the road and into the woods. We called TWRA Fish and Game, but they thought we were mistaken. There was no mistaking this thing, and I'll never forget the way it walked off down the road. The only picture I've seen that looked close to it was a picture of a Jaguar from South America.
I've heard people around here talk about these cats all my life, and I know for a fact that they are real.
My name is John Hall and my email is
December 12, 2007 11:24:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
Two cats sighted in North Mississippi

I live in Booneville Mississippi and was working late one afternoon near a creek that runs through town here. I saw two big cats, one black and one a light brown or dirty white. They were as big as a large German Shephard dog with long tails. They looked just like the mountain lions you see on tv.

I only saw them that one afternoon and often looked for them in that area but never seen them again.
My name is jlesley at
October 4, 2008 12:55:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
I am 50 and can say with all certainty there are Black Panthers in this country. I would like to know of any sightings no matter where they are. Jamie Maurer
December 11, 2008 7:26:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
yes im from alabama and i see the panther quite regular...something doesnt seem quite right about it but im sure someone else out there has noticed certain unnatural about there sightings but if you have questions ore any other abnormal experiences with the "panther" then feel free to contact me at
December 19, 2008 12:39:00 AM EST

Anonymous said...
They all over middle and west TN. Some even in rural areas of metro Memphis and Nashville.
My son and I were camping Jan 07 in Shelby Forest in Millington TN (borders MS river) whe we heard one SCREAM about 30 ft from ourcampsite about 10 pm.
We were the only campers in the park and I was thankful for my sturdy camper!! Oh, the rangers said it was screech owl.
December 27, 2008 4:20:00 AM EST

Anonymous said...
Yesterday morning I was following a backhoe on the new part of wolf river Blvd. It was across the road from the dump and right past the wetland area. There is a plot of land for sale that has been built up. As I was travelling at a snails pace I was looking intently for deer commonly seen in the area. At first sight I thought I saw a black lab walking across this grassy plot. Having the time to get a good look I realized that is was a Cat by the way it walked and that its tail was much longer and had that cat like curl and swish. I got a good look at the head then and clearly saw the ears and profile. I know it was a black panther. The time was about five til ten in the morning on Friday.
It was really cool!
February 3, 2009 5:23:00 PM EST

NanaB said...
About 10-12 years ago my husband and I were in Pigeon Forge, TN, staying at a motel high on a hill on the north side of Hwy 441. About 8 a.m. that sunny morning we saw something moving farther up the hill from our third floor window. It was definitely a cat. A really BIG cat. And solid black. It was very calm and walked up and looked down at all the development that was Pigeon Forge at that time. Then it turned and walked away. We looked down at our car -- where the camera was. When we asked hotel management about this they told us -- no way. Later we asked rangers from the Nat'l Forest about it and laughed and dismissed us as a couple of Georgia nuts! It was a black panther. I'll believe that to my grave. It was HUGE. I wish that camera hadn't been in the car.
February 8, 2009 9:59:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
I totally agree with all you guys. I just moved back to SC from eastern TN. It was not an uncommon occurrence to hear stories of large cats and people crossing paths. It's just yesterday I 100% positively had the rare chance at catching a glimpse at a large black cat about 3-4ft body length w/out the tail walking across my neighbor's horse pasture. I got such a good look at it I sat there trying to dismiss what I had seen. I had convinced myself it was just an optical illusion and it was merely a house cat until a horse stood in the exact spot where I had seen the big cat and instantly I realized that the cat was as long as the distance from front to hind quarters of a full sized mare. Theres no getting out of this one. There is a large black cougar in the upstate of SC.
March 26, 2009 9:18:00 AM EDT

Anonymous said...
about 20 years ago when i was 13 we were having a party and we heard an awful scream like a woman, and at the time my family was renting a trailer about 200 yards from the house and after the scream we saw a black panther jump from a tree onto the top of the trailer.we lived on a farm and since then we have had calves missing and one of our dogs got scratched up bad.and latly about a month our so ago one of my parents dogs went missing.From:Jefferson County, Tennessee
June 29, 2009 10:05:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
In 1999, one evening in the spring I happened upon a mountain lion sized black cat at the head of the Big Dry Run finger of Watauga Lake. I had just left my lake place on Sugar Grove Church Road heading home at about 8:30pm. It was just getting dark. As I started around the curve at Big Dry Run Road and Dry Hill Road I saw Huge eyes on the right reflecting my trucks headlights. I slowed wondering if it could be a deer. When I reached within 30 feet of the animal, it looked as if a huge black hole sat on the shoulder. The animal reflected absolutely no light from my headlights except the eyes. The most unusual thing about the eyes was the wide space between them, much further apart than a dog or deer, and large. Within 4 or 5 seconds the animal stood and turned to jump off the road bank into the brush down by the lake. When I saw the shape of it with the huge long tail, I knew there was not doubt as to what it was. It had to be either a black cougar or black panther. Since that time I have read and been told of the possibility of the cat being actually a black jaguar. My email address is
September 19, 2009 8:49:00 AM EDT

Anonymous said...
i live the southern alabama, and about 4 years ago me and a buddy of mine were riding our 4wheelers 2 go check my game camera for some deer pictures and when something caught our eyes up in a tree about 70ft up at first we thought it was a black bear but after getting closer we knew it was a black panther it was such a weird feeling of it watching us with his bright yellow eyes. if i were 2 guess i would say he was around 100lbs
October 9, 2009 3:45:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
I live in Lookout Mountain, TN, and on October 25, 2009, at 9:20 pm, I was letting my dogs out at the corner. My two year old suddenly froze and his hair went straight up in a way I'd never seen before. I looked down the street and there was a large, black creature about 6 feet long that leaped across the street, only touching it once. I didn't know much about them, but after researching I made 2 reports. I was still shaking from fear 3 hours later, and I'll never again feel safe walking the dogs at night.
November 1, 2009 11:26:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
I am a fifty three year old female grandmother from upper state South Carolina. My daughter called and asked me to pick my granddaughter up from school one day in October of 2009. She attends Tigerville Elementary. The route between my home and the school is very rural and hilly. ON the way I spotted a huge black panther walking on out next to a small pond. I stopped my car an observed because I had never seen one. I told my friends and family and they told me I must be mistaken because no such creatures exist around here, but, I KNOW WHAT I SAW!
January 17, 2010 1:48:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
ga. here cumming hwy 20 west 30040 saw a black cat on the road side in a pasture several cars stopped and watched 6-7 seven feet long mid day it had no fear of us at all was close enough to see yellow eyes head was not mountain lion type a little different also within a mile of a river swampy place.stan in ga.
May 23, 2010 8:23:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
I am a male 42 years old. I feel pretty special sometimes becuse i have seen a black panther 3 times in my life so far. The firest time i waqs in my early teens. I was spending the night at my grandpas house in Corinth MS. He woke me up at like around 3am and said put your clothes on, i have something you will want to see. So i did and he walked me down the the creek side just behind his house. The dogs had tree'ed a black panther. It was about 25 feet up laying on a big oak tree branch. It was hissing and grawling. Showing its teeth. I was 11 years old so that would of been around 1979. Then in 1993 me and some friends where camping out on my grandpa's property near where i saw it back in 1979. I was in my grandpa's old house (he had passed by then) and my kids and wife come running into the my house and said its the panther. We all went outside and he was along the deer line. My german shepards were with us and they didnt much care for it and was backing up. My wife and kids went in the house because they said if the dogs are scared then they dont want to be outside. I watched it for a few min then wnt inside aso. Then in 2003 i was deer hunting at White Oak WMA near Savannah TN. It was like 5.30 am and i was walking in to my deer stand. Up ahead of me on the trail i could here what sounded like something after some turkeys. I kept walking up the trail and when i got to about where i thought the sound was comming from I shinned my flash light up the trail. And only about 6 to 8 feet ahead of me stood a black panther. Big yellow eyes,Very musculer body and solid black. It was a big cat, but not as big as a panther you would see at the zoo, I woukld say it was inbetween a zoo panther and a large Bobcat. We both looked at each other for a few seconds, then it turned and pranced away. I felt blessed and scraed. Had i not had my 30-30 rifle with me i would have went back to the truck.
September 3, 2010 10:05:00 AM EDT

Anonymous said...
im from manchester TN a couple months back i was headed home around 1:00am and i saw somthin running along the road when i caught up to it looked to be three times the size of any bob cat ive saw and was jet black with a very long tail and huge green eyes. i was driven about 50mph and it kept up with me for a good ways before darting into the woods. i didnt know what to make of it never saw anything like it before in my life around here
September 15, 2010 10:28:00 AM EDT

easy said...
I live in Waxhaw, NC on the southern border about 5 miles from South Carolina. Recently (within the last 3 weeks) I saw what I think was a black Panther. I live on the outskirts of a small town in the country. We are surrounded by thousands of acres of open land. One evening around 11pm, I walked outside to take thee garbage out. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large black image streak across the yard and climb a tree. It happened so fast that I was not able to focus. I got a flash light hoping to see what it was but by the time I got back out, there was nothing there. It was definitely large, moved with grace. I have a 105lb black lab and this was much larger to me.
November 29, 2010 8:02:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
When my husband was a young man, around 92, he was walking in the woods in Ashland City. He sat down on a log to rest, noticed his shoe untied and bent over to tie it. When he looked up, he was staring into the green-yellow eyes of a black panther about 15 foot directly in front of him. He sat still for a period and both looked at each other. Then the panther leaped off an vanished as quietly as he had come. All my life I have heard stories of my grandparents and uncles saying how they heard the terrible yowl of panther that sounds like a woman screaming in the woods. My parents have told me memories of picnicing around the country near Knoxville as a child when suddenly a Grandmother or other would yell "painter! get the youngins!" and all the parents would swoop the kids up and cart them off somewhere. I have never seen one with certainty, though one windy fall night I opened my back door to close the screen and saw the outline of a large black body and two green cat eyes locked onto me.
- Wadulisi
December 2, 2010 2:36:00 AM EST

Anonymous said...
I live in middle TN,about 12 miles east of Nashville. a town called Old Hickory because the town is directly on the Old Hickory Lake .About a month ago my stepfather and I were down at the boat dock unloading the boat into the water. all of a sudden to our right we both saw a massive black cat sprinting full speed and takle a whitetail deer off in the distance! the cat held the deer in a choke hold in its mouth and then drug the kicking deer into the bushes! we both jumped into the boat to crank up the old boat to head in that direction to maybe see more?! the black cat had Bambi for breakfast and was out of sight!!
December 9, 2010 11:04:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
I was hunting In claiborne county november 28 . A place i have hunted for last 10 years . Caught movement out of corner of my to see a black panther,setting on the ground i was shocked ,scared , just had all kinds of emoition going thru my mind.Scary because I could not hear it walk thru the leaves.I pick up gun and started following it thru the scope, I felt like there was to many tree saplings to shot and afraid if I would miss it,it went up the hill in a thicket,grab cell phone and started texting to let someone know where i was ,because of being alone. I set for thirty minutes on a log watching everything. I heard the wood peckers start squaking at the top of the ridge so I figure it got wind of me and moved on . this was 9am ,only thing on my mind was it out that time of day it was looking for something to eat.the squirrels went to the very top of tree and started growling noise. the woods have been died all 4 weeks I hunted there ,no deer ,no dogs that always barked as i went across the fields, i had something last year jump out of a tree behind me never seen it but could tell it was heavy the way it landed.woods went died silent that day,not first time i had this happen ,but first in daytime where i could see it. heard them scream before dark before down next to river.I got people around there tell me about there seeing some hearing them.Had one stalk me while walking out from hunting at night . So what people may think they are around. thinking about setting bait and a camera out try to get pictures, have realize I need a new hunying place,If you want more info email me
December 10, 2010 11:09:00 PM EST

Anonymous said...
Back in 2007 when I was driving a truck on I-40 eastbound, about fifteen miles from the junction with I-75, a black panther leapt across the road with two huge bounds. There is no doubt what-so-ever in my mind of what I saw. It's tail was identical to that of a standard puma, but this "cat" was pure black. absolutely no question in my mind.
February 17, 2011 10:07:00 AM EST

Anonymous said...
We live in E. TN close to Norris Dam up interstate 75 30 miles North of Knoxville. I have not seen this for myself, but 2 of the 4 of my kids have confirmed two sightings on our place within the last month while playing in the pasture near our horse barn. We're on 35 wooded acres and back up to another 20 acres and a valley in the Cumberland mounains. The neighbors have said they have heard rumors but no one has confirmed a sighting. At first I didn't believe the kids, but after seeing all these comments I'm becoming a believer that there could be black panther roaming the nearby woods. I asked the kids if what they saw was brown or brown and black and they said no it was solid black and the size of our Pyrennese dog.
February 28, 2011 10:53:00 AM EST

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On Behalf of the Cherokee

From Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Letter to Martin Van Buren, President of the United States

The seat you fill places you in a relation of credit and nearness to every citizen. By right and natural position, every citizen is your friend. Before any acts contrary to his own judgment or interest have repelled the affections of any man, each may look with trust and living anticipation to your government. Each has the highest right to call your attention to such subjects as are of a public nature, and properly belong to the chief magistrate; and the good magistrate will feel a joy in meeting such confidence. In this belief and at the instance of a few of my friends and neighbors, I crave of your patience a short hearing for their sentiments and my own: and the circumstances that my name will be utterly unknown to you will only give the fairer chance to your equitable construction of what I have to say.


Sir, my communication respects the sinister rumors that fill this part of the country concerning the Cherokee people. The interest always felt in the aboriginal population – an interest naturally growing as that decays – has been heightened in regard to this tribe. Even in our distant State some good rumor of their worth and civility has arrived. We have learned with joy their improvement in the social arts.

We have read their newspapers. We have seen some of them in our schools and colleges. In common with the great body of the American people, we have witnessed with sympathy the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race. And notwithstanding the unaccountable apathy with which of late years the Indians have been sometimes abandoned to their enemies, it is not to be doubted that it is the good pleasure and the understanding of all humane persons in the Republic, of the men and the matrons sitting in the thriving independent families all over the land, that they shall be duly cared for; that they shall taste justice and love from all to whom we have delegated the office of dealing with them.

The newspapers now inform us that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory was pretended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation; and that, out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same.

Almost the entire Cherokee Nation stand up and say, “This is not our act. Behold us. Here are we. Do not mistake that handful of deserters for us;” and the American President and the Cabinet, the Senate and the House of Representatives, neither hear these men nor see them, and are contracting to put this active nation into carts and boats, and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. As a paper purporting to be an army order fixes a month from this day as the hour for this doleful removal.

In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? Man and women with pale and perplexed faces meet one another in the streets and churches here, and ask if this be so. We have inquired if this be a gross misrepresentation from the party opposed to the government and anxious to blacken it with the people. We have looked at the newspapers of different parties and find a horrid confirmation of the tale. We are slow to believe it. We hoped the Indians were misinformed, and that their remonstrance was premature, and will turn out to be a needless act of terror.

Van Buren

The piety, the principle that is left in the United States, if only in its coarsest form, a regard to the speech of men, forbid us to entertain it as a fact. Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made. Sir, does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? From their mind are the sentiments of love and a good nature wiped clean out? The soul of man, the justice, the mercy that is the heart’’ heart in all men, from Maine to Georgia, does abhor this business.

In speaking thus the sentiments of my neighbors and my own, perhaps I overstep the bounds of decorum. But would it not be a higher indecorum coldly to argue a matter like this? We only state the fact that a crime is projected that confounds our understanding by its magnitude, a crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokees of a country for how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more? You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.

You will not do us the injustice of connecting this remonstrance with any sectional and party feeling. It is in our hearts the simplest commandment of brotherly love. We will not have this great and solemn claim upon national and human justice huddled aside under the flimsy plea of its being a party act. Sir, to us the questions upon which the government and the people have been agitated during the past year, touching the prostration of the currency and of trade, seem but motes in comparison.

These hard times, it is true, have brought the discussion home to every farmhouse and poor man’s house in this town; but it is the chirping of grasshoppers beside the immortal question whether justice shall be done by the race of civilized to the race of savage man, whether all the attributes of reason, of civility, of justice, and even of mercy, shall be put off by the American people, and so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation and upon human nature shall be consummated.

One circumstance lessens the reluctance with which I intrude at this time on your attention my conviction that the government ought to be admonished of a new historical fact, which the discussion of this question has disclosed, namely, that there exists in a great part of the Northern people a gloomy diffidence in the moral character of the government.

On the broaching of this question, a general expression of despondency, of disbelief that any good will accrue from a remonstrance on an act of fraud and robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel. Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill? – We ask triumphantly. Our counselors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world.

I will not hide from you, as an indication of the alarming distrust, that a letter addressed as mine is, and suggesting to the mind of the Executive the plain obligations of man, has a burlesque character in the apprehensions of some of my friends. I, sir, will not beforehand treat you with the contumely of this distrust.

I will at least state to you this fact, and show you how plain and humane people, whose love would be honor, regard the policy of the government, and what injurious inferences they draw as to the minds of the governors. A man with your experience in affairs must have seen cause to appreciate the futility of opposition to the moral sentiment. However feeble the sufferer and however great the oppressor, it is in the nature of things that the blow should recoil upon the aggressor. For God is in the sentiment, and it cannot be withstood. The potentate and the people perish before it; but with it, and its executor, they are omnipotent.

I write thus, sir, to inform you of the state of mind these Indian tidings have awakened here, and to pray with one voice more that you, whose hands are strong with the delegated power of fifteen millions of men, will avert with that might the terrific injury which threatens the Cherokee tribe.

With great respect, sir, I am your fellow citizen,
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Also in 1836, Emerson published his first book, Nature, and began meeting with a group of ministers that would become the Transcendentalist Club.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 18

In 1931, the makers of Lysol promoted its effectiveness as a douche.

Some Lysol customers had already discovered its usefulness as a contraceptive.

On December 5, 1931, Vachel Lindsay found one more use for Lysol. Declaring victory, “They tried to get me - I got them first!” he drank a bottle of the disinfectant and died.

His longtime friend, Sara Teasdale, remembered him in verse:

In Memory of Vachel Lindsay

“Deep in the ages”, you said, “deep in the ages,”
And, “To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name.”
You are deep in the ages, now, deep in the ages,
You whom the world could not break, nor the years tame.

Fly out, fly on, eagle that is not forgotten,
Fly straight to the innermost light, you who loved sun in your eyes,
Free of the fret, free of the weight of living,
Bravest among the brave, gayest among the wise.

Fourteen months after Vachel’s death, Sara herself committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Weeks ago, I mentioned Vachel Lindsay’s “chanted” or “sung” poetry. I knew there wasn’t much point in my attempting to describe his unique style. But hearing is believing and I have managed to piece together some actual recordings of his performance of “The Congo.” This was recorded shortly before his death:

Many years later, Robert Frost reflected on Vachel Lindsay:
I was as happy about Vachel as we jealous poets, artists can be, you know. He was one I could be happy about. . . . Vachel was one of these disarming people, very good boy, and one of the real kind of genius, you can call it, you can say there was [something] a little strange about him, lofty, and he did some very crazy things and he knew how to do them without trying. Some of these poets seem to get in a corner and gnaw their fingernails and try to get a dark corner, you know, and try to go crazy so they will qualify. There's none of that in Vachel. He was just crazy in his own right; he did some of the strangest things.

During the Beat Era, Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem inspired by the troubadour:
Vachel, the stars are out
dusk has fallen on the Colorado road
a car crawls slowly across the plain
in the dim light the radio blares its jazz
the heartbroken salesman lights another cigarette
In another city 27 years ago
I see your shadow on the wall
you're sitting in your suspenders on the bed
the shadow hand lifts up a Lysol bottle to your head
your shade falls over on the floor

I don’t know any clever or profound way to sum up this series about Vachel Lindsay and the spring days he spent wandering the mountains of Western North Carolina. Wallace Stevens said, “Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”

Regardless of the literary merit of the verse left by Vachel Lindsay (or the lack thereof), his walk through the mountains was a valiant effort by one brave soul to “get the world right.”

And that is reason enough to remember Vachel Lindsay.


I already posted this video, but it bears repeating. One of Sara Teasdale's last poems has been adapted as an a cappella choral composition by Frank Ticheli (b. 1958):

by Sara Teasdale

There will be rest, and sure stars shining
Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.


Saturday, December 4, 2010



It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

-Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 17

I came along several years too late to know my great-grandfather. He lived among fellow descendents of German immigrants whose neatly-kept farms added beauty to the rolling hills of the Southern Piedmont. He worked as a miller until the day the gypsies came.

They robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead by the millrace. Somehow, he survived the attack, but he never fully recovered. To be precise, the "gypsies" were likely “Irish Travelers” from a group that had settled in the South fifty years earlier. They would fan out across the countryside every spring, trading horses and mules and finding other, often questionable, ways to make a living.

In May of 1906, after he had crossed the mountains from North Carolina into Tennessee, Vachel Lindsay crossed paths with gypsies, but his meeting had a more satisfactory outcome.

According to his biographer Edgar Lee Masters, Lindsay neared Greenville, Tennesee and was received into a store in the midst of wheat fields where he spent the night:

Across the way from the store was a camp of gypsies, “Who live better and cleaner than any people since Asheville.” The gypsies asked many questions and told him that he was entering the land of hospitality. Along the way now through the valleys were numerous snakes; but there were many rose bushes in luxuriant bloom in the pretty yards of the farmers.

Though he declined an offer to join the gypsies, the encounter inspired Lindsay to compose a bit of verse:

On Being Asked by a Beautiful Gipsy
to Join her Group of Strolling Players.

Lady, I cannot act, though I admire
God's great chameleons, Booth-Barret men.
But when the trees are green, my thoughts may be
October-red. December comes again
And snowy Christmas there within my breast
Though I be walking in the August dust.

Often my lone contrary sword is bright
When every other soldier's sword is rust.
Sometimes, while churchly friends go up to God
On wings of prayer to altars of delight
I walk and talk with Satan, call him friend,
And greet the imps with converse most polite.

When hunger nips me, then at once I knock
At the near farmer's door and ask for bread.
I must, when I have wrought a curious song
Pin down some stranger till the thing is read.
When weeds choke up within, then look to me
To show the world the manners of a weed.

I cannot change my cloak except my heart
Has changed and set the fashion for the deed.
When love betrays me I go forth to tell
The first kind gossip that too-patent fact.
I cannot pose at hunger, love or shame.
It plagues me not to say: "I cannot act."

I only mourn that this unharnessed me
Walks with the devil far too much each day.
I would be chained to angel-kings of fire.
And whipped and driven up the heavenly way.