Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Like Charles Frazier's Inman in Cold Mountain, I believe that repeating the names of loved places can fend off terror and grief. This week, I need such names to comfort me, as we all do at times of loss. Nancy Dilllingham's lovely poem sings the mountains back to me and breathes spirit into the places we love. If ever we doubt the power of poetry, we should go to Nancy's poems. As guest blogger today, she brings an authentic music of place to the history and culture of the southern mountains. And how resonant the conclusion, the names sounding away into the distance! 


Once you dip your toe in Big Ivy, you never want to leave.

eloped with his fifteen-year-old sweetheart
swam the Swannanoa
with his bride-to-be on his back
bought the first Big Ivy tract

built a home
in the mountain valley
out of hand-hewn logs
a chimney of native stone
and a hearthstone of flint

planted an apple orchard
a grape arbor
and a garden
part vegetable
part old-fashioned flower

and stinging nettles
around his natural spring

It stood for one hundred years
Its razing marked the end of an era

Big Ivy
named for mountain laurel
or ivy that grew 
along its banks

Big Ivy
Big Creek
Haw Branch
Sugar Creek

There is a landscape 
of the heart
that sets us apart
the spill and dark sparkle
of water
that runs deep
cuts to the core
through six generations and more

There is a landscape 
of the heart
that sets us apart

the Corner Rock
the Snake Den
the Coleman Boundary

the Pinnacle
Balsam Gap
Mount Mitchell