Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 4: A New Voyage to Carolina

Nineteen years ago, when I first became a bicycle commuter, I discovered the Piedmont bioregion and fell in love. The whole idea of "bioregion," the bioregional movement, the sere, the seric cycle - all these things were new to me. I read Godfrey's Field Guide to the Piedmont, and I read John Lawson's A New Voyage to Carolina.

Lawson hiked The Trading Path (roughly, the route of I-85 across the Carolinas) between late 1700 and early 1701, reporting on a climax hardwood forest with scarcely a pine to be seen. He also noted the signs of recent native disappearance: fields and villages fallen into abandonment. It's not clear if he knew about the small pox, though later in the 18th century the British would use it for germ warfare against the local population surrounding Fort Pitt, and still later George Washington would insist on the inoculation of his rebel army against it.

Lawson wasn't the first European to report on wild Carolina, however. The oldest report I found, back in my first flush of bioregional love, was by a Spaniard who sailed up the Cape Fear as far as Raven Rock in the mid-16th century, noting the sounds of cougars howling in the night, which didn't scare him near so much as the lights of humans, which were still a common sight then.

We live in a naturally lush land, and there's something to love in that. Ed Abbey birthed eco-radicalism in the desert and had no use for anything east of the 100th meridian, but others have brought his kind of commitment to the hardwood forests. Here it is more fragmented, but also more insurgent. Even here in the city, the view out my windows is dominated by green. Cicadas sing in the trees, and I know that owl will be starting up shortly. You can't keep an eastern hardwood forest down.

I hope.

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