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From time to time, I’ve contemplated compiling an anthology of travel writing from Western North Carolina. Such a volume would commence with the descriptions of the region compiled by the Moravian explorer Bishop Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg in the early 1750s. Next would be William Bartram, who entered the western tip of the state in 1775 and published his famous Travels’ in 1791. In the 19th century, the accounts were numerous, with my favorite being In the Heart of the Alleghenies (1883) by William G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup. And accounts were equally numerous during the next century. The difficulty would lie not in finding materials but in winnowing it all down to manageable proportions. One late 20th century writer that I’d insist on including would be the irascible Bill Bryson.

Have you started making your 2006 gardening plans yet? It’s time. The garden catalogs started arriving in the mail several weeks ago: Johnny’s, Burpee’s, Pine Tree, Park’s, Shumway’s, Seeds of Change, etc. Folks have been studying these sorts of publications with pleasure for decades.

“Woven goods—baskets and mats—document what women did, when, and how. They illuminate the work of women who transformed the environments that produced materials for basketry. They point to women’s roles in ceremonial, subsistence, and exchange systems. As objects created and utilized by women, baskets and mats conserved and conveyed their concepts, ideas, experience, and expertise. They asserted women’s cultural identity and reflected their values.”

— Weaving New Worlds: Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry, by Sarah H. Hill (University of North Carolina Press, 1997)

The eastern hemlock has long been one of my favorite trees. Like many people reading this column, my wife, Elizabeth, and I have a number of very large specimens growing on our property, especially alongside a creek that traverses the cove we live in. And, of course, we’re very concerned about losing these wonderful trees to the hemlock woolly adelgid infestation that is currently ravaging the southern mountains. All of our hemlocks show signs of the infestation, and we will hate to lose them. This column, then, is sort of an ode to the hemlock.

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