I recenly had a revisiting of what I consider my ‘home' turf’ of sorts, the Piedmont south. I came east this fall to do an artist residency at Cornmeal Press in Petersburg, VA and visit my family in South Hill, VA. While I never made it to Asheville, NC to visit where I used to live (and hope to live again one day), I did sneak down to the Rivercane Rendezvous after a teacher at the gathering (thanks Colleen!) offered me an extra family ticket if I wanted to come last minute. I thought about it, and decided to head down for the weekend before pretty much telling any of my friends that were there, except for Kaleb cause I had to tell SOMEONE.
It felt like ‘coming home’ and was incredibly nurturing to my soul to be there and be around old friends. It was quite nerve wracking at first given that no one knew I’d be coming.
I slept in my old Honda CRV that’s been sitting at my dad’s farm on an air mattress that kept losing air, with old sleeping bags and blankets I used to use. I brought the minimum- a cup, bowl, a couple things to trade at a trade blanket, a headlamp, water bottle, coat and that’s about it. I just got in the car and went- driving through pretty much the whole of North Carolina, a distance that doesn’t seem like a big deal now that I’ve traveled alone all over the west. The humid mild air was thick. When I arrived at 9:30 at night it was 60 degrees out. I walked in the dark to the outdoor kitchen where I knew Kaleb would be and to my surprise Anne was also there, an old farm-mate and fellow cook who co-works with Kaleb to make food for everyone at the gathering. She had a glass of wine next to her while sitting on a step in the kitchen at the end of the day — and squeaked with surprise. It was so nice to see Anne, Kaleb, others there. Seaver was working on fixing a stove, just a year before we were having Thanksgiving together in California.
I decided since I came late to do my go-to. I decided to do any and all plant walks at the gathering. Of course, one of my favorite teachers was leading a few forays and I tagged along. This was probably my hundredth walk with Luke Learningdeer, and I always learn something new from him. The photos below are from his walk and the botany blitz, where we attempted to catalog all species we saw. The walk was more expansive plant talk and the blitz was just an IDing frenzy. A lot of the botanists, naturalists and herbalists in the Southeast, or at least a handful of them, prioritize this kind of cataloging in place year after year. Eventually the list becomes an invaluable resources for observing all kinds of things about the land: climate change, habitat change, land stewardship practices. In a way seeing this practice in the past when I lived in western North Carolina might have inspired some of my Ground Shots work, but my lists on the road while traveling are never as extensive as the ones I’ve made with Luke or other botanists in the region.
Read my write up on Juniper, here.
Read my write up on Persimmon, here.
I also briefly went on a walk with Doug Elliot, the elder storyteller, basket weaver, naturalist and herbalist that I’ve also been on many plant walks with before. Here are a few photographs from his walk. He’s one of a few gems that I wish to spend more time with in the Southeast.