General 12-30-2002

Appalachian Springboard

I am putting the footnotes first, as they make the piece less obscure to those unfamiliar with this area.

*Pickins’ Nose is a popular lookout point on the southern end of the Appalachian Trail.

**Bowater is a multinational papermaking and pulpwood corporation which holds vast timber rights in the Southeast.

***Cades Cove is the most visited site in the Smokies. It features an 11 mile road which incircles the cove. From their cars, tourists view wildflowers, herds of deer, mountain vistas, old homesteads and a primitive Missionary Baptist Church. In peak seasons, the traffic is bumper-to-bumper. In the summer, the air quality is often poorer than that of Atlanta.

***painter is a colloquial term for panther. Now eradicated, they were once major predator of deer, culling the herds of sick and older animals.

**** “The Sinks”, is the subject of my drawing. Popular, accessible and overused, it is a waterfall/swimming hole on the Little River, which runs through The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Townsend, TN.

Appalachian Springboard

Within that ancient crease to which paradox is parenthetical, beached on a deep woodland path, aground on the rocks of a mountain stream, shaded by chanterelle and jack o’lantern, lit by foxfire, warmed by the breath of life and cooled by its passing, there sails my ship – which will not come in until I go out. The road is of rock and of water, each by the other shaped and moved, a road on which I am my own footnote and can only appear if and when I disappear completely – truth defined by negative space and sugarless chewing gum, the only kind my mother lets me chew.

Breathe deep and smell the scent of a woman on the mustache beneath Pickins’ Nose* (unsightly facial hair twice removed by captains of industry only to grow back, die, and grow back again.) Denuded, raped, she blanches under the blows of Bowater** and moves on, as if nothing ever, ever happened. Funeral Cades Cove*** deer mourn dearly departed painters****, numbly nod to emissionary SUVs, and chew the petrochemical cud of tomorrow’s plastique today. Emissionary Baptist Church – 1 mile, quite a while, here in Xenon’s paradise.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey….. Whey is casein. Did you know that? An aqueous solution that dries beyond the grasp of the universal solvent. I paint with it, you know. That, and inks made in my own kitchen (which I do not own) from walnut hulls gathered by my own stained hands, and oxides and minerals – all of it, hands and all, pure as the driven slush. The conceit of deceit, is directly proportional to the deceit of the conceit, (and you thought this was a landscape!) Not to worry because you, you are my sunshine. Don’t fence me in. Bury me not on the lone praireee. I’ll be home for Christmas. If you ride your bike at night, wear white…. but I digress.

Odd, they call it The Sinks*****, yet it is a place where there are no facilities – which means they go in The Sinks. Scores of them – young, and you look so young, and you are only as young as you look – diving and yelling and slipping down the rocks and soaking and surreptitiously going, unattractive in the afternoon light. A rough copy of this scene repeats itself ad nauseum up stream and down, all the way to Gatlinburg and beyond. What can they be thinking? Me, I escape to the gentle wetlands beyond the Little River and gather fresh chanterelles for supper. As I gaze about I notice the telltale wads of white and pastel tissue littering the ground. I suppose that some are too dainty and considerate to use The Sinks. I feel such fury. I feel complicity by virtue my very presence in this place. I blanch as well, one of them among them, and will eat the sullied supper and will return at dawn to draw, as if nothing ever, ever happened – squinting and limping into that sweat-stained crease, to which paradox is parenthetical.