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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Place Where You Live: Cowee, North Carolina

Air Date: Week of

The great oak alongside a deceased mower. (Photo: courtesy of Angela-Faye Martin)

Living on Earth is giving a voice to Orion magazine’s longtime feature in which people write about the place they call home. In this week’s edition, songwriter Angela-Faye Martin uses her words and music to picture her North Carolina valley on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains.


CURWOOD: We head off to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina now, for another installment in the occasional Living on Earth/Orion Magazine series “The Place Where You Live.” Orion invites readers to put their homes on the map and submit essays to the magazine’s website, and now we’re giving them a voice.

[MUSIC: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes “Home” from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes (Rough Trade Records 2009)]

CURWOOD: The North Carolina landscape captured in today’s essay is also the inspiration for the songs our essayist created and performs.

[ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC by Angela Faye Martin]

FAYE-MARTIN: I'm Angela-Faye Martin and I live in the Cowee community of Nathan County, North Carolina.

The view from the road in front of Angela-Faye Martin’s house. (Photo: courtesy of Angela-Faye Martin)


I'm about 20 miles due south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


I live on this gravel circle. It's kind of a horseshoe shaped lane that goes up a cove and back down a cove again, sort of like a hairpin. At the top of the cove, there's a waterfall. But to give you some perspective on the demographics, I'm 45 and I'm vastly the youngest person on our circle. It's just fairly bland as far as human diversity goes, which is fairly stark in the face of how biologically diverse the place is. I'm kind of living between two worlds, and this essay captures how it feels to be immersed and communing with the nature around me, and the dichotomy of being a human and the difficulty of communing with humans, and being nimble enough to being able to go between those two words, and how humans seem to be more of an asteroid than a fellow mammal in the scene. This is my essay about Cowee, North Carolina.

FAYE-MARTIN: On clear days there's a Carolina-blue set against reds and burnished pumpkin-hued tree fringes, looking like a graphic for a religious tract or benefit supper. But I prefer the foreboding of a pewter sky looming above my southern Appalachia. There is a sharp loneliness in these coves, until you start your phenology log. You obsess over occurrences. If you’re a songwriter, this informs your writing, but decreases your interest in humans. Good luck convincing dinner guests that you are paying attention and not looking out the window to see if Leonard, the big-beaked juve[nile] cardinal, is on the feeder.

Spider web in a black walnut tree. (Photo: courtesy of Angela-Faye Martin)

The tribes of nuthatches and chickadees festooning the limbs hugging our 120 year-old home are oblivious to the notion I must travel to the closest city, over an hour away, to participate in the doings of my own species. City mice friends bought me a ticket to the latest Nick Cave film and after, we talk about my waning garden and their taming of alley cats. And despite having to huff my inhaler, I wonder why I live so far out in the country.

There are manifold reasons for the relief and safety I sense in this place. It has me under its spell. It states to me that there are yet to be defined mythos and codes within the land, and that ‘woad’, the foggiest and most mystical of blues, rhymes with ‘cold’. And why not dedicate the rest of my days to watching the ravens, or learning the names of the 460 spider species that I call neighbors?

Angela-Faye Martin’s late chicken “Poli” on her porch. (Photo: courtesy of Angela-Faye Martin)

But today, I’m thinking how not to draw people here because too often they are not here for the beauty, the fertility of the soil, or even their families, but for a lack of human diversity. And I'm reminded the most dangerous thing in these unglaciated ancient slopes are bipeds. Now I wonder, who is baiting deer in the meadow on the mountain above our home? I look around, fix to pee on the corn strewn beneath the deer stand, and the Great blue lobelia nods to me. I place a frond on the poacher’s seat.


CURWOOD: The voice and guitar of Angela Faye Martin. You can tell us about the place where you live if you like -- there’s more about Orion Magazine and how to submit your essay at our website, LOE.org.



Angel-Faye Martin’s essay

Orion magazine

Angela-Faye Martin’s website

Previous Place Where You Live Essay’s on Living on Earth


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