Congratulations to Clair Hopper & Victoria Wittner, the winners of our February 2018 Monthly Contest themed Heritage!
This month's winning pieces open a dialogue on what heritage can mean. The collaged conversation between "Cumulus" and "Ignis" structurally explores the changing ways in which we interact with our cultural heritage, while "Mist and Mountains" engages the deeply personal path of one family's history. In seeking answers, these pieces encourage observers to consider their own complex relationships with the past. Enjoy!
Submissions for March's theme, The Lost Hour, are open now through March 28.
Mist and Mountains by Victoria Wittner
The Blue Ridge Mountains are in my blood. My family sailed across the sea not quite on the Mayflower, but close. They immediately disappeared up into the mountains that reminded them of the home that they had left in Scotland. I've heard stories that they were trying to follow Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap, but decided to stay where the mountains roll blue to the horizon. I know this can’t be true, because my family lived in the mountains long before Daniel Boone made his first coon-skin cap.
My family fought in the Revolutionary War, and on both sides of the Civil War, when the salt peter in mountain caves became a resource to both sides. They worked in the coal towns, and saw the beautiful slopes stripped bare and holes gnawed through the living rock. They stayed when the CCC cut the parkway through and around the mountains. They stayed until my grandmother was a girl, spending her summers taking eggs cooled in a snow-melt stream to Ballard store for candies. They stayed until great-grandmother died in ‘Irn-ton’, after a life spent recording recipes for the family grimoire.
And they stay still, in the summer trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the way my mother and I come home with mountain accents. In the copper kettle, used to stew apple butter—and once stolen for moonshine—that now holds old newspapers. In the old bathtub that holds my mother’s rosemary bush. In the way my great-uncle taught me to make homemade ice cream. In the chocolate cake recipe, passed down by only two family lines in the world.
The mountains live when my mother and I hike the Appalachian trail, and eat wild blue and black berries. When my mother taught me to catch crawdads the way her grandmother taught her. They live when a three-year-old was taken to watch the leaves turn the forest to flame, and was promptly buried in them. When my grandmother leads unofficial tours of reenacted pioneer farms, and I gather eggs from their henhouses. The mountain blood lives, and will live on.