You can never see too many sunsets on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After the first snow in Virginia this winter, photographer Brandon Dewey drove out to capture the sights. “The sky normally lights up once the sun dips behind the mountain ridges, but this night, there wasn’t that much color. About 20 minutes after sunset, I was just about to pack up my gear when the sky finally caught on fire for less than two minutes.” Photo courtesy of Brandon Dewey.
The 1,500-mile Appalachian Mountain range stretches so far that those on the northern and southern sides can’t agree on what to call it: Appa-LAY-chia or Appa-LATCH-ia. The outside perspective on the people who live there might be even more mangled. Stories about Appalachia tend to center around subjects like poverty, the opioid epidemic and coal, but since 1966 a series called Foxfire has been sharing food, culture and life as it’s actually lived in the mountain region.
Foxfire started as a class project at a Georgia high school — students interviewed neighbors and wrote a series of articles, which turned into a quarterly magazine and then a book, in 1972, with other books to follow soon after. (The name of the series comes from a term for a local form of bioluminescence caused by fungi on decaying wood.) Within the first decade, more than 9 million copies of Foxfire were sold. Today, there are specialized Foxfire books that focus on cooking, winemaking, religion and music.
I took a linguistics course last year and one of the most important things I learned in that course is that dialects usually considered “sub-standard” (in English these include African American English and Appalachian English among others) follow sets of rules and do have their own grammar and especially that they are able to **communicate the same information** as the standard dialect. Being from West Virginia has meant that if I slip into the accent when I’m in Raleigh, drop the g on my present participle, or use some slang, bring up the redneck jokes, as speaking this way conveys a lack of education. When I’ve seen extraordinary displays of ingenuity, openness and community in my state, it doesn’t sit well with me that the dialect associated with it is seen as inferior. But what we learned in linguistics was that if a dialect does communicate the same information, it is valid. So my fellow Appalachians, continue to drop your g’s as you discuss thermonuclear astrophysics:) Destroy the notion that these are incompatible character traits.
I first stumbled upon this place last January while on a random drive through neighboring Mason County, West Virginia. It was the first of a handful of houses I found that day, a plus side to the trees shedding their leaves and all of the brush dying down in the winter revealing what the hills hide during the overgrown summer months. I thought I had lost all of the photos I shot that frigid day so last weekend I decided to take another drive out to Mason County. Of course later that night while going through my hard drive I found the photos from last winter. Oh well I had an awesome much needed day of exploring regardless.