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Storm on the Mountain: Dolly Sods, West Virginia (September 2006)

What makes me happy as an amateur photographer?  To be in the right place at the right time.  To capture a primeval landscape in utter transformation from one moment to the next.  To see a place I have explored a million times in a completely different light.  Mountains have the capacity to transform themselves in magical ways.  I was fortunate on this cold, blustery day in the Allegheny Highlands to have witnessed one storm front after another move across this ancient land, granting the exposed rock outcrops and flagged spruce moments of gauzy, ethereal beauty that made me feel as if I had been transported to some mythical never-land.  The illusion was broken only in the waning moments of late afternoon, when the storms finally passed through for good, and the clouds lifted to reveal the softly-lit mountains to the east.

A Red Wolf

I was walking home from a nighttime stroll through my neighborhood the other night. My street is pretty dark and there is only one streetlight. I was walking towards the streetlight when I saw a teeny four legged creature running towards me! It was my neighbor’s female kitty. She was running in the way cats do when they are scared but still trying to be sneaky; but she was out in the open, slinking down the middle of the road, making a bee-line for me.
I stopped to say “hi” to her, and stooped down to pet her, but she scurried around my legs and hid behind me. She crouched behind my ankles and mewed at me. She seemed upset and frightened, so I picked her up and held her with me.
As I straightened up with the cat in my arms, I saw something else moving in the shadows down the dark road. The streetlight formed a spotlight on the ground ahead of me.
I watched as a long, lanky Red Wolf pranced into the light. It was much taller than a coyote, with a huge bushy tail, tall erect ears and a long snout. It’s coat was grey and cinnamon red. It turned its slender head and looked right at us.
Looked at us as if to say “You there. You’re holding my dinner.”
I actually got a little scared. This thing was large. It could easily come at me.
I continued to stand there dumbfounded with the cat in my arms, who was now tensed up and burying her little claws into my shoulder.
The wolf stood, ears and tail en pointe,  staring at the silly pair of us for a minute. Then it appeared to sort of sigh, and looked away from us, down into the dark field opposite the road. It looked back at us one more time, and then pranced into the dark again, out of the spotlight. It was completely silent.

I held the kitty and said “ Dang kit that was a close one for you huh!”
I carried her back to her house and put her on the porch. She purred a lot and rubbed her face on my hands.
I found out later that Red Wolves are a critically endangered species. There’s only like 50 of them left. And I just saw a huge one in my neighborhood, chasing cats.
I walked home real carefully.

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STRANGE NATIVE – Rural Appalachia, West Virginia

 The scenery is unusual and interesting in its diversity: high mountains are broken by broad level valleys, narrow gorges, or swifthly falling rivulets that form shining miniature falls and cascades; sloping foothills and rolling valleys are ribboned by broad rivers; bare peaks rise above forested hills and field-dotted plateaus.  – West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State (WPA, 1941)

In his newest body of work, photographer Nic Persinger assembles a collection of stark, mesmerizing scenes of rural Appalachia. Combining photographs taken over the course of five years throughout the hills and back roads of West Virginia, his home, Strange Native is at once a deeply personal photographic memoir and a broad examination of intimate corners of American life. Images of family, religious icons, and ghostly remnants of the past evoke a profound sense of place that is both singular and universal. Ranging from intimate, subdued portraits to broad, hypnotizing landscapes, the collection is interwoven with a startling sadness and surreal beauty that’s characteristic of Persinger’s work. The collection examines some of the quintessential elements of Southern culture– questions of God, genesis, and ancestry—with a distinctive, relentlessly curious perspective. At times bizarre, but always authentic, Strange Native is an essential portrait of rural America.

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Nic Persinger is an Appalachian artist from the hollers of Southern West Virginia. He studied fine art photography at the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, D.C. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and has also been published nationally. Through traditional film techniques, Persinger documents rural Appalachia in untraditional ways—ever mindful of the stories he grew up hearing from family and friends in the small, tightly-knit town of Richwood, West Virginia.

Nic’s first-ever book project Strange Native will be a hand-numbered edition of 100 copies and published by Empty Stretch. It is now accepting backers and pre-orders at his website, where you can also see more of his work. Nic regularly posts on Tumblr and Instagram.

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Indeed fungi that have adopted this lifestyle play crucial roles in keeping our natural landscapes healthy. They also form spectacular growths on trees, rocks and soil from the highest mountains to the lowest and harshest deserts. Scientists at The New York Botanical Garden have discovered new species of lichens throughout eastern North America steadily over the last 50 years, with no end in sight.

(via Plant Talk » Honoring a Musical Legend of the Southern Appalachians | NYBG)

To make a long story short, our scientists have named a newly discovered lichen species after fellow regional native—and national treasure—Dolly Parton. You’re welcome. ~LM

For many of us, the question comes up often: What’s most important when you come from a place like this? We want to be able to stay in these mountains, to bring our full selves into our communities here, to provide younger queer folks with examples of queer adults who are thriving here. We want to know that we will be safe and welcomed. Safety just looks different here. It looks like access to clean water, drug rehabilitation programs, and educational opportunities. It looks like access to well-paying careers in sustainable industries that don’t devastate our homes or kill our community members in mine collapses or with the slow creep of black lung.

In the isolated regions of Central Appalachia, music was once the only form of entertainment. It’s still alive today thanks to The Crooked Road, a driving trail that connects music venues in Southwest Virginia. It stretches from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Mountains for 333 miles, crossing some of the poorest areas in the country.

Making a living in those areas has never been easy, as guitarist Greg Ward knows. He’s a native of Floyd, Va. — population: 432.

“You know, it was a rough life,” he says. “It was a hard life.”

For Ward and his family, music drew people together and forged a sense of tradition.

We’re Off To See Appalachia: The Crooked Road Links Rural Music Communities

Photo Credit: Desire Moses

What do you picture when you think of Eastern Kentucky (as you so often do)? Likely hillbillies, moonshine, and crippling poverty. It’s exactly like Justified, only with substantially fewer sexy lawmen. How accurate is that impression, though? We spoke with a few Eastern Kentucky residents about what life is really like in the poorest part of Appalachia.

Third-World America: 5 Insane Realities Of Appalachia

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Appalachian Myths, Legends, and Folklore
1/? The Mothman

“The nocturnal butterfly. In ancient cultures, the moth represents a form of the psyche, or the soul immortally trapped in the hellish death realms. Mothman. Well, that’s what the Ukrainians called him. Rough translation of course. There were a hundred sightings in Chernobyl when the nuclear pump went down. Galveston, nineteen sixty-nine, just before the hurricane. They saw it. But seeing isn’t always believing.“