By Debra Pearson


As a (retired) thirty-year high school instructor, no matter what, destiny wills that I am always the teacher. In my former career, I was a Language Arts classroom educator. In my current life, I am a teacher of the forest. I recently was offered what I thought would be an easy two-hour per day afterschool nanny position: beginning at 3 pm,  three elementary aged siblings ages 9, 6, and 6 (fraternal twins) would be fed a snack, helped with homework, and nanny-sat  until their parents  finished work at 5. No worries. However, on my first day as nanny, I could not help but notice the small forest; a small piece of land that sloped and separated the family’s backyard from  huge power towers that dominated the landscape.  I immediately recognized three equally towering White Oak trees that made a triangular stance to the left, middle and right of the  property. Behind the White Oaks was a Beech, a Southern Read Oak,  Dogwoods, Sweet Gums, Tulip Poplars, a mature Hickory, and when I saw a Sourwood tree tucked discreetly in mid-story fashion  in the outer corner of the landscape, I knew the small forest that the family called their backyard was special.


On day one, I invited the children to walk with me into the forest to further investigate.  To my great delight, many indicator plants were present: Solomon Seal, Horse Balm. Wild Ginger, Lion’s Foot, Solomon Plume, and then I beheld…as Eco A director, Kathryn Kolb informed, the ‘smoking gun’ of an old growth forest remnant, the three-leaf indicator plant named Trillium. I startled the children when I screamed with delight upon finding it!  And that’s when the teaching idea was hatched.  I decided that being a nanny for the children had a much larger purpose. I would educate the young ones about the glorious old growth forest remnant that existed in their backyard.


The first task that I gave the children was that of trail builders.  The children and I collected felled branches and limbs and created a narrow series of trails that interlocked around and throughout the forest. It took a couple of days to complete, but the children were super excited because for the first time, they had access to their backyard and could run and play in it. I encouraged the children to walk the trails each day, and almost immediately the trail had the crushed leaf markings of repeated human footsteps. The trail building worked around the existing plants.  I used each trail detour as a teaching moment: “Nope, the trail can’t continue this way; there’s Horse Balm growing here” or “There’s Wild Ginger there.”  “Yes, the trail must go this way because a patch of Solomon Seal is growing a few footsteps away.” It was truly a rush to see the children’s enthusiasm and the extent to which they could remember and identify each plant species. They all adopted and fiercely protected the one Trillium forest resident, reminding each other to “be careful” as they ran through the trail where it lived.


Each day the children focused on a different tree or plant in their biodiverse backyard classroom. By the end of the third week each child had identified, drawn, and  colored the leaf, bark, flower or fruit samples of almost a dozen native trees.  Also, they logged into their notebooks the shapes of ten indicator plants that grew in the forest. And from there…the curriculum morphed. In a forest context the children wrote Haiku poems, learned sentence patterns, developed a vocabulary list, and wrote and shared stories.

By week four I suggested that the children invite their neighbors and friends to a forest dedication. In honor of the three towering White Oaks that dominated the canopy, the 3 OAK FOREST Dedication  materialized into an amazing event that included as guests their grandfather, three of their teachers, several neighbors, school, and neighborhood friends, and of course their two very proud and appreciative  parents. During the dedication event the children became the teachers by leading each guest on a tour of the forest. The children became the voices of the trees and plants, and they conducted their teaching responsibilities with the upmost  respect and reverence. 


My nanny/forest teaching experience fed my need to educate. However, over the course of four weeks,  teacher and students became one and the same. The children are now the teachers  of their outdoor classroom.  It is my hope that their connection to the forest has been forever baked in the fire of their experiences, and that they become stewards who will nurture and protect the forest forever.

A note from poet and leader of EcoAddendum’s Haiku Walk, Reverend Marti Keller:


A fall Eco-A nature walk through Hidden Cove park in Decatur provided a wooded setting for capturing this experience in three line verses, or haiku poetry. As participants learned about bark and branches, native and non-native trees and plants, they were also invited to record their moments of insight and perception.


From Brian M.:


Languid, slow-moving

Quietly snaking over rocks

Artery of life


Beech trees, silent seniors

Still bearing fruit and anchored

To moist Georgia soil


Sweet scents of decay

Fall colors carpet our path

Spring rebirth awaits


Oak acorns rain down

Pre-wheat nuts fed early Man

Garden of Eatin’


Tulip poplar tree

Forest soldier once stood tall

Upturned, now at peace


From Marcia C.:


hidden cove

blue jay and leaf blower

a competition


From Marti K.:


Native orb weaver

she’s working hard

to tidy web


scouting helicopter


the wild ginger


October white oak acorns

will not be



Carolina wren

boulevard traffic

remnant crickets


hard to stop calling

invasive green



leaves caravan

down the October creek

tadpoles vanished


From Kashish K.:


crunching through an orange trail

hopping on broken trunks

i walk to Nature.


nasty snaps of branches

shedding away the dead old weight

from green to orange to bare


a thorny womb

gives birth to symmetric

heart pods


acorns in my


am i a squirrel?


From Suraj S.:


Jewelweed spreads

waiting for the hummingbird’s beak

my fingers instead!


Hum of crickets

lost in conversation

found in silence


Red oak tree stands

adorning the road with acorns galore

squashed by tires


Fallen trees

old and gigantic on the floor

laying new foundations


From Jeannie H.:


Fall Sounds

Acorns Tumbling

All Abound All Around

As the Seasons Drop

Let it Go












Session 1: Anti-viral and respiratory remedies from 6 common

 backyard trees and plants, plus a few common kitchen herbs

will be posted by 12pm, April 11, 2020  


About Susan Edwards 

Susan is a Naturalist Educator and lives in Stone Mountain Village, GA with her musician husband Dan and their two young children.  She has degrees in both Natural Sciences and Education from the University of Georgia Athens. A B.S.A. in Entomology, B.S. in Ecology, and a Master’s of Education in Environmental Education. She has worked as a Naturalist Educator in numerous settings from Audubon in Mississippi, Nature Centers in Athens GA, Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, public schools in and around Atlanta, and at Reggio Emilia inspired preschools. She even started one of her own.

Susan has been interested in plants and their myriad of uses since growing up exploring the Great Plains ecosystems in Oklahoma as a young girl, where her classroom was nature. Playing in the meadow edge and creeks, she was “always mixing various plants with the water and mud and making various concoctions.” After moving to Georgia while still in school, she was able to immerse herself in the eastern Piedmont region and explore the wilds of the Southeast U.S. In high school she had the opportunity to learn from naturalists in several fields at Fernbank Science Center. In college she expanded her knowledge base, and through a period of 10yrs of international travel experience furthered her study of medicinal plants all over the world. She says:  “It was always out there, the voice on the edge of my work and experiences, always calling to me in a consistent yet whispering way. And finally as an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to truly be able to dive even deeper into the traditional knowings of plants, the healing world of them and beyond. That has felt like my calling all along.”

Susan continues to learn from regional herbalists in Georgia and the Southeast, gathering new knowledge and experiences with plant uses and the natural world and our deep connection to it. She is teaching at some regional herb conferences this year such as the Midsouth Women’s Herb Conference at Lookout Mountain. “It’s a passion and a life long journey for me — I love sharing it with others so much.” Most recently Susan and Dan started their own program called Sound of Nature School,, which offers hands-on homeschool classes in areas such as Nature Exploration, Herbs & Body Systems, History of the 20th century through Art & Music, as well as Music studio classes in their home studio, creative writing and even interactive physics classes. She is thrilled to work with Eco-A again this year and loves learning together with the broader community on engaging walks “that help connect us all to the nature that is within us and all around us.”

The Sanctuary – A Work in Continuous Evolution

Walter W. Williams, MD

Love of “nature” and living things (especially trees) is in my DNA. Even as a very young child and budding adolescent, I had an affinity for nature and learning about all things living – insects, plants, animals (land or sea dwellers), microorganisms, and of course, homo sapiens. There were undisturbed wooded areas near my childhood home, a lake, and a large tributary to the Mississippi River, and these were my favorite places to play and discover.

It seemed a no-brainer to major in human biology in college, after a thoroughly exciting and fun experience in high school exploring natural science courses. Going on to study medicine felt the proper course for things, as well as pursuing a career that involves continuous learning about things that affect our lives.

I made my first home in southeast Dekalb County after relocating to Atlanta in 1978, and I wanted to stay in the area when “new home fever” overtook me. I had bicycled passed this wooded lot that has become “The Sanctuary” many times with my riding club, the Metro Atlanta Cycling Club (MACC), noticing the majestic white oaks that dominated the lot, towering over all the other trees and the thick undergrowth. When cycling pass the lot, which is in a valley after a fast (13%) downhill, I often glimpsed this large wooden sign, well off the road, and mostly hidden by the trees and undergrowth. I later determined the sign announced, “acreage available.” During one ride, a series of colorful for sale signs had been placed by a realty company just off the roadway out of the woods in easy view of all passers-by – “Lot for Sale – 11.3 acres.”

Beset by this growing new home fever and other personal drivers that demanded more space, I decided to call the number on the for sale signs and eventually was referred to the property owner. The owner was in total “don’t waste my time” mode, having set a non-negotiable price for the lot and apparently was eager to find a buyer. I was quite ready to plunge in, so aggressively sought out a reputable builder and set up a meeting to walk the lot with the owner and the builder, who tuned out to be a very personable, easy-going gentleman, who was on the top of his craft.

When I first walked the lot, it was mid-afternoon on a sunny summer day, sunlight was filtering through the tree canopy, and within minutes, as the property owner, the builder, and I cut a path with machetes through the thick undergrowth that began right at the roadside, I knew this was the place for my sanctuary – a feeling of serenity engulfed me, and the vision for this place was spawned.

In a word, “sold” – I made the lot purchase happen as quickly as property sales allow and began the quest to get things in place to start the major part of the journey – building The Sanctuary. Hours of intensive self-study were spent on property development, home design, residential construction, construction management, carpentry, concrete, masonry, and brickwork, plumbing and electrical installation, interior design (including architectural design features), kitchen and bath design, visiting home shows, and more. After about six months, I prepared reasonable drawings of the basic site plan, floor plans for the main structure, found an architect to prepare construction plans, got the construction loan and building permit, and broke ground!

The first time I waded across the creek (Pole Bridge Creek) to explore the greater wooded areas of the lot, the commitment to establish a nature trail was solidified. I had drawn up a trail design as a major component of the initial site plan for the overall construction project, exercising due diligence in researching environmentally appropriate trail development. Starting the preparation of the trail became a key component of the initial property development, tagging the route to avoid damaging any trees, and frequently discovering and having to remove hidden barbed wire left by whomever/whatever had gone on here before me. Along with living quarters, constructing a weight-bearing bridge for access to the forest was another essential element. I delved into fengshui, and books on Georgia and eastern region trees, wildflowers, and birds, and common birds of greater Atlanta. The books on fengshui were great aides for helping me better understand the topography of the terrain and how nature interacts with it, assess, choose, and design the sites for structures, as well as the layout and appointments for interiors.

The Sanctuary Nature Walk was cut initially early in 2001 during the development of other parts of the property, but rapidly was overgrown with local invasive plants due to the lack of easy access across the creek for foot traffic before the memorial bridge that now spans the creek was constructed (2007-2008). The bridge was later christened with installation of a headstone in March 2011, dedicating the bridge and nature walk to my parents, Elizabeth and Jim Williams. The construction of this load-bearing bridge (up to 25,000 pounds) was a major undertaking that warrants its own recount! With the “Elizabeth & Jim Williams Memorial Bridge” in place, the trail could be restored more easily and the exciting world and exploration of the Nature Walk, also in my parents’ names, could be undertaken in earnest.

Natural stone benches were installed in key locations along the walking path. The benches allow expansive views of the forest, resting places for weary hikers, and feeding pedestals for squirrels and other animals to enjoy. The views from these locations are all so different at various times of day and as the seasons morph from spring to summer, fall, and winter. The Nature Walk is well-established now after my use for some years and use by animals (who love it), along with yearly seasonal droppings from the trees, which has created abundant bedding on the walking path.

One of the goals for the entire development has been to create a peaceful/restful/serene place on the edge of the forest with a minimal footprint that nurtures and energizes the spirit and generate equipoise. Xeriscaping with limited traditional gardening limits the footprint of the main living quarters, with just a tiny “lawn” that extends only a few yards from the rear of the living quarters and ends at the edge of the forest. Vistas of the forest are available from almost every location of the living quarters.

Visitors from the woods come daily (and nightly) to the open spaces surrounding the living quarters and the lower patio and upper veranda as well. How joyful it is to watch the birds and animals who make this area their home: the cardinal couple that nests nearby and fly in to feed on the veranda at about the same time every day, watching them grow older over the years and then to be introduced to some of their offspring who now come to feed on the veranda as well; other small birds who come daily in small flocks to feed on different schedules – early, mid and late morning shifts; the wild turkey that come up year-round and especially during mating season, when the toms do their vanity feather-spreads, puff up their chests, and strut around the hens to impress and stake their claims, often pecking at other toms and their reflections on my front windows; the parades of hens and their poults foraging for edibles; the deer who love the white oak acorn, and often come up in droves of 12 and more to feast on the fallen acorn in the driveway – easy pickings; the raccoon, the coyote, fox, possum, turtles, occasional armadillo, big birds (owl, hawks, vultures/other scavenger birds, crane and other occasional migrating birds), snakes, salamander, frogs, big bugs, chipmunk, and of course the ubiquitous, pesky squirrels.

It is so wonderful to have a modest swath of natural forest right in the heart of Dekalb County. The opportunity to preserve this small, natural gem, create a trail to explore it, seemed to have just flowed as part of what I was destined to do, making The Sanctuary an embracing space that evokes what “Sanctuary” is intended to mean.

I am thrilled to have been introduced to EcoAddendum and the wonderful work of this organization and am excited about the future ahead discovering and learning more about what surrounds me.




Photos, from top: Dr. Walter Williams in bonsai garden, by K.Kolb; Backyard and forest, by Walter Williams; Pole Bridge Creek, high water, by Walter Williams; View into Sanctuary forest. Photo K.Kolb, Moss on rocks by Walter Williams, Deer tracks, by Walter Williams.








Martha LaFollette Miller moved from Charlotte, NC to the Decatur area 7 years ago to be near her son and his family.  In her former life she was a Spanish professor at UNC Charlotte for many years. 

Here is the story of her backyard forest:


“When I moved from North Carolina to Midway Woods 7 years ago, I fell in love with the magnificent trees in my neighborhood and with the abundance of forested areas close by. I bought a house on a lot that slopes down to a branch of Shoal Creek. Falcon Murty, who designed and built my home, had understood the value of preserving the trees on the property and had incorporated woodland views into the floor plan. I loved my woods, but I had no idea at that time that my woods would come to occupy such an important place in my life, eventually becoming a full-fledged forest restoration project.

At first, the only issue I saw was English ivy on the ground and the tree trunks. Little by little, sometimes with help, often alone, I pulled the ivy out by hand, avoiding chemicals to protect wildlife. As I worked on my own property, and in Dearborn Park with neighbors, I became more and more familiar with the local landscape, and I gradually learned about the many other invasive plants that plague our woods. With the ivy under control, I turned my focus to Enemy No. 2, the Chinese privets that had become large enough to obstruct my view of the creek. I was still somewhat naïve, imagining that this unwanted plant would be my last major last challenge. A team of professional forest restorers led by Jeremy Dahl helped me dig, pull, and cut until the privet was mostly gone.

I now realize that in thinking that I had almost whipped my woods into shape in a mere four years or so, I had seriously underestimated the complexity of the task as well as my own deepening commitment to my woods. Many other invasives needed attention. I continued to work, and by now I have seen an awe-inspiring native landscape emerge from a tangle of exotic vines and imported shrubs of little value to the native ecosystem.  I’ve freed majestic oaks, beeches, and hickories from the ivy that was harming them and created spaces where new native seedlings can thrive, including many new understory trees, such as redbuds.

I have also gained a historical perspective from a noted local naturalist, Kathryn Kolb, who estimated that many of my tall trees were a hundred or more years old and thus may have witnessed native Americans living along the creek and perhaps even heard Civil War cannons fired in the vicinity. Kathryn also identified some vegetation in the woods that grows only in undisturbed soil, indicating that my woods contained remnants of an old growth forest. I now dream of creating a small all-native forest refuge, where birds can find nourishment from plants that evolved along with them, instead of plants suited to animals in other parts of the world that can even be poisonous to our own bird species.

I still have a ways to go but a true native forest is now within reach!

Though small in size, the woodland I have nurtured has revealed to me what a healthy native forest looks like and the extent to which the surrounding woodlands are not healthy. All around the neighborhood I see forests that have been badly neglected. The natural areas of Dearborn Park are deteriorating before our eyes, as are the woods at Legacy Park. Everywhere, I see native trees being crowded out by privet, ivy, and many other invasives.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the extraordinary woodland areas land along Shoal Creek could be brought back to health? We know what trees can do to combat climate change, especially mature woodland trees that are part of rich, complex ecosystems. The tangle of invasives strangling our woods is undermining the potential of our native plants, especially our mature native trees, to mitigate global warming and to nurture wildlife, such as the songbirds that are quickly disappearing.

As development threatens green spaces in Decatur, calls go out for tree plantings. From my perspective, vastly more effective would be preserving our existing trees and their habitats. In the woods, trees can live in a symbiotic relationship to each other. The existing soil has been enriched by decaying vegetable matter over centuries. The seedlings spring up in their natural habitat, but they can’t thrive if aggressive invasive plants take up their water, nutrients, and sunlight.





Here is a picture of my woods this February.













Here is a picture of unhealthy woods across the creek on the same day.






Can you help? I know that many residents of Decatur and the surrounding areas care about our green spaces and strongly favor their protection. A group of us from the area around Dearborn Park have formed the Dearborn Park Nature Alliance. We would like to hear from anyone who is interested in rescuing local woods from deterioration.


For more information about Dearborn Park Nature Alliance, contact:

Sarah Zingorelli 404-373-7266

Martha Miller  404-377-0088



Suzanne Simard has pioneered research in how trees communicate with each other, part of a growing new field of scientific research on plant intelligence. View her fascinating TED talk below.

By Debra B. Pearson


My reverence for the backyard forest was sparked by a tragedy that occurred in 2014, when it was almost destroyed. It was Easter weekend, and I was awakened by a trembling of the earth. I rushed out of bed to witness carnage. Several mature trees had been cut and were lying across my backyard. There were several men who were pulling and guiding ropes; ropes that were tied to trees in my neighbor’s yard; trees that were being removed because of fear and ignorance. My neighbor did not value the dozens of trees he destroyed that day. In felling his trees, he also destroyed mine. He directed the tree workers to protect his home and to use my forest as the place upon which his cut trees would land. Thus, several beautiful, mature, and healthy native trees were caught in the crossfire of destructive tree practices. Some of my trees did not survive the carnage. I felt powerless to stop it.


I frantically called an environmental organization for advice. I was guided to Eco-A director, Kathryn Kolb. Kathryn spoke to me—a total stranger with so much compassion. The broad scope of her knowledge about tree ecology and the environment invoked within me a calling and a purpose to advance the ethos of tree conservation and advocacy.


Kathryn directed me to an arborist who came to the forest to access the damage. He also made recommendations as to how I could improve and support the forest. One suggestion he made was to create a narrow trail around the perimeter of the forest using felled branches and limbs as borders. I followed his advice, and as the trail began to take shape, I developed a deep and reverent bond with the forest. I began to see each tree as an individual with whom I wanted to become acquainted; each plant as a member of my family whom I wanted to protect and love. And my relationship with the forest has grown deeper and more reverent with each passing season.


Since my forest “tragedy,” I have spent hours and hours in forests throughout the metro area and beyond. I am constantly learning from the earth and her plant based inhabitants. I have hosted learning events in my backyard paradise in an effort to spread awareness about forest ecology. Last summer, I conducted a very meaningful and successful forest camp for children. Kathryn has become not only my mentor but a respected and dedicated friend. I continue to learn from her vast reservoir of knowledge.


The tragedy of my forest experience has evolved into what I consider the golden highlight of my existence. I continue to be inspired by its essence. For the rest of my life I will enjoy its blessings.

Debra Pearson shares her backyard forest with Eco-A and friends on April 14th.  —  For more information and to register click HERE 


Written by: Debra Pearson


In June of 2018 EcoAddendum conducted a pilot camp for school aged children.  The impetus for the Urban Forest Camp sprung from one of the core values of Eco A—a reverence and love for the earth and her ecology and a desire to share this value with others.

I have previously collaborated with Kathryn Kolb on a couple of Eco-A events that involved elementary school children. As a retired educator, I began to reflect upon how my skills as teacher could be adapted to outdoor education. I began to write a curriculum for an outdoor camp that could be conducted in the small forest that is located in the backyard of my home. With Kathryn as my resource, the process of identifying and labeling many of the native trees and plants in my forest began several years ago.  Thus, the forest has become an excellent teaching and learning facility.The camp children were phenomenal! The first day of camp had an enrollment of nine (9) children who ranged from seven to eleven years of age.  Each day, half of the camp was spent outside in the forest as a field experience.  Several documents were designed to engage the students with the ecology of the forest. The campers collected data on native over story, middle story, and understory trees, native plant species, and indicator plants.  The second half of each camp day was spent indoors wherein campers completed their field notes, compared and contrasted plant data, and before the camp ended they were analyzing and evaluating soil quality and drawing conclusions about plant diversity that existed in particular areas of the forest.

The children loved every aspect of being outdoors among the trees. Their laughter and enthusiasm became the joyful voices that competed with the calls and songs of the resident birds. They were so happy with the thrill of exploration and discovery.

On the last day of camp, the children organized a closing program that included their family members. About a dozen guests came to support them. The campers conducted a Socratic Seminar that allowed them to “expertly” convey their new found expertise on all things forest. They shared their haiku forest poems and conducted a tour through the forest with their family guests. I was absolutely amazed by how much the children learned and were able to articulate about forest ecology.

Since the end of the summer camp season, several children have come back to their forest classroom to check on the baby trees they measured, labeled, and adopted. Their footprints and presence will always be welcomed.  Like the trees, I hope their connection to the earth remains grounded and strongly rooted in nature’s  support, beauty, and generosity.

In conversation with Cherokee leader Tom Belt, and Cherokee National Forest Archaeologist and Tribal Liaison, Quentin Bass, on Eco-A’s outing to the Cherokee Kituwah site, near Bryson City, NC, July, 2018.
The following are notes made during Cherokee leader Tom Belt’s talk to us at Kituwah, and from his responses to questions by Eco-A attendees. Tom Belt is one of the Cherokee leaders focused on keeping Cherokee traditional culture alive and well. A few words here are direct quotes but most are paraphrased with care to the intent of the speakers and the original conversation. This is only a very small part of the words and ideas shared, and I have added a few notes for context in italics. Many thanks to Quentin Bass for arranging this special opportunity, and for sharing his deep knowledge about Cherokee and American history and culture in the Southeast. — Kathryn
Quentin Bass and Tom Belt:
The word “Cherokee” does not originate with those known as Cherokee today – the word came about because a Creek Indian guide traveling with DeSoto called the people living north of Creek territory the “Tsalagi,” meaning “people of a different speech.”
Tom Belt (above, seated at left of group):
Kituwah, Katuah – are American spellings of what is pronounced “Gadua” – which means “the dirt where we live that belongs to God.” 
We would say we have always been here, at “Gadua.” Like your story of Moses receiving the law from the mountaintop, so we received the eternal flame and the laws from God, many more than 10 laws, from the top of the mountain now called Clingman’s Dome (which is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains and nearly tied with Mt. Mitchell — within 40 feet — as being the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River) From our mother town site, Kituwah, there is a direct view to the top of this mountain.
For us places are important, “we don’t have a cosmology, we have cosmography” – unlike the British settlers, we would not say “this looks a good place to build a town.” There is a reason why our town is located in a particular place. Places are intrinsically connected to making decisions for a reason. We all live downslope or downstream. 
Why would you employ science without a conscience – why would you do that? Splitting atoms to make a big destructive power – we do not understand why you would do things “just because you can.” When we did things we considered reasons to justify them.
 (KK note: This sounds much like the a law of the Iroquoian Confederacy “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” The Cherokee language is part of the Iroquoian language group.)
“We know who we are. We are of the land, not, the land serves us.” 
We celebrate those, like Red Bird Smith, who saw how important it was to keep our traditions alive. Our traditions are not just “a performance,” they are “ceremony.”  Keeping traditions means knowing who you are, it means survival — “if you become like them [the conquerors] then you’re dead, you no longer exist.”
“The eternal flame has a broad and deep meaning and I cannot go into to all of that here – though it is not literally a flame, we keep a piece [coal] from the fire, so each new fire has a connection back to the original flame — the fire which goes on forever.”
Tom Belt and Quentin Bass (above, with historic maps):
This forest does not look like it did when the Europeans first came, the Ferguson family had “a tree rounded out that they were keeping baby cows in” – QB: we know there were hollowed out American Chestnut trees 20 feet across at the base.  TB: When Europeans got here, they think they saw an “untouched” landscape, but we had been stewarding that landscape, making it in optimal condition. When trees in the mountains here were cut, they took out so many logs that if laid end to end they would have circled the earth three times. 
Tom Belt:
Large Native American cities like Cahokia were abandoned long before Europeans arrived. They say no one knows why, they ask what is “the reason,” was it a war or climate change? — when maybe it was a decision made for a reason, maybe it was decided the urban model was not a sustainable way to live, so it was abandoned.
You can’t cut out part of the whole, you can’t say take away just some of the birds, or just the insects. Losing any piece “will have a domino effect, and this place will look like the surface of Mars. They [our ancestors] knew that early on.”
“But what happens if only humans die? The water gets cleaner, the trees grow and the air gets clearer, the earth gets better, which leads us to the question – why are we here?  Our purpose, that we have maintained for generations, answers this question — this is not just beautiful, quaint folklore, it’s science with a conscience.”
The English language is noun-based, the Cherokee language is verb-based. Everything in English begins with “I” – I this and I that  — “I saw a bear over there.” In our language the bear comes first, “Bear over there that I saw.”  Because in our way, the bear comes first, it belongs to the world that is more important than we are. And if I am telling you about the bear – you need to hear “bear” first, that is most important.” (laughing).
Referencing the idea of “we” – when 18th century British explorers wrote back to England about Native American towns and the people in them, he said “there were no paupers and no orphans in the Cherokee Nation.”  (Cities with paupers and orphans were standard in Europe at that time.)
Cherokee culture is not analytical – Western culture may think our traditions and stories are “cute,” some kind of mythology.  “We said trees have a memory – what we say is not cute, it’s true.  Science is now proving what we said was true.”
We cut the trees, we have global warming, we are living in an unsustainable way. There is more to life than “scurrying around on errands – driving to Waynesville for this or that, or what I did today in Bryson City – in doing all these things we are killing all – in the service of what?”
“Today, we need to apply conscience – a new way of thinking. We need to remind people of who they are, and with knowing who you are comes responsibilities – when people ask what do we mean by sacred, this is what is sacred.”
Our way was “not based on conquest, it’s based on knowing who you are – we are the people of Kituwah (Gadua), people of the dirt that does not belong to us.”

Top photo, Great Smoky Mountains view, and pipevine swallowtail butterflies at Kituwah (above) by Tony Thaxton Jr. 


New See Eco-A’s Brochure on JCF:

Japanese Chaff Flower Alert Brochure and How to Distinguish JCF From Other High Value Native Species 


The Japanese chaff flower is one of the newest invasive plant species spreading quickly through Georgia. Here’s how to spot and help prevent the spread of the plant, especially when hiking with your dog.

One of Georgia’s newest invasive plants is so aggressive, Eco-A naturalist Kathryn Kolb tells people to “treat its seeds like nuclear waste.”

Since the seeds of Japanese chaff flower are extremely prolific and viable, what she means is dispose of the plant completely once its pulled. September is the time when Japanese chaff flower seeds ripen and spread. Ironically, their best ally, though they’re innocent bystanders, is your dog.

The seeds stick like Velcro to dog fur, especially as our best friends brush by the plant on urban trails. You and your favorite hiking companion can be in a Decatur park on Saturday, then hiking a waterfall in North Georgia on Sunday, not knowing the chaff flower seeds hitchhiked a ride on your pet’s fur or stuck to your own shoes and clothes. Its seed has just been spread miles away from its original site.

Japanese Chaff Flower in Georgia

While all good trail and park managers are well aware of invasive plants like kudzu, privet and English ivy, Japanese chaff flower is still under the radar and spreads much more quickly, making the little-known pest a true crisis for Georgia’s parks and trails. About 60% of the robust grower’s seeds germinate immediately. Atlanta is one of four hotspots nationally; it has taken over the entire forest floor in at least one Atlanta park, and is poised to take over several others.

“This plant poses a severe threat to biodiversity, much more than English ivy or kudzu, and once it becomes established, it is exponentially more difficult to remove,” Kolb explains. “If left unchecked, it will smother out all other plants,” she has observed. Kolb leads people of all ages on guided nature walks in parks and trails around metro-Atlanta where she sees the plant spreading swiftly.

Japanese Chaff Flower in Georgia

Japanese chaff flower, Achryanthes japonica, is native to Korea and Japan and has “only been spotted in Atlanta for five years,” she goes on. That’s why it’s so important to engage volunteer hikers right now to learn to identify it and make the effort to dispose of it in trash bags. It pulls up easily by the root in its first year, yet after three years, it’s harder to pull.

by Lisa Frank, photos by Kathryn Kolb as published in