Too big to fall

Nature is pretty spectacular in these parts because our fair city is nestled on the Fall Line, a 20-mile strip of land that runs northeastward across Georgia, separating the hard rock of the mountainous north from the sandy soils of the coastal plain.

Our section of the Fall Line is particularly beautiful, thanks to the Chattahoochee River (not that I’m biased). That shift in geology causes a quick drop in the river’s elevation, leading to a huge release of energy that was eventually harnessed by damming. Good news if you were shopping for a place to put a mill at the turn of the last century, and that’s how Columbus became the booming industrial town it was.

The Fall Line is home to rare flora and fauna like these carnivorous Sarrecenia pitcher plants as well as the majestic longleaf pine. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine what this area was like once upon a time, when longleaf forests covered 90 million acres. Only 3% of that forest remains, but groups like The Nature Conservancy are working hard to change that around here.

Today, I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon surrounded by folks in the Chattahoochee Fall Line Conservation Partnership who have dedicated their lives to restoring this ecosystem. Throughout the meeting, my mind went back to a favorite passage from Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, where she describes the music of the forest:

What thrills me most about longleaf forests is how the pine trees sing. The horizontal limbs of flattened crowns hold the wind as if they are vessels, singing bowls, and air stirs in them like a whistling kettle. I lie in thick grasses covered with sun and listen to the music made there. This music cannot be heard anywhere else on the earth.

Hope one day I’ll get to hear that music. But until then, I’ll just have to listen to this.

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