" Stories From a Five Hundred Year Old Tree"

Grandmother Tree NC.jpg

Published by Laurie Friedman-Adler


In 1863, President Lincoln finally agreed with the radical abolitionists that slavery, as an institution, should not exist. Therefore, while working towards abolishing this egregious act towards humanity, the President finally announces on January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation, which states, “All slaves in areas still in rebellion are freed.” The Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania was fought from July 1-3, 1863 with horrific deaths on both sides of this Civil War. The intention of this battle, according to Confederate President Robert E. Lee, was to bring the war to the North and perhaps defeat them on their own land. During this year in a small town in North Carolina called Prospect Hill, two brothers not yet involved in war, built a home next to a three hundred and fifty year old oak tree.

On August 15, 2017, Jeff Adler and I loaded up our car with the bare essentials including clarinet mouthpieces and enough CD’s to get us through a ten and a half hour trip to Viking Mountain Rd. in Greenville, Tennessee. Waiting for us were Daniel Bigay’s seven new D Native Flutes yearning to be played and going through the process of choosing the “perfect one” for the trip back to Brooklyn! To our surprise all seven flutes were so artistically and acoustically beautiful that the decision was met with delightful frustration. As the Flute sounds resonated up the mountain, we finally settled on two different wooden flutes, each with different timbres, yet unmistakably beautiful. After three days of endless flute playing, Danny, Jeff and I drove to the Cherokee Reservation to meet up with an old acquaintance, Edwin George, who lives way up in the Smokey Mountains on a death defying hill… daring your car’s brakes to fail. Edwin is a full-blooded Cherokee Native whose dreams are turned into delightful artistic renderings. To me Edwin is the quintessential storyteller, who can spin stories about life on the Reservation, and tell us about those sly, adventurous and mysterious spirits who can show up at any time. His stories educated us about his young life without access to running water, electricity, living off the land and speaking only Cherokee. His colorfully imaginative art and complicated images surrounding the main subject of his paintings, punctuated how this wonderful soulful man views his world. I left feeling both inspired and sad that this might be the last time we would hear those stories. We said our goodbyes and traveled back to Viking Mountain Road.

As we headed towards a small music store tucked away between two opposing mountains, Vilas, North Carolina became our next destination. Muncy Winds is a familiar name among New York City musicians who now have to order all of their musical supplies from the Internet. Gone are the rows of music stores herded together on 48th and 46th street in Manhattan. They have been bulldozed to make room for more condos, more office buildings as overflowing humanity increases your memory of what was once was a haven for musicians. It was so peaceful to be able to go into Muncy Winds, put faces to the names that spoke to you on the phone and then hear nature instead of outlandish city noise. Our intention was to try new Bb clarinets and Bass Clarinets, but came away with buying the same old stuff like reeds, reed cases, oil, and barrels…a repeat of orders placed on phones or the internet! Oh well, the experience of meeting humans far exceeded the cold, inflexible Internet or phone. They took photos of us to prove we really existed and we headed to our next destination, Prospect Hill, North Carolina on August 19, 2017.

The now 500-year-old Grandmother oak tree is still watching over the 1863 house. Statuesque in its beauty, grand in its appearance, I went over to touch this living spirit and the history it witnessed for all those years. Jeff’s friend Roger renovated the 1863 house and truly believes that quality of life is far more important than financial gain. There was an intangible element to this visit; the warmth, humor, honesty, the delicious food grown from his land, the surprise conversation from this liberal southerner who passionately used words like equity, social justice and the stories about those brothers who built the house never wanting to go into the confederate army to fight a war. This house fascinated me. In many ways the house stands for the renewal of a country that was at war with itself, a house built with dreams of becoming a home, and finally a home renovated by a passionate couple that furnished it with love and kindness. I kept saying to myself that 1863 was a time when brother fought brother, sister fought sister, families were torn apart and the color of your skin determined your fate. The Civil War was over in 1865 and we have grown as a nation, but then there was Charlottesville…

Laurie Friedman-Adler

September 10, 2017

Judith Dansker