Creating family traditions in your mountain cabin that will last a lifetime.
Over the river and through the woods to Nana’s cabin we go. All across north Georgia’s Appalachian region, households are being prepared for the glorious days of autumn and the coming holiday season. The cycle of life ripens even as the forests and animals shudder with the approach of winter at year’s end. Orchards are brimming with the season’s bounty: apples, produce, pumpkins and fantastic varieties of colorful gourds. Trees sense the season, and quicker than we realize, cloak themselves in the blazing raiment of brilliantly colored fall foliage.
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Many threads weave through the story of life in the Blue Ridge, but the great themes are held common in a sturdy tapestry traversing times old and new. Friendly greetings are exchanged in grocery stores, specialty shops, and restaurants between old friends and new acquaintances. This today is the same as yesterday. Hometown gatherings spill into the streets each weekend, welcoming happy newcomers as well as kindly old timers. It’s a busy season, full of promise and purpose for all.
Untold feet have trod these shared pathways, but much of the gentle Appalachian way of life is remarkably consistent from generation to generation and family to family. So often, women are the foundation of families and continuity. Mountain living might seem to be a masculine domain, with rough-hewn cabins, and a history of difficulty in clearing fields, plowing stony ground, and building split rail fences. But behind male stereotypes, the woman’s role in Appalachian living yesterday and today cannot be overstated.
Today’s grandmothers are busy making preparations to gather their loved ones at this special time of year. And finding themselves assuming new roles in life in their mature years, many have occasion to reflect on their own childhood and upbringing, to consider the challenges of life then, the experience of their adult children today, and the world of influences and distractions in which their grandchildren live. In this, Appalachian living is not something to escape from, but something to return to. And the chosen life and context to living that many women deliberately convey to their posterity.
It is easy to think ahead to the family assembled for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and at the same time to reflect upon years past. Thoughts of distant memories are easy to summon and return with vitality. If we could overhear thoughts, and experience recollections of another…
Many times as a girl, she had helped her grandmother work in the kitchen. “Busy hands…” she was always told. Thinking back on slower times, it was evident they weren’t slower at all. Days began early and many chores were done before daylight. Back then, there were no televisions, no transistor radios, and no earbuds. With grandmother, conversation occupied your thoughts while your hands were kept incessantly busy.
Granny Jarrell spoke of her own childhood. Whatever the task, as she sewed, baked, fed the chickens, or hung laundry out to dry, she related stories passed by her own grandmothers and great aunts.
Grandmother never had more than a few dresses, only two or three. These many years later, it is hard to remember, and even harder to be certain of direct memory or recollection of an old photograph. Thinking back now, it is easier to see her apron than the dress itself; it seems only for church on Sundays was the apron ever removed. That apron. In its gathered folds, Granny held eggs collected from the hen house. She dried eyes and cleaned dirty faces. A garment of simple utility was transformed into a multipurpose tool of motherhood.
Addie Bell Hardin, or Nana, once reminisced that she could pick apples without leaving the porch of her grandfather’s house in Rome, Georgia. Memories such as these are common across the apple country of north Georgia, which centers on Ellijay and Gilmer County, known as Georgia’s Apple Capital. Begun in 1972, the Georgia Apple Festival has become the biggest event of autumn in the mountains of north Georgia.
Romantics speak of simpler times. But those days were not simpler days; only our understanding of them is simple. Grandmother’s recollections of her own grandmother included the supreme difficulties of wars not distant nor abstract. Immediately present horrors, loss, and sadness. Life always has an urgency and immediacy in the chaos of present tense, and yet the deliberate direction we take and choices we make have predictable outcomes in small increments which accumulate over time.
In an old worn box, a few precious letters remain, mile-stones that document the path. Grandmother’s words are as beautiful as her voice, but characters shaped in labored pencil strokes reveal her weary hand.
There are qualities of character not much discussed today, but relevant as ever. Perseverance, fortitude, industriousness, honesty and integrity. The modern world is a cauldron of confusion for the young and inexperienced, and for many families, Appalachia is the antidote.
New and improved aren’t synonyms. Outside the jargon of advertising, these words are distant cousins at best, and unrelated more often than not. There is no shortage of distractions in modern life, and no agreement on what our positions and priorities should be. Perhaps what was old is now new again. The ancient mountains of Appalachia are not new, even as their wonders are discovered anew by every child and every generation.
Deciding to live in the mountains, even building a new second home, brings questions from friends. “Isn’t that a huge commitment?” Exactly. A defining commitment; one out of step among a generation that has trouble with commitments. Still, the desire to get away from it all, to have a place of your own, runs deep in the American character, and a cabin in the woods is a dream for many, and perhaps most, according to recent surveys.
“We see this all the time,” says Sam Satterwhite. For over a decade, people have traveled from far and wide to attend seminars produced by his company, Satterwhite Log Homes. As meeting rooms fill, Satterwhite knows how much people have in common – the dreams they share, the hopes they have for their families. It is always nice to begin a day with hundreds of strangers, and end with hundreds of friends.
More often than not, Sam concludes his day-long presentation of shared practical knowledge by returning to the dreams that motivate people to attend. “There is no Christmas like Christmas in a log home,” he will say. Satterwhite’s own outlook is tempered with purpose like strong and seasoned timber. Among those close to him, and in the character of the employees and company he has built over 40 years, Sam Satterwhite knows that the greatest attribute of true leadership is humble service. To that end, his entire approach is towards helping his customers realize their dreams. Something as serious as a family home is no place for fancy marketing tactics or gimmicks, and high pressure sales are never acceptable. Integrity of product, forthright answers to questions, honest prices, no surprises, and generous sharing of experience are relied on to maximize outcome.
The problem with dreams is they tend to be nebulous. One of the most important life skills is translating thoughts and dreams into a practical course of action. Perhaps these things highlight what mountain living is all about, to be actively living out dreams and realizing goals. To be shaping memories and developing children into generations of connected families. To be surrounded by others equally committed to similar values. Is Appalachian living a commitment? Yes. And for many, a commitment of the highest order.And though they may not be common, and a bit hard to find, this autumn at the Georgia Apple Festival, don’t be surprised to see at least a few flower print cotton dresses, upon which aprons are neatly tied. Sentimental, perhaps. Deliberate, most certainly. AC
Satterwhite Log Homes
Celebrating 40 Years
Eastern Sales Office & Model Home
14378 Highway 515 N
Ellijay, Georgia 30536
1. 800.918. 6881