In the past month, two dear friends from the tiny hamlet of Helvetia in the West Virginia Appalachians passed away. With them goes a great deal of memory and wisdom and beauty. We’re heading down there to pay our respects, and… just be for a while…in Appalachia’s astonishing spring, as we remember their wild, rich, completely original lives.

“Rage, rage at the dying of the light”. Eleanor Mailloux wrote us this fragment of the famous poem by Dylan Thomas when she was diagnosed with a deadly cancer. She didn’t rage, though. At age 94, she opted for no treatment, spent time with her many friends, and made no bones about the fact that she was dying, which, we realize once again, is a process of pure improvisation.

We thought it fitting to post this wondrous video of  a walk along all 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, that spans from Georgia to Maine. Using stop motion, Kevin Gallagher condensed a six month journey into five minutes. Watch full screen for a mesmerizing and enlivening walk.

We’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the state of our hearts.

Video link here.

Related posts:

building -> growing -> alive (in memory of eleanor mailloux)

foraging for ‘real’: ramps etc with recipe

fasnacht: wild + creative antidote for winter

a (mind) game for cultivating resourcefulness

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12 replies on “the appalachian trail (2200 miles in 5 mins) + we’re gone!

  1. This video is amazing! My brother hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and I know he’ll be so excited to see this. Since he’s returned, he also made a stop motion video but instead of the entire trail, he took the same picture of the same spot on the Appalachian trail every day (almost always at 4:30 pm). Below is the link in case you’d like to check it out!

    I wish you the best on your trip and I’m sorry for your loss. Among nature is the best place to go to “just be”.

  2. Traveling mercies to you —

    I spent two weeks, a long time ago, camping and hiking in the Adirondacks — so much beauty there.

  3. This is a beautiful video. Thank you for posting it. The trail is kind of a metaphor for life isn’t it? Sorry about the loss of your friends…

  4. Thank you for sharing this remarkable video. Have a healing trip to Helvetia. Let’s hope it’s springtime–the season of rebirth–there. Love, Harriet

  5. Not only is the video beautiful, but so is the post leading up to it, containing reference to the authors’ (sad) visit to the heart of the Appalachians, and the dramatic cultural references to Dylan Thomas and Eleanor Mailloux. Its one of the most gracious posts I’ve seen on the web.

  6. sending you love I hold dear memories of the ladies of Helvetia and the pungent ramps and those lovingly wrapped packages of kitchen table cheese, bottles of dandelion wine. What a wonderful and magical place you found with them.

  7. I spent this past weekend, amidst snow and freezing rain, in a tiny Appalachian town in deep mourning. Internet and phone access were difficult for many reasons and I was only able to check emails and the blog on Friday evening. I can’t tell you how much your Comments meant to me: great comfort coming through strong. Thank you all so much.

  8. Dear Sally,
    You made Helvetica and its inhabitants come alive for me at an early SFA symposium, and your talk is still one of the best I’ve ever heard, on any subject, anywhere. Thank you for sharing such remarkable people–their bright spirits were truly an inspiration. I am so sorry for your loss….

  9. Jane, thank you so much for your words. It was very honored to be able to talk at the Southern Foodways Symposium on Appalachia, about the Swiss who forged an incredibly original way of life in the mountain wilderness.The loss is a huge one and the concern of everyone in the town is to keep it going with it’s heart and spirit beaming through as it always has, even without Eleanor Mailloux and Rogers McAvoy and the many others that have passed over the years. I’m working with Eleanor’s daughter and some others to possibly create a Museum for the Fasnacht Masks, which I’ll write about it here once we know.
    Thanks again.

  10. I am in a state of wondering what might have happened to your 2 friends…I am just coming into this dialog and film and the beauty & wonder focused on the longevity and the fragility of life. Send past words of your friends and who they were to you and how you loved them if you can and will….Maggie

  11. Sally, I was lucky enough to hear the story of your friend Eleanor’s last meal. It’s so easy for me to feel helpless these days, but seeing your tribute here and recalling this story reminds me there is always a choice. I hope you will share it. Thank you.

  12. Hi Maggie, The story is a long one. The gist: 40 some years ago I stumbled on the tiny town of Helvetia in the West Virginia Appalachians, which had been settled by a group of Swiss in the 1860’s and still retained a unique and beautiful culture. I just kept going back, and food, which I wrote about, became the door in to families, history, the whole culture. I became friends with many people there, most of whom had memories of growing up on farms, without electricity etc; each person absolutely sui generis. Eleanor Mailloux, in her nineties and Rogers in his eighties McAvoy were two, among the last, who held the memory and light of that culture. Eleanor was a driving force in the town, and preserving it’s architecture and ways. You can read more about it in an article I wrote for Saveur years ago. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the amazing photos of the place. The community plans to continue Eleanor’ legacy and I am trying to help them with that. Thanks for asking.

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