Beginning just north of Travelers Rest, SC and heading towards Spartanburg, my commute parallels the Southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains and slices through diverse ecologies. I begin on a backcountry road where the heavy stalks of tall Joe-Pye weeds nod their purple blossoms over the pavement’s dips and curves. A few unpaved driveways emerge from the foliage, suggesting a few homes concealed in the woods. Occasionally, I see another sign of human habitation- motley groups of tentative dogs wander onto the road to regard my car impassively. When I do catch a glimpse of an actual yard amidst the trees, the focal point is a makeshift decoy deer, rigged as a target for hunting practice.
Emerging from the narrow forest road, I turn onto Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. A roadside stand announces this is “Peach Country.” To my left, the Appalachians form a backdrop, against which horses of assorted colors roam. To my right, a herd of white cows grazes the hills’ gentle undulations not realizing they ride the last waves of the ancient Appalachians as the landscape billows like a sheet thrown up into the breeze before leveling out in its descent to the coastal plain of the low country.
As I get closer to the city, the fields are interrupted by new housing developments. The houses are uniformly unimaginative. They stand on small, square lots with token lawns. There are no large, stately trees of the kind that grace the neighboring farm fields- old trees that have witnessed several generations of the same families tend their fields.
Further down the road, the transition from the countryside to the city limits happens abruptly at a crossroads. On one side of the intersection, only fields, on the other, a Dollar General store. From here on, the houses become more densely packed and interspersed with factories, warehouses, and gas stations.
I try to be a good American.
I try to value economic development, technological progress, and commercialism. Most of the time, I succeed. But at this intersection every morning, I can’t help but think part of my soul loses something.