Laurel Mountain Laurel
The cassette tape warbles a bit as a folk song plays while riding along the ridges of Southwestern Pennsylvania in my friend’s used Toyota pick-up. Slightly hungover from the night before, and caffeinated from this morning; heartbreak and redemption, headaches and euphoria mix together as we head down into the valley towards a river that is overlooked by many and sought out by others.
One translation, among the few that have been preserved, of the word Youghiogheny (Yawk-uh-GAIN-eee) is four streams. Yough meaning four, henné meaning stream. At least that’s what the books and journals say. It’s always hard to determine the accuracy of a translation that has been affected by the passage of time and the lens of imperialism.
I’ve been along those four streams, and I’ve seen how they come together; losing their specificity yet retaining what is inherent to each - creating something larger and joining places and people that would otherwise appear disjointed and separate.
The river, the towns and the forests which comprise this watershed have served important roles in my life. The river provided water to the elementary school where I spent my childhood. The hills, valleys and folklore of gave me reason to leave the borough where I spent my adolescence; exploring the neighboring counties on late night drives. As an adult, I find sanctuary along the trails, hiking through the woods which border the river. I return again and again and reflect upon what this river represents and what is has meant, in many different ways, to the people of this region - past and present. It is through this shared history that I feel ever more coupled to this place
Articulation of place and it’s fundamental qualities.
Translation, its visual counterpart, and the influence of time and context.
The history of exploitation and erasure.
My personal connection to this place and how I’m implicated in all of this.
These are also four streams that I have followed; they meet in Laurel Mountain Laurel.