A deep connection to the land

Shelby Lyn SandersOur Town Outdoors

FANNIN COUNTY, GEORGIA—You can hear the quiet laughter of Seabolt Creek as her waters wind over a cobbly streambed of rocks, some covered in soft verdant mosses that seem to glow like green embers in the dappled sunlight. Delicate foamflower and mountain meadow-rue grow placidly on her banks, gazing up through the treetops at the crystalline blue sky of a beautiful north Georgia morning. The whistles and trills of migratory warblers fill the canopy, their songs broken only for a moment by the staccato shrieks of a pileated woodpecker from the forested slopes above. It is clear that there is more in this place that simply land, and no one knows these 70 acres better than their loving steward, Dreaming Bear.

Seabolt Creek flows through the property

Dreaming Bear has made her home here at the foot of Seabolt Mountain for decades, but she can paint a portrait of history and culture of this place that long precedes her. For her, it goes much deeper than merely understanding the connection between land and people; she speaks of the world in terms like “synchronicity” and finds meaning in Nature that is so tangible, you feel almost as if she is gently placing the knowledge in your hand.

Dreaming Bear in song.

To protect this property with a conservation easement was not a swift decision; Dreaming Bear spent many nights awake in concentrated thought and prayer about how best to preserve the way of life she has cultivated from the many blessings she has received and witnessed here. She is a woman of strong conviction that is closely tied to Mother Earth, and in her time here she has called upon the healing powers of this place to soothe and shelter many in need.

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

It is because of Dreaming Bear that this conservation project has been so meaningful for the staff at Foothills Land Conservancy. With over 370 conservation easements completed since 1985, this organization is no stranger to beautiful tracts and partnering with landowners to protect their properties in the southeast, but to know Dreaming Bear and witness the emotional ties she has to the land and its history is a conservation value in itself.

In speaking with her, she shows you the soul of the land and speaks of it as a dear loved one. She is rooted here just as much as the lofty black walnut that hangs over her home, and her ceremonious love can be seen in her twinkling eyes, the sparkling creek and the flash of warbler wings. The conservation easement that Dreaming Bear has granted for the property will legally protect its natural beauty in perpetuity, but there is no doubt that Dreaming Bear’s spirit will fill these sacred forests forever.

For 37 years FLC has assisted in the preservation of over 140,000 acres of cherished mountains, working farms, and rural landscapes across 47 Tennessee counties and 6 surrounding states. The mission of Foothills is to protect, preserve and enhance the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and to promote the character of the land for the benefit of the general public, now and in the future.

Shelby Lyn Sanders is a biologist with Foothills Land Conservancy.

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