A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Bland Simpson is an ideal travel companion to explore and understand the complexity and diversity of North Carolina. In his new book, North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky,

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Bland Simpson is an ideal travel companion to explore and understand the complexity and diversity of North Carolina. In his new book, North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky,

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Bland Simpson is an ideal travel companion to explore and understand the complexity and diversity of North Carolina. In his new book, North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky,

North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky

Bland Simpson is an ideal travel companion to explore and understand the complexity and diversity of North Carolina. In his new book, North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky, the author and musician’s rich narrative voice — often humorous, deeply knowledgeable, and always generous — paints a rich triptych of the breadth of our state, from Down East to the “short hills and sand hills” of central North Carolina to the “jump-up country” of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Simpson devotes the first section of this wide-ranging yet deeply intimate travelogue to the pocosins, the wildlife, and the people of his boyhood home. “Water everywhere is my first lingering memory of North Carolina,” he writes: Tannin-stained water scooped up alongside a skiff. The nasal honking of migrating snow geese over Pungo and Mattamuskeet lakes. Cottonmouths curled lazily in the wet knees of cypress trees. A bright gold prothonotary warbler darting through the wetlands.

Like all fine storytellers and nature writers, Simpson does more than just wax poetic about North Carolina’s natural beauty and rich heritage of food, music, and literature. A haunting photo of men fishing on a Lumber River bridge accompanies his account of Lumbee men kidnapped by the Confederacy and forced to serve a cause they rejected and fought bitterly against. And while water may be everywhere here, clean water is in danger. Land of Water, Land of Sky is an urgent call for us to model our state’s motto, Esse Quam Videri — “to be rather than to seem.”

The book’s evocative color photographs — by Simpson’s wife and creative partner, Ann Cary Simpson; professional photographer Scott Taylor; and naturalist Tom Earnhardt — illuminate the prose that transports the reader from the Outer Banks to the Uwharrie Mountains and beyond.

Bland Simpson will host a talk on his new book at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill on November 7. Registration is required. For more information, call (919) 962-0522 or visit ncbg.unc.edu/event.

This story was published on Oct 26, 2021

Cat Warren

Cat Warren is the New York Times best-selling author of What the Dog Knows. She lives in Durham.