The past is open in all ways. We wade into its murky banks, sinking our toes into its silt. We let its waters lap at our ankles, our knees, our waists, until we're carried along by an inevitable current.

The Passenger Pigeon's call once echoed along the banks of the so-called "Pigeon River" in North Carolina. During their annual migration, they would flock in massive murmurations, their bodies nesting snugly into the boughs of American Chestnuts.

The Smoky Mountains begin at the Pigeon River, stretching along its banks until reaching the Little Tennessee River, snaking from Mount Chapman to Tricorner Knob to Shuckstack. They rise out of a wild past, out of salamanders and black bears, out of limestone and schist.

About All Ways Open is a publication aiming to tell small stories about place: stories about pigeons and mountain ranges, stories both real and imagined. It's an experiment in opening writing outwards, directing readers towards visual histories and archives. We aim to think in triplicate: to consider past / present / future, visual / written / read, self / friend /community. We consider arrangments loosely, allowing threads to tangle segments together.

All Ways Open is open for submissions.

Gallery

Curry Hackett

Jeffrey Amos

A man I knew, wanting to understand how it felt to be a waterfall, climbed over granite and held himself where spring melt spilled over rock and crashed into a pool below. He must’ve been strong to hold on for so long, I thought as a boy. Now, I think it’s strange he imagined the waterfall as only its verge, gravity’s pull but never its crash. A waterfall is as much rain against pine and the meander downstream as it is the cascade. He held on simply for the feel of gravity on his body. Though that’s no small thing. 

It’s all in the descent. My brother wanted to be a pilot. Instead, he grew up and bought a glider. That freedom, he said, was what birds knew by nature. Dragged up and cut loose to turn graceful arcs in a sky silent save the breath of a whole planet holding him up. 

I wonder if he knew more than soaring. A bird delights in air, but did my brother know its caches in pine bark? Know the voice calling from the thicket? The warmth of the nest the same as flight? To say nothing of the leaping. 

I wanted to know what it felt like to last. 

We spent summers at our grandparents’ where a persimmon grew. To come to the house from the road, you passed its white blossoms. My grandmother planted it when she was as young as I was then, and from the bedroom I shared with my brother, I watched the tree, jealous it had seen so many years. 

Now I know three generations is not so many. Before we sold the farm, there were three Junes without blossoms and the limbs lost their limber. An eighty-five-year-old tree is nothing. Some live for hundreds, but these are remote gods. Not familiar like a persimmon at the road’s edge. 

When evening comes where I’m living, I watch the maple and redbud turn silhouette against darkening blue and wonder what it is like to stand rooted, toes in the soil and arms lifted holy to the stars. To do this even when the descent is all.

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