The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

This Good Land

By Jim Waters © 1985

Issue: November, 1985

Editors Note... Jim Waters is a joy to share a ride through the mountains with because of his sincere appreciation of mountain beauty. His love of nature's wonders is reflected in his work as anyone who has ever seen his MOUNTAIN ESSAYS on WFMY-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina or any number of other stations across the nation, can attest. The work of a television photojournalist is by necessity often squeezed into a few fleeting moments and only briefly viewed; yet Jim Waters has a talent for capturing the essence of the moment with his lens and the viewer is treated to an experience that's the next best thing to being there.

During our rides together, Jim has occasionally spoken briefly of the horrors so often encountered by a television cameraman. Viewers around the world witnessed the Klan/Nazi killings in Greensboro, North Carolina from the safety of their homes, but it was Jim's camera that captured those horror filled moments on film. When I asked, "Aren't you afraid," he replied, "Sure, but it was part of my job." His frequent encounters with death have not jaded his emotions as one would imagine and the waver in his voice chokes back tears as he tells of being on the scene when a child died from an accidental shooting.

The coverage of violent events is a part of his job but his coverage of nature's beauty is a part of his heart and the essence of his art.

Photojournalist Jim Waters.Photojournalist Jim Waters.Recently, The Mountain Laurel asked me if I would put to paper why I love the mountains so much that I specialize in filming features on mountain life for "News 2." So, let me try to describe my journeys to "This Good Land." As a photojournalist, I'm used to working with what other people tell me, not my own inadequate words, but here goes.

In my childhood, I spent much of my time at sea, accompanying my father (who is now a retired Coast Guard Captain) on a number of his lengthy cruises. After I graduated from college, I moved to Northern Ireland. There, to escape the horrors of terrorism, I found myself escaping to the tranquility of the mountainous areas. My love of the sea was replaced then by love of the beautiful mountain scenes.

In 1973, I returned from Northern Ireland and moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. It wasn't until the last weekend in October of 1979 that I made my first trip to the Blue Ridge mountains. The photo essay that resulted from that journey aired at the end of the following week.

A day later, that peace and beauty I had found in the mountains was shattered by a news assignment I was covering in Greensboro. An incident that would be echoed around the world as one of the most violent civil rights violations of this century. Memories of the Blue Ridge helped to sustain me then and now. For that reason, the peace and serenity the mountains provide, I continue to journey to the Blue Ridge to this day.

As a former ordained minister, people ask why I often seek solace in the mountains instead of church. To me, no man-made building could ever rival a Blue Ridge sunrise, or the dew reflecting as a thousand suns on a wildflower. Can a choir match the sparrow's hymn as it wings with the wind from a sunlit valley to the crest of a windswept mountain ridge?

With my camera, I have sought to bring the viewers of News 2 with me as I travel the back roads of the Blue Ridge. How many of us have the time or opportunity to watch a fawn running with its mother across a field, or stop to watch a leaf in autumn as it flows down a hidden waterfall? Through my lens, I can share the sampling of a freshly made batch of apple butter that Tella Mae Cockram just spent hours cooking or listen to Miss Addie Wood at Mayberry Trading Post talking about days long dimmed by time.

I hope when you see the stories I film on the Blue Ridge that you will feel some of the same wonderment I have felt. Most of all, I hope you will take the time on your own to discover the beauty of "This Good Land."

As one who was adopted from an orphanage by wonderful parents, I feel in many ways as though I've been adopted by the Blue Ridge and the many people I've met in my travels there. It has been said that you are not a native of the mountains until you have generations in the ground, but in a very real way, I feel a part of the Blue Ridge and her heritage. Through The Mountain Laurel and my travels with Bob Heafner, the mountains have become a most important part of my life.

If in some way, those who have seen and will see my "Mountain Essays" develop a deeper understanding and love of the Blue Ridge and its people, then my life will have been a success. Hope to see you soon - In This Good Land...!