Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

Chaos recedes during Smoky Mountain bike tour
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   08/15/2003)

Car bombs and grenades rattle Baghdad. Suicide bombings rock the road to Middle East peace. Americans land in Liberia.

Neo-cons move to oust Colin Powell and take over the State department. They'll show those French....

Meanwhile the French Riviera burns and London broils as temperatures hit new highs and here at home the Clear Skies initiative threatens to make the Smoky Mountains even dirtier.

Hey, things could be worse. Look at the states of California and Texas, where power-grabs by politicians serve up circuses.

Or look at the state of religion. Baptists order women to submit, Episcopalians cleave apart over the election of a gay bishop. Catholics gasp, as the scope of child sexual abuse by ordained priests is revealed.

A sex scandal rocks the University of Tennessee football team and another high-rolling UT president resigns over his own corruption.

A new study shows Tennesseans are among the unhealthiest and most drug-dependent in the country and--and--.

It's clearly time to get away.

Saturday morning in Cades Cove none of that matters.

Jeanne, Justin and I load the bikes and get to the Loop Road thirty minutes ahead of traffic. From May 7 to Sept. 24, cars are off-limits before 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays, fortunately for us.

The world feels far away as we pump and glide through a land bordering on Eden's beauty. Walk right up to those deer if you wish. They'll hardly look up, in their innocence, as they graze the fields or slake their thirst by standing knee-deep in some stream pouring through the Cove like a song.

Breeze quietly past log cabins nestled among hickories, oaks, dogwood and laurel, and imagine quiet lives of those who tended their bees and harvested a bounty of meats, vegetables and grains.

It's easy to be seduced by glimmerings of paradise.

Yet no tribe is without tribulation. Even here are signs of larger than life cataclysm. Bitter letters carved in a gravestone toll the death of a man "murdered by North Carolina Rebels...."

Plank churches stand steeped in ghosts of those who shouted and whispered over which cause to take up in the Civil War. Like churches everywhere in every age, Cove Baptists knew controversy. Primitive Baptists were forced to cease meeting for a while due to Confederate activity. Even when services resumed those opposed to missionary work stayed put in the original building, while the Missionary Baptists splintered off, convinced they should spread the gospel.

Even today this land knows controversy. Some fear environmental purists are determined to let the Cove grow up in forests and allow beloved vistas to disappear. They point to some of the cabins that have fallen into disrepair and a suggestion that some of the Cable Mill complex be moved to the mouth of the Cove. Others point to plans that would put the Cove off-limits to cars and initiate a shuttle system in order to reduce haze and congestion. Some are critical of a wildlife management policy that emphasizes keeping bears away from people. I'm still making up my mind.

Yet on an early morning bicycle ride, such matters are far away. Like heat lightening, they point to turbulence receding in the distance.

What matters is the joy of sailing down this steep hill before cranking to the crest of the next to glide past scenery artists can't quite capture.

In a moment that feels about perfect we stop beside a sycamore lofting spider webs limned in dew backlit by the sun. As surely as that diamond web betokens some silken shrouded death, it shimmers in beauty bordering on the divine.

Let it shine.