Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Familiars of Goose Creek Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:01:14 +0000 One of our most environmentally-indifferent presidents once said famously that “if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.”

I’m afraid he speaks for a large portion of Americans for whom nature is an anonymous blur out the car window or a diorama vignetted briefly  from scenic overlooks on the way to Dollywood; or taken in frenetic gulps on family forced-march vacation hikes. Nature has no face, really, for most hurried unfortunate urban sorts.


But the same seen-them-all numbness can happen to rural folk, too. If you’ve seen one deer, one snake, one owl, one bear…

I’m happy to say we have, among those generic lots of creatures, individuals we see over and over, very often the same time of day, in the same places–creatures, you might say, with particulars; with personalities.

They are our familiars. We are tempted to (and often do) give them names. We feel like we know them, and somehow that they know us. They do show less fear by habit of our presence. We even talk to them as if we half-expected to have them answer back.

This barred owl is one of Ann’s familiars. She tells me often about seeing it perched above the road as she drives to or from at earlier or later hours than I travel that same winding gravel road.

We happened past her owl the other day while he sat just beside the road on a fallen basswood trunk. We stopped. He stayed. We talked. And said goodbye, and went on our way.

Later in the day, I was sitting on the front steps at dusk, listening to the anonymous chorus of crickets, katydids and the babble of the creek. I recorded a half-minute of it below.

Not ten seconds after I turned off the recorder, an owl called just twice from behind the barn–our familiar, saying goodnight.

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The Wizard’s Shop Mon, 01 Sep 2014 11:05:20 +0000 So as I told you,  I had come through the fog, up the mountain, into the clearing populated by a grove of gargoyles, posing as if so many dozen trees had bared their bottoms in a manner both threatening and somehow playful and liberating.

As I might have confessed, I was tempted to run straightway back into the shelter of the woods and take the shortest path home–if indeed I could even find that path again.

But as I turned to leave, there at the edge of the forest behind me appeared a crude shed nestled back into the hillside. I had not expected or wanted to find any evidence of recent habitation there, and from the strangeness of the place, if anything lived here, I was not certain it would not be elf, fairy or troll.

I approached the odd structure, and half-hoping I would hear no reply, I called out. To my relief, no one answered back.

Through the doorway, and with as little knowledge of my purpose or with any greater caution than I had possessed when I set off up the hill a few hours earlier, I found myself drawn inside.

If my apprehension in the grove had been high, imagine my uneasiness in this odd wizard’s workshop. I did not stay but most a minute, though I managed to take a few pictures of items that held me rapt before I could stand the tension no longer and took flight.

As to the meaning of these shapes and creatures and phantasms, I offer no explanation. The one you see here may confirm that there exists after all in this remote part of the Blue Ridge Mountains the grotesque gollum-like homunculus.

Read Part One    Read Part Two

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Just Passing Through: Dragonfly Migration 2014 Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:38:40 +0000 It is in such light as this, late in the afternoon, when they are illuminated by a brilliant beam against the background shadows that they first “appear” as if out of nowhere.

We always have a few marauding dragonflies that claim hunting territory along the creek from which they hatched and the edge of the pasture.

When the light is low and bright, and the days grow noticeably shorter, and I am not thinking it is time for them yet at all, the migrating dragonflies descend from their travels (to where?) and congregate in our little five acre sliver of clearing in the midst of square miles of forest.

Today, I’ll try to identify the species of “devil’s horse” that has dropped in on us and send the report into the Xerces Society for their study of the mysterious migration (twice the distance of the beleaguered Monarchs that remain) of this agile agent of insect control.


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Making Hay While the Sun Shines Sat, 30 Aug 2014 10:42:29 +0000 For the first time since the summer of 2012, our pasture got a haircut.

We’re at the mercy of those few who both want our pasture hay and are willing unpredictably to bring all the related machinery down into Middle Earth to get it.

That, and the vagaries of the season–last year, perpetually wet when the hay-folks spare time would have allowed them to come get it–makes our making hay an iffy proposition. We live from summer to summer, taking what it dishes out.

Some are too wet to cut it, some are too dry to grow it.

So all last summer, and this summer up until the last week of August, our field has been working on becoming a forest again. Even so, it made about 100 square bales, and the new grass is coming up fast.

This really short really bad video was made with Instagram’s new Hyperlapse iphone app. Maybe some day I’ll have a suitable subject to take real advantage of the incredible image stabilization.

I’m thinking to run this from the hard top to the house with the camera in the dashboard caddy. You’ll see what it’s like getting to Middle Earth.

And that will, in all likelihood, bring about World Peace. You’re welcome.

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Not Long About It Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:26:58 +0000 I was not at ease exploring whatever it was that I had stumbled upon, and yet I could not just slip back into the woods without allowing my curiosity a closer look.

Here is one close-up lignified creature that I almost expected to begin moving towards me–a wooden slug with waggling antennae–just one in this menagerie of oddities.

I made one other stop–that I will relate to you, anon– before I was overcome by the overwhelming feeling that there had been eyes on me all the while.

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Strangeness on the Moors Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:38:58 +0000 I don’t know what I intended from my walk up the steep ridge behind the house. It was so foggy when I set out that I almost turned around right away for fear of quickly becoming lost.

But something drew me higher, farther and farther from any familiar landmark in these woods I thought I knew well, the more strange and disorienting for the thick whiteness in every direction. Up was, at least, still up. I would eventually reach the crest.

Eventually, after hours and I don’t know how many miles later and hundreds feet higher than the house, the forest gave way to an open glade.  The sun by then had burned away most of the mist and shredded the wet haze to occasional gossamer wisps.

I found myself walking cautiously into an opening where it was clear I was not the first to go. I had the notion that there must have been moonlit evenings when many gathered in that place–for what unimaginable revelry or devilry? IMG_3054gargoyles670I am at a loss to explain the wizened totem-trunks and roots, many of them dragon or gargoyle-shaped, tentacled and clawed, leering- menacing or playful- whimsical, their shapes shifting with the light as I walked past.

But there’s more. Tomorrow.

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Mist, Dew, Fog: Rain’s Gentle Cousins Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:32:39 +0000 There have not been a lot of rose-smelling pauses around here lately. And I’m most of the time not knowing whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt, as some unnamed fellow-southern-person famously said.

It has been (blessedly) rainy here of late and we’re about to catch up with the deficit for the year. Some of it has come as frog-choking downpours. Some as gentle day-long mist.

The heavy-fog gentle drizzles leave a different signature on the land and vegetation than the heavy drops that come like buckets poured from heaven.

One of those signatures of mist or heavy dew overnight is this tinsel of tiny drops on the finest of grasses (I cannot identify this one yet.) We find it along the margins of the field (just cut for hay this week) or (in this image) along the edge of the gravel road, almost to the exclusion of any other vegetation.

And on this particular morning, these Mist Plants (as I call them) created what looked for all the world like a cloud lining the road. And now that I think about it, that’s what it was–water droplets suspended in space.

Next time, I’ll take the larger view and show you what I mean.

Click for larger version.

And compare to this image (now a PhotoNote Card).



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Embracing the Information Age Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:28:13 +0000 We have, until now, lived in a dual-technology household.

I am attracted to new tools and ways of finding, saving and retrieving information.

She is at best indifferent.

And so it was with no small thrill and pride that I came into our kitchen just yesterday to discover that she has made an important step in the directions towards which I have been encouraging her and attempting to lead her.

She has moved to dual monitors.

And there is hope.

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End of the Age: A Splendidly Disturbing Time Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:29:52 +0000 We toured the 31 outdoor wooden “sculptures” in a distant Floyd County field with both our imaginations and the creating artist’s names and a brief hint at explanations about each piece staged over a half mile winding trail.

The one pictured here is called the “Harvester” and the artist, Charlie Brouwer, explains it this way.

Charlie says “While mowing the grass one day, I realized that in a way, I was harvesting it. Later I read a parable about harvesting. Jesus explained it by saying “The  harvest is the end of the age and the angels are the harvesters.”

I decided I’d rather be on the side of the angels than the grass, so I pitched in to help, as you can see.

And of course one thing inspiring another, it brings to mind–to my mind at least–the certainty of the notion that indeed we do live at the end of an age.

The age behind us has been called the Holocene by the geologists, a time span at whose proximate end the Industrial Revolution has met The Information Age. The carbon-powered frenzy of that age has brought us into the Anthropocene–an age of uncertain duration where human activities dominate every biome to the exclusion of and by the massive extinction day by day of entire groups of former creatures.

Shale gas fracking is just one symptom of the end of the age, a manifestation of the greater disease for which the EQT-NextERA Mountain-Valley Pipeline in Floyd and adjacent counties is a symptom.

The disease is 200 years old, and stems from a pathology of intentional reimagining that somehow our species lives above and independent of nature and “the environment.” Our economic system has been built upon this failing notion. This delusion will not go on much longer.  But it will not end because rational intervention wins the day.

I’m not saying we can’t effectively prevent this pipeline route through Floyd County. I’m not saying that fracking is not getting serious heat across the country just now.

But with a wider view of what lies ahead, I don’t think a few fingers in the dike are going to make life a hundred years from now be “life as usual” as we experience it today.

We’ve come to the boundary between what was and what will be. There are profound dysfunctions that many but not all see that in the end will be refractory to our usual ways of activism, thinking or voting.

I’m just almost convinced that, in the words of David Hilfiker:

 …the forces arrayed against environmental sanity are simply too strong for the usual political or personal fixes to be effective.  And until we understand what we’re up against, we can’t react effectively.    American consumerism, the structure of our government, the nature of our economic system, the power of the corporations, and the dominance of media are a tightly interwoven web that is virtually invulnerable to human attack.” 


Invulnerable, given the time frame, which has systems falling apart and tipping points  being exceeded at a much faster rate than the NEXT economy, the NEXT society, the NEXT land-and-ocean ethic is coming into place.

As consumers, as voters, as thinkers we will not in sufficient numbers do what needs to be done in support of any top-down way to pull us back from the brink. I think that is an unfortunate truth about the future our children are about to inherit.

But mind you, those potential future reorderings are coming into place in small pockets, and my hope–a reasonable hope that can live in the absence of unreasonable optimism–is in fighting the good fight in my here-and-now, with what energy and strength and wisdom I might have gained in 60-plus years.

Making a small difference, creating ripples even within that tiny pond is a worthwhile reason to get up every morning.

The dying beast of the fossil fuel era, even as we act as if it will go on forever, is coming to an end across all of agriculture, transportation, commerce, travel and infrastructure. Much of the unrest in the world is symptom of this unsustainable pressure on a fixed and vanishing resource. Marcellus shale and the 2.5 million miles of pipelines that scar this nation and threaten groundwater, air and human dignity are final convulsions of the end of the age.

I’ll give Mr. Hilfiker the final word:

 “Despair, grief, even cynicism and apathy are normal responses to the coming tragedy. We must not push them aside but recognize their reality and allow ourselves to grieve. And we must help each other navigate through these painful waters. But we must also remember that what’s coming makes it even more important to find hope within our grief and act with courage and decisiveness. We can’t make it all better, but we have been given the opportunity to participate in what is perhaps the greatest human struggle in recorded history. We are witness to a time in history like no other, and we can make a difference. Helen Keller once said, “I rejoice to live in such a splendidly disturbing time.”  ]]> 3
Waters Below. And Beyond. Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:58:42 +0000 From start to finish, horizontal fracturing (fracking) is a last-gasp means of making money at the cost of water.

Every deep-well extraction requires up to 7 million gallons of water (combined with a cocktail of some 500 chemicals). A single well can be fracked up to 18 times. 18 x 7,000,000 x the number of existing wells plus the new ones that have to go in every day to take the place of the wells that have already stopped producing.

That’s water that once was useful for human and animal drinking, for crop irrigation, for making the family meal. Not any longer, not any time soon. Forever, for all practical purposes.

But fracking’s abuses of water are done at some distance from Floyd County. It is our water (and that of the other 13 counties along the course of this proposed pipeline) that are at risk in our own yards and in our coming months and years.

How much risk? We can’t say for sure, because there are not many other 42″ pipes among the 2.5 million miles of fossil fuel pipelines already afflicting thousands of US counties and tens of thousands of American families. Two and one half million. Miles.

While we are concerned over fracking’s distant water footprint, what will we say about our own wells when those of our neighbors just a short piece away have been fouled or the flow shut off entirely by the blasting, excavation, road-building, right-of-way herbicide spraying, accidental spills, intentional disregard, and negligence of strangers who could not care less what they leave behind?

It is becoming a much better-known fact that if one well’s groundwater source is fouled, that fouling can spread an unknown distance in every direction because of the communicating rock fractures that stores water in Floyd County and other Blue Ridge and NC Piedmont counties or the underground limestone caverns and rivers of the Ridge and Valley counties .

And so every impacted county resident needs to understand “My water is your water” regardless of where they live. This right to adequate volume and quality of water should not be among the takings of eminent domain, but our water’s integrity for the long term will not be assured by the takers. It will not be their problem once they’re gone.

This is true, all the way back to the land in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other human landscapes where this corporate dysfunction takes root, ostensibly for the greater good.

Our pipeline issue is just a symptom. Floydians are swarming against it like white blood cells against a pathogen. The immune response is becoming system-wide.  Fracking must end. The other end of the “natural gas bridge” needs our full support and attention. Currently, there’s no other end of the bridge under construction.

We’ve almost waited too late because of this “cheap and clean” injection that is only a sedative against the pain of moving ahead.

So while we work against this pipeline, we work against all pipelines and for the return of a collective politic that takes the long view,  that puts the health of the planet and true well-being of the planet ahead of the corporate bottom line.

GRAPHIC: a doodle on iPad using Adobe Ideas app. There’s Buffalo Mountain, the confluence of our creeks with the rivers of others, and the rock fractures we cannot see but upon which we depend for a liquid that not a one of us can live without.


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