Reprise: Of Memories and Hopes and Golden Dreams

Once upon a time, there was a strange farmer of Erehwon. He gathered his curiosities, his precious things–momentary objects that held his attention and delight–and hoped others might wander down his lonesome road and share his fascination with the ordinary.

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They came at random, sometimes rather sizable crowds of them, and a few exclaimed and were delighted, and some returned often and regularly. Some where changed by having seen up close the myriad works of nature and light, of clouds, of storms and seasons that the farmer set before them.

He laid these things out expectantly-mere things, some onlookers imagined–but each was a story, and each story was a memory and a meaning to the foolish man.

And so, over the years, when fewer came, and then none, it was not the same of a morning. He still wandered among his amazements but he did not often gather them, and of those, he almost never laid them out for others to see. For there were so few that he felt alone, and his stories and meanings for him only. Life was good, but it was diminished, because he still remembered the gifts he once gave, so appreciated and approved, once upon a time. He thought of the friends he had made, whose names he could barely now remember.

And yet, now and then even today,  some pattern in tree bark or glint off moving waters or bird call or memory of the smell of earth will urge him to lay out his boards again along the creek road. And has done so this morning.

He had come upon a wonderful village of threaded webs, separate but close, isolated but connected by the thinnest of dew-beaded tightropes. In the wet grass, as he so often did, he imagined. He saw in these tattered webs tight aggregates of neurons, each synapsing cluster a concept, a siloed understanding, an aggregate idea or realization. He so often searched for those almost invisible threads that, discovered, would make him shout AHA! in the thrill of creative connection.

It was the possibility of sharing creative connection between disparate things on his roadside bench that woke him up each morning, expectant and hopeful of the alchemy of object and language, searching among his curios to find what he called the “so what” in everyday things like spider webs and blossoms and one more picture of a familiar light-and-shadow turn of his road or creek.

And so life goes on, the buzz of conversation barely audible to him in some distant tavern in an altogether different kind of stopping place for travelers along the loud and hurried webs of surface travel and talk.

Winter is coming. It is the time for the old farmer to draw the curtains on the chaos and confusion beyond Middle Earth and to go back over all his  klediments and commonplace jottings and scraps of wonder, revisiting like old friends the emulsions of light and memory he has stored and saved, stories unspoken.

He lives on. And with what is left of his bones and his wits, he will weave what he might from the webs of wonder his eyes and his ears and his heart have laid out for him, even so, on his slow road. And we shall see what lies around the bend.

Strange Farmer of Erewhon— a blogger’s Allegory from the early years of Fragments (original version 2005.)


About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

9 comments:

  1. I don’t remember that somewhat melancholy narrative, but still look forward to the thoughts in words and extraordinary photos. Have never been able to get spider web pics – and don’t have to since I can enjoy yours.

  2. “He lives on. And with what is left of his bones and his wits, he will weave what he might from the webs of wonder his eyes and his ears and his heart have laid out for him, even so, on his slow road. And we shall see what lies around the bend.”

    Loved this Fred. I am back to the hospital for biopsies this morning, and it was just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  3. Fred I can’t recall exactly when I first became aware of you and your work, but I do know it was a long while ago. My road, to where I am today, physically and mentally, has certainly been a slow one but I can no longer stand at the roadside, turn around and look back at my past, remembering clearly or completely the journey. 76 years of wandering has taken its’ toll on this body and mind. I have always enjoyed your posts and pictures and appreciate your sharing it with us. May you continue to gather treasures and enjoy the place you have found in our world.
    Clarence Bowles

  4. A long time, indeed, Clarence, and so many words. And after I think there is nothing left to say and no one to listen, I find my fingers at the keyboard before first light, forced finally to exhale. Darned Muse is a hard mistress who must be obeyed. And more often than not, it is a photograph that lures me back to the blog.

    Thanks, all, for stopping by this morning.

  5. It is hard to believe your strange farmer made his first appearance in 2005. I was a follwer then, so I imagine I read his first entry. As always, your writing and photo are a delight to me.
    I am resding E. O. Wilson’s new novel, Anthill. He is a clumsy novelist, but the writing about the Florida panhandle ecosystems is wonderful, and I am devoring it slowly, with great pleasure.
    Keep up the naturalist writing, Fred. You have a few devoted fans.

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