Among Friends

Yesterday, I stood at a point about equidistant between our first and second homes–the first, in town on a wide street in what has become a designated “historic district”; and the second, our little farm house just outside town that bordered the cemetery of Berea Church. At noon, I read to the rotary club the tale in the book I called “Like a Dog.” The “Euell” of that story (and others in the book) was in the audience, an invited guest, near eighty now.

To have him there, such a good friend, mentor and surrogate parent all those years, and share our lives since Wytheville with him and with other faces from our past was truly wonderful. The college president who hired me in 1974 was there. Wow. And from that meeting, I will now have an opportunity in March to speak at the community college to an audience of townspeople and students. I taught there for 12 years. Now I come back wearing another hat, with another voice, before an altogether different population of “students”. Life is good.

And life goes on.

Whatever bug had me yesterday morning relented under the force of adrenalin and responsibility, and other than being a little nauseous and unable to eat the nice lunch buffet at the rotary gathering, I wasn’t too ill during the day yesterday—until last night, when the malaise (achy joints, raw skin, too-cold/hot) fell with a vengeance. Ann slept upstairs out of the influence of my toxic cloud.

And I slept like a baby. And at least right this minute at 5 a.m., I feel super! (Way to go, Immune System!) And that is a good thing for many reasons, not the least of which the fact that I will be forced to sit and act attentive all day in Roanoke at the last of my mandatory continuing ed meetings that I need before Dec 31 to keep my PT license. (I couldn’t NOT go just because I was deathly ill.)

So maybe I’ll be fit enough to feign attention and read the latest Orion magazine I’ll hide in my notebook. May even be able to get a seat on the outside where I can plug in the laptop and browse. Or blog?

Order or Chaos?

image copyright Fred First

I was unwell at midnight. I was still awake at 3 with chills. I crimped my 6 foot frame onto the 5 foot loveseat by the woodstove and slept rounded like a comma, til almost 6. And now I don’t know if I’m over illness or just ramping up for it. And I need to decide soon: we’ll leave the house for Wytheville before noon, and I’ll be ON, need to be UP, ready, engaged. I feel none of those things just now, even after two cups of coffee.

I told Ann reluctantly that I was not quite well. Her highest priority is having the strength to get up and do what needs to be done for the gathering here on the weekend, and if means treating my like a leper for the remainder of the week, no doubt she can and will do so.

I’ve had episodes before where, in the wee hours I was racked by fever and violent chills, only to wake the next morning with no serious repercussions, and go on. So I’m going on this morning, assuming once again that the army of immune cells and the chemical warfare of self-versus-nonself has tipped in my favor.

It depends on how you hold your eyes when you look at it: diseased or eased ? chaotic or cosmicly ordered? creek ice or a place where stars are born? I chose to hold up the latter in all these dichotomies; we’ll see if things look different by the end of the day.

Creek Under Ice

image copyright Fred First

Nameless Creek comes from darkness underground, beginning in a dozen springs a mile south. In its past, it has raged back and forth between the ridges, swollen and angry, carving our narrow valley from Appalachian stone. Today the little stream purrs along peacefully enough, cold, clear as liquid glass, on its way down mountains. It carries the smell of snow to a sandy beach on the sea. Tonight our little creek will freeze along the edges. In a month, we will hear a river embryo calling faintly from under ice and we will walk on water. (from Slow Road Home)

I’d carried my pocket recorder with me yesterday when I stood admiring the late-morning light on the creek. I would take a sound sample of the babble of the creek under ice, patch that as a fade-in and fade-out either side of a reading of the paragraph above, combined with the image. I really thought I would do it. I have the pieces. But I never quite made it to complete the task, and now I’m off to work again, tomorrow the rotary presentation in Wytheville, Thursday all day at a CE meeting in Roanoke, then the vortex of the weekend gathering to prepare for. And from now til Monday, I’ll kick myself for not getting to done on this. Heck.

But a bit of good news: The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Virtual Bookstore now stocks and sells Slow Road Home! Here is the press release just posted to their site yesterday. Many thanks to Joe and others who helped make this happen, and I hope the book warrants the virtual shelf space and doesn’t collect virtual dust. So okay now readers, it’s up to you. (And by the way, if you wanted to order more than one copy and pay by credit card, THIS would be the way, as my PayPal button on the book website is set up only for a single purchase.)

Winter at Mabry Mill

image copyright Fred First

“Did you come east on the Parkway to get here?” asked a booktable visitor yesterday at the winery. “There’s ice on Mabry Mill pond” she said, herself a photographer, and, seeing my photo-notecards, she knew I’d want to know such a thing.

So, as smile-weary as I was after four long hours of the last of four such days, when four o’clock came, I cleared the table of my dog-and-pony-show paraphenalia in two trips out to the car, and headed west toward Meadows of Dan and Mabry Mill, a few parkway miles away.

The beauty of a visit to Maybury Mill in December is that there’s nobody there but me. And a few ducks. If you click on the image above it will take you to a larger image on Flickr; this is actually a (poorly done) merging of three different images: a normal exposure, 2 1/2 stops underexposed, and one that is 2 1/2 stops over exposed. This is a rudimentary first attempt at what is called HDR photography. High Dynamic Range is a technique available to digital photographers to take advantage of the computer’s ability to create an image where both the highlights and shadows are optimally exposed. The three images were slightly out of register, even though I used a tripod, so this image is a little blurry, and the difference between the shadows and highlights was probably not significant enough on this image to do justice to the technique. More not-quite examples sure to come on FFF in coming months!