Things Fall Apart

I actually had a little momentum going yesterday morning in that hardest part of a project: the getting started; the getting of the sheer weight of an object at rest moving in any direction at all, breaking the resistance of inertia that keeps a thing where it is and nowhere else. And then my engine stopped ginning. The home network started acting wonky, I couldn’t share files, and the laptop browser slugged down to a crawl, and more. Must have been something I broke, I assumed.

But later–much later and many grumblings late into the day (thankfully Ann wasn’t here to witness) I found out it was some random change in my firewall. And Trend Microsystems PCCillin Internet Security does not come, apparently, with any way to actually speak to someone about your problem. You get a choice of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry to explain your problem. Not one of those? Too bad. By bedtime, I had fixed it by sheer random luck, no thanks to those to whom I paid my money.

So, to say I’m out of blogger rhythm, postless–almost.

But I do have needs. (Don’t I always!) I got back a pdf proof of a notecard from the printer (yep, back to that little project, now seen as a break-even or losing proposition for the purpose of advertizing) and I will probably order a batch of “Winter” cards (five different scenes, pack of 5 for $10 tentatively). Here’s what I need: a supplier for the clear envelopes into which these five 4 x 6 cards go to keep fingerprints off them. Know what I mean? I don’t know where to start looking, so I’m open to suggestions.

And I have happy feet. Got the word in the mail yesterday that Slow Road Home has been nominated for the Library of Virginia 10th Annual Literary Awards Celebration, in the non-fiction category. Which by itself is no great accomplishment as someone merely had to submit some forms for this purpose. But it will at least get the book on the Library’s website and promotional poster, along with the names of the bigshot writers from the Commonwealth. I’ll accept validation by association, even if it is to merely pass through the shadow of the Top Dogs.

And I should tell you, I hunkered down and ordered that cussed lens collar I was whining about last week. So this will be a busy UPS delivery week as I spend down my Goose Creek Press account putting my wee profits back into equipment, software and supplies before the Tax Man comes calling. Break even was my goal, and after deducting for almost 5000 book-related travel miles since May, I should come pretty close.

An Appreciation

If I’m remembering right, I found Tom Montag in a browser search for “sense of place”. Early in my wanderings in the summer of 2002, I’d come across that term, new to me then, and the hair on my arms stood up. Yes! There is something in this term that represents where I must dig next to find what is important in my life. And there was Tom’s site in the search results, a web page that pointed to his publications and speaking engagements, and detailed his long-term mission to accumulate enough disparate interviews and stories so that one day, he’d hold some sense of the place that is his “middle west”.

Image copyright Fred First I emailed him, a stranger, just to tell him of my appreciation for his undertaking, and that I was newly on a similar quest, though less well equipped by background, and with a focus of a much more circumscribed place than his middle-west. I, on the other hand, had something Tom didn’t have.

It was called a weblog, and it seemed to me that Tom’s work would display nicely in such an easily updated and interactive medium. It wasn’t long before he had set up the Middlewesterner. And not long after that that he was one of about two dozen collaborators on the Ecotone site–“where writers write about place.”

So Tom followed my pilgrimage, from rise to fall, clarity to confusion, pretty much from the start. At the end of my first year of writing–in the summer of 2003–a dear mentor had planted the seed that there was a book in the daily journaling. Tom concurred. And we began discussing the idea. Tom, no stranger to publishing and presses and such, even offered to help with the printing. We reached the point of exchanging some early manuscripts. And then, in the late summer of 2004, both Tom and I were offered teaching opportunities, and our lives turned in utterly different directions than the one that included my book. Part time teaching is full time work, it turned out.

Now, more than two years later, Slow Road Home sits on Tom’s desk. And of all the people who will read the little book, he knows far more of its history than most. And he has ears to hear both the voice and the hope of the book’s message. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote of his intention to post an “appreciation” and, at the time, I was not sure how that was different from a review. Given a choice, I’ll take an appreciation any day.

If you are a visitor with little background on this site, do read Tom’s bigger-picture description that brings Slow Road Home and Fragments from Floyd to the same table. Many thanks, Tom.

Sunday Jots

Thunderstorms in November! We were over at a neighbors for a pot luck gathering. I would have loved to have had a camera when the first lightning flashed, and everybody in the room lifted off the floor simultaneously in surprise. We were among the first to leave, and already the sloping pasture had claimed on car sideways of the hill. Thank goodness for Subaru!

I keep running into bee people. Last night, had a conversation with a fellow that keeps 70 hives not far from here. It might be his hives that house those bees I saw on our corn tassels summer before last, though at the time I imagined them to be from a (rare these days) wild hive. Then I learned from another bee keeper last week that a bee will fly five miles to and from a hive, so in that radius, I’m sure there are kept hives I didn’t know about. Anyway, he told about a new hive pest–as if another was needed: the small hive beetle, thank you very much, South Africa.

Having the tools creates the work. Last night (same party) I was glad that yesterday I had ordered a digital recorder (Olympus DS2) to record interviews for an upcoming project. Two unexpected and immediate opportunities fell at my feet, with folks approaching me to tell about their neighbors in late 80s or 90s who had stories too rich to lose. So I’ll maybe field test my new tool soon, and close to home, before wandering wider afield.

I also acquiesced to the inevitable yesterday and ordered DragonDictate Naturally Speaking Preferred (a $40 rebate coupon expired after yesterday’s date.) Keystrokes saved now by this speech-to-text software may allow these uncooperative finger joints to participate at some level for a few more years. I dread the learning curve.

And finally, here’s one I’m hoping to get a beta-invite for: SCRYBE, an online (and offline) PIM that seems a cut above most other calendar – scheduling – reminder programs I’ve seen so far. Watch the video and see if you think it would be useful for you. I’m always looking for ways to shore up the failing intracranial software (and the hand joints, I suppose, would be hardware.) Gotta roll with da punches, eh?

And Upon This Rock

image copyright Fred First

Here’s an image collected on the drive down to Mt. Airy last week.

This is the Bluemont Rock Church, one of several built during the period between the world wars in Floyd and adjacent counties by Bob Childress and his congregations.

You can read a brief account of the Childress history and legacy in the Buffalo Mountain region of Floyd and Carroll Counties. Interesting how this man’s reputation and good deeds are not universally agreed upon by all who knew those times and personalities as contrasted to the description of them in “The Man Who Moved A Mountain”, the book about Bob Childress’ ministry that started here in 1926.

Placing Ourselves

image copyright Fred First

Birmingham: Red Mountain and the Vulcan
Wytheville: Sand Mountain and the towers
Sylva: Plott Balsam Mountain’s ice covered summit
Morganton: Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain
Floyd: Buffalo Mountain

Everywhere I’ve lived (all in or very near the southern Appalachians) there has been some feature of skyline that has oriented me to where I was in the world, some high and prominent rocky fold or spire on the skyline that tells me I am exactly here. High places orient us. Perhaps, too, it is the sense of permanence that we draw from when we “lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence comes our strength” as the Psalmist said.

We are drawn to that which we can see from anywhere while the stories of our lives unfold, as if those high places look down on our petty problems, seeing them in the perspective of the ages, putting our month of despair or sorrow into the context of their million years of uplift and erosion.

We gravitate towards skylines with character. In this part of the world, we feel the gravity of mountains, and if we don’t live on them, we want to look at them. But there can be places where so many want to see one of these beautiful mountain landscapes or high prominences that over time, the decks and picture windows and vaulted glass walls of one new home look out on the decks and glass walls of the next and the next. And in the end, the charm and character of the landscape is lost. Precious places can become prostituted to profit, turned into a mere selling point, and priced out of the experience of those whose lives have been told in the shadow of these special places for generations.

You yourself can buy a piece of Floyd’s unique skyline and own the Buffalo lifestyle. It’s simple. Sign here. Scroll down to chose your view.

Beautiful green ridge top parcel with grandiose four-season view of Buffalo Mountain. Strong western mountain views with neighboring orchard and nature conserve canopy. Views to the east include nearby mountain range. Quiet cul de sac with level building envelope offers exceptional plan diversity. Community panorama and four-board fencing complement the Buffalo lifestyle. 2.55+ acres. $615,210.

The pull is strong. And expensive. And in not many more generations, the view–of the Norhteast coast, the Rockies, the Pacific Crest, the Grandfather Mountains of the east–may be owned only by those few able to pay for it.

How do we decide as communities what is precious, even in what we see from our back roads and living room windows, and then, how do we protect those high places so our children’s children don’t look out on roof tops and swimming pools, strip malls and cell towers? How do we keep these grand hills from becoming grandiose, protect our special places from becoming more than mere commodity, and nurture them as a source of solace and strength long into the future?