An Even Slower Road Home

So VDOT got a late start on this project, supposed to have begun last Monday. (And work will NOT be finished until at least July 22 or 23.)

The foreman realized how bad things really were, and instead of the single pipe with a 4 inch concrete cap, he decided this replacement needed two pipes and an 8 inch cap.

You can see they’ve dammed the creek upstream and are sending the water via a large-diameter flexible hose–like a firehose–back into the creek bed downstream of the construction.

So we’re hoping for no frog-chokers until this work is set in stone. To which, by the way, I might have a hard time not adding a short, pithy quote while the concrete is still wet after the pouring is over and the work day has ended.

So what should it be?

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Isaac Newton

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

“Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled by. And ended up on Goose Creek.” Fred First

Can’t Get There from Here

The repairs for which the road residents were first given a heads-up for completion in October of last year (after Hurricane Michael removed most of Goose Creek) is finally happening this week.

And since October we’ve been driving through water, in and out of the valley here, with wheel rims and brakes staying wet and rusty now for more than a half-year. The culvert under the concrete (poured in the early 70s) had filled with debris and could not be cleaned out. The concrete over top of the culvert had collapsed more than a year ago.

And this is just the first of many possible repairs. We understand that FEMA had identified almost 2 dozen specific remediations along Goose Creek–as in “keep the creek from eating into the midline of the road” remediations. However, what eventually gets done (probably in 2022 or 2023 at the earliest) depends on local funding and supervisor decisions, fraught with the politics and fiscal choices pertaining thereunto.

BOOKENDS: Sowing Seeds

This is a screenshot from a portion of my BOOKS RECORDS in Notion app for Mac

I am having a spurt of organizational drive this week, and so I’m getting around to doing a better job of books book keeping, of distributing my books beyond Floyd, and getting back in motion not just with existing books but also and especially for the “new one” still in digital and embryonic form only.

Today I added book sales locations to the blog sidebar, notwithstanding the fact that there is an echo in the cobweb-festooned room that is Fragments from Floyd. That may change if the current surge of motivation continues.

So just to sign off on this minor change and move on, here’s the list of places where you can find my books. I visited all the out-of-town sites on a round trip last week, and had wonderful conversations and met many new readers and friends.

And that is a good bit of what has me jazzed: I am energized by finding folks who resonate with my curiosity and interest in “our relationships to nature, place and community” that is the theme for all three books.

Finally, if you are interested in purchasing a book and helping support independent authors, use the printable form. Saves you money (both books at $15 a piece) and I don’t have to pay a 40% discount to the nice shopkeepers who kindly sell my books. — Fred

IN FLOYD
Floyd Country Store
Maggie Gallery
Floyd Center for the Arts

IN MEADOWS OF DAN
Poor Farmers Market

IN GALAX
Chapters BookShop

IN ABINGDON
Heartwood Cultural Arts Center

IN MEADOWVIEW
Meadowview Farmers Guild

IN WYTHEVILLE
Wythe Visitors Center

SAVE $$ BUY FROM FRED
Print and mail this order form and get your books in the mail

ORDER One or Both Books  by PAYPAL

Music, Mountains and Big Trees

Back in December, I was offered the opportunity to contribute a “500-700 word article on Southwest Virginia’s outdoors or nature” by the Crooked Road folks. It now appears (on page 23) in the program guide for next week’s Mountains of Music regional celebration.

The topic I chose (because Jane Cundiff and I had been talking about Big Trees in Floyd County) was SWVA’s known and as-yet-unrecorded Big Trees–and the Stadium Woods issue on the Va Tech campus.

You can read my article; see a larger version of the wonderful image of Stadium Woods that Tech allowed us to use for the essay; and view a 6 minute video by Chris Risch (who filmed the To The Last Drop video on Floyd’s water back in 2014.)

And then take a look at the MOMH program guide and decide where you’ll go next week to hear some of the best live-performance music our part of the country has to offer. (See you on June 13 at the Floyd Country Store for the Stanleys and company.)

Diaspora: The Next Place

Morning detail, late April, late life on Goose Creek. You never know, when you give it a puff, where the winged seeds will find fertile soil.

 In the spring of 2019, we acknowledged that the time had come to relocate us from the wild to the tame. Or at least tamer—closer to town, less mowing and weed whacking and firewood toting and…

That we would reach such a Draconian view of What Comes Next is testimony to the common conclusion between the two of us that we are not, after all, going to live forever. 

But to not see the barn-roof frost going up in steam on a cold October morning; to leave in the rear view mirror this refugium of human neighbors, birds, bears and other familiars; then to hear road noise and be in a fishbowl settled and busy place: this is not an easy thing to consider.

And yet, even before we have any solid notion of where or when, we have already subliminally started saying goodbye to the most rooted existence of our lives and the blessing and comforts of belonging in place that many seek but few find. I wonder what the past twenty years will look and feel like in hindsight when we can not look out any window and see the known trees waving to the thrush and thrum of the sparkling creeks. Will all of this vanish into a fog of forgotten decades as we learn to wear a less comfortable new reality in town?

We need to move forward with caution, because we don’t know how either one of us (or the two of us together) will adapt anyplace that will inevitably be so different, so lacking of creek noises and valley echoes in our new self-inflicted captivity in a tamer place, wherever (in Floyd County) that turns out to be. This is risky business.

An animal extracted from its native habitat is subject to failure-to-thrive. A zookeeper doesn’t always know what elements from the native wilds might be missing to account for the downward slide towards disease or disorder for caged Orangs or Lemurs. There are subjective nutrients and essences in native habitat, likely not apparent to an objective Spockian observer, without which the resident pair may suffer emotional, physical and spiritual damage. Relocating highly-specialized species to more controlled enclosures needs to be studied wide and deep before bringing in the nets.

We are hoping that won’t be necessary. 

As movers we will be a realtor’s nightmare. We are looking for those subjective must-have conditions and know it when they are lacking, even while our friends will scratch their heads and wonder what could possibly be missing with this or that seemingly “perfect” place for us. And in this, we envy many of our less-persnickety friends who happily seek out, find and adapt to life in a suburb or brick rancher on two acres in or near Floyd, and contented to be in spitting distance from a busy road. We have certain needs for our downsized captivity, and must keep in mind our odd personal ecologies as they have grown since we were married in 1970. 

At the same time, the challenge of What Comes Next must not approach anywhere near the Matterhorn we faced in 1999, when we saw HeresHome for the first time. There was no indoor plumbing or wiring; no paint in or out for decades; and who knows what behind the hundred and twenty year old walls and under the floors that would need fixing.

The land that is now pasture had been planted in white pines, less than six feet apart and by then almost 20 feet tall, edge to edge and front to back between the ridges that form Nameless Creek valley. There were no trails. Logging leavings from the early nineties blocked the way in all directions, and blackberry ruled the landscape. This was a wild and untamed place.

Our friends and family were terror-stricken for what we had taken on. We knew then that it would take, and that we would gladly give five or more years to turn the house and land into our own. The neighbors at the time expected us to last exactly one winter, as I’ve mentioned before. And here we are, perhaps in place until our twenty-year anniversary in late November of this year. 

Or maybe not.

And so I wonder about the natural history of this place against whatever Next Place we might find around us and under our feet for however-many years ahead we are aware, are truly alive and in any meaningful sense, living, and capable to navigate within our new habitat–with or without assistance. 

The odd nature of this unknown block of years, of opportunities, of experiences, hopes, successes and disappointments came into a kind of bitter-sweet clarity last month when both our “children” visited–for the first time without their own families in tow. Our son, especially, is in the midst of a major life transition–to a new state, new house, new job, new biosphere on the coast of Maine. It will be a time of almost daily AHAs, of discovery and growth, challenge and opportunities grasped and nourished and nuanced into who he will yet become. 

We are happy for him, as we are for our daughter’s potential, to extend their abilities into new realms–personal and professional. That is where our children are in their middle-aged place in life. This is the life we have lived ourselves, until not so many years back. This has been, for the bulk of our adult years, the leading edge of every new year–to expand the reach of our voices, the scope of our understanding, the stride of our hillside climbs, and add to the things we could become a part of; to do more and more, in a wider and wider world. We were the Invincible.

But that was then. This is now. Is there such a word as vincible?

And yet, all is not lost. And as I consider the event horizon, the pressure is gone, the monkey of ladder-climbing off our backs–though in all honesty, that upwardly-mobile mind-worm never drove us forward. 

It has always been our roots that nourished us, not the tendrils reaching towards constantly-larger houses or salaries or cars. And we can be grounded some new place, and settle in. I’ll let you know how all that works out–but only as long as I am granted keystrokes, synapsing synapses and moment. Until then, we live in a white, two-story house with double porches, on Goose Creek. And it is springtime of the year out there, even if it is late autumn for the two lives inside.

NOTE: If you’ve managed to read this far, then maybe it will be of interest that this post in some more polished and substantial form will likely come towards the end of One Place Understood: Field Notes from HeresHome (or some such title) — a book I will likely be working on before and after our zookeepers find us suitable habitat elsewhere.