First Day of School

image copyright Fred First

A very nice new year’s dinner, good friends, good music, an early evening. We had another event to attend, but drove in that direction after leaving Oddfellas in a driving rain, and decided we didn’t want to get soaked and muddy getting to our neighbor’s place, though it would have been nice to see folks we have missed over the holidays.

Thanks, Doug, for taking this picture of Ann and me last night, and I have uploaded it to FFF this morning just to add fodder to your contention that some blogs exist for some bloggers only to show their mugs to the world.

That said, I’ll refrain from showing the picture of Doug and lovely wife in which he seems to be saying “I’ll break your fingers if you take that picture.” I know he’d break ’em if I posted it.

So. The odometer has rolled over as we slept. And there is a first-day-of-school feel to the first day of a new year. I have my pencils sharpened. My notebooks are fresh and full of clean, white paper. I’ve labeled all my subject tabs, and have my schedule laid out.

Now, I need to get to my classes.

I. Field Notes from Nameless Creek: a nature journal complete with photographs, eventually a book

II. A book, also with full color images, about a locally prominent mountain (tentative)

III. Whatever becomes of Fragments from Floyd, TBA on a daily and ongoing basis

IV. Collaboration with another blogger in which he writes, I provide the images. Details to follow.

V. Continuing twice-monthly Floyd Press column

VI. Magazine article or two (under construction)

VII. Empty class periods are open, to be filled in as the opportunity arises

Oh yeah. I have my real job, too. And the wood to be cut for next year, the garden that will need vast retooling, planting and tending; and the usual assortment of home-moaner’s tasks that will arise from time to time.

So, life is full already, this early into 2007, and we are thankful for 2006, for friends, our health, our family, and a renewed sense of hope and purpose in the year to come. Hope your year is pleasantly challenging, then rewarding for those goods things that come from good work.

Like Momma Like Daughter

image copyright Fred First

Somewhere up in the Very Back Room, in a cardboard box full of faded leatherette albums filled with yellowed acetate sheets of pale Instamatic images from the Pleistocene era of our marriage and family life, is a picture of our eldest–then about a year old–gnawing a turkey bone. She is sitting in a high chair in the midst of our little apartment on Southside, Birmingham (La Clair Vista it was called, and the vista was anything but La Clair in the smoggy days before the Clean Air Act.) All around our young daughter was the chaos of Childcare By Husband, the flotsam of apartment life for which there is no storage, no hiding, no pretending–though, granted, it could have been more organized.

And seeing young Abby attaching the turkey leg on Tuesday brought back those memories, and later ones of her momma’s eating habits later in life–the slurping of spaghetti in particular–that became issues of eating etiquette of a similar kind to “don’t cram food into your mouth with your fist”.

And for this, a twenty-something-year-old Abby will berate me, much as her mother does for the picture that hangs on our wall showing her at three, sitting on the front steps of our Wytheville home in town, her index finger imbedded to the middle knuckle in her left nostril.

But hey–what are daddies (or grand daddies with cameras) for anyway?

The Other Side of Christmas ’06

image copyright Fred First

Too fast. They’ve come and gone, and 95% of the things I thought we’d do and talk about didn’t happen. But 5% did, and I’m thankful to have had the time together, gathered as we were from too-far-flung homes. Maybe it’s going to be that way for the long haul. Maybe some day they’ll live closer. It was a merry Christmas, and I’m just now rounding up my little pile of booty from our Tuesday night unwrapping. Let’s see…

IN the way of reading matter, what does this say about moi:

First, sitting on my desk is America (the Book) / Teachers Edition: a Citizens Guide to Democracy Inaction–by Jon Stuart (with foreword by Thomas Jefferson.) Lacking TV, the Daily Show is our source of news via the web, in three minute snippets, usually a week old. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot. Ooow! I just discovered it has a centerfold!

And 2) Uncle John’s Tremendous Bathroom Reader–the latest in a long line of annual Procelain Library editions from the wife-side kin, and to date, read cover to cover in just about exactly a year–in said library. The first year they gifted me in this way, Ann recoiled as I unwrapped it, shocked that her sister would give a gift of 350 pages of bathroom humor. Which these books are not. But I’m a little concerned if this weighty tome is predictive of my plumbing needs for the year ahead: this volume is 750 pages long! (Eat more prunes.)

And in wearing attire, of course I got my traditional underwear: a pack of wife-beaters. From the wife. And from the daughter, who apparently reads Fragments from time to time, a t-shirt with an inscription she gleaned from the blog. I promise a picture soon with me wearing it, and also holding the wooden placard (along the same subject line) that I will put above my desk.

Deeper into the little stash, another tradition: my bottle of Gentleman Jack (Daniels) that will predictably last me until next Thanksgiving, mostly due to the fact that we can never remember to buy COKE (which I otherwise don’t drink) and my failing to develope a taste for Dr. Pepper as a mixer.

Oh, you’ll be happy to know (those of you who knew and loved (or loathed) it when I posted a blog post about it the week after Christmas that each segment of the family–including us–received a framed 5 x 7 copy of my photograph of the Peach Butt–a fun family memory. Now what other family can claim to have given images of fruit cleavage for Christmas, huh?

The Ghost of Parties Past

Yes, the Goose Creek Christmas Gathering was going to be a big deal. But how big, and how to deal with the enormity of the event looked very different through eyes from Venus versus those from Mars. If men ruled the world of social events (and they don’t) these occasions would be much more come-as-we-are affairs. Preparation would start, oh, a day or two beforehand, not a month. It would be a disaster.

And yet, every year, the disparate approaches to such self-inflicted and pleasant tasks as planning a big gathering at the house brings out those differences between host and hostess. I started thinking about just what those different world views looked like, but didn’t make it very far. Even so (to be amended over time and as a basis for negotiating future Grand Gatherings) here’s the list so far. Maybe you have a similar dichotomy at your house and have lived through to The Other Side–which, I am both happy and a bit sad to report, is where we are this morning. The morning after.

And looking back, heck, I hate to admit, she was probably right all along.

Social Planning from Venus:

  • Everything is urgent
  • Everything that can be done should be done (this one, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • If 5 is enough, we can’t do less than 8 (relative units of effort or substance applicable just about anything imaginable)
  • Our purpose is to offer all these people a good time; we, as host and hostess, were not meant to share in it
  • Assume responsibility for everything
  • Any omissions or shortcomings represent self-esteem demerits; demerits are conferred only by the female members of couples visiting.
  • Corollary to above: All other women in attendance have much higher standards than we do, and would be appalled to learn we sometimes live with ladybugs, dog hair, cob webs or dust bunnies.
  • Corollary to above: of all husbands, darn the luck, yours is the slobbiest
  • Everybody coming to our house will be dangerously malnourished and there probably won’t be enough food, no matter how many casseroles, stuffed pizzas or deserts are provided by the hostess

Social Planning from Mars:

  • Everything on the to-do list for a time may be important; very little will ever be urgent
  • Things omitted will probably only be noticed by us
  • Nobody is keeping score
  • Things omitted or errors made make the wife no less a good hostess than if every last detail was remembered. And they were probably due to forgetfulness or indifference on the part of the husband, after all.
  • Delegate to others; they are happy to help
  • We are host and hostess, not staff. These are our friends, not our employers. Enjoy!
  • Corollary to the above: the party succeeds to the degree to which we take an opportunity to listen to each of our guests and make them feel welcome, not fill their plates and cups
  • I doubt anybody is going to open up the closets in our bedroom. Rearranging one’s clothes by color to pass inspection is overkill.

The dog is slurping around behind me now, patrolling the carpets for invisble spots of crab dip (that will become visible after the sun comes up.)

We discovered just a few minutes ago that nobody found the cooler with the beer. (Oh well. I’ll have to deal with that one one elbow-flexion at a time over the next month. Help me, anyone?)

I’m learning people were here that I never even saw.

Ann is looking for a place to store the new punch bowl she purchased for the occasion; it’s big enough for a family of cats. What was she thinking!

Upstairs in the Red Room, the kids last night tied the helium balloons onto the Fisher Price Farm family, and thus tethered, they sway in the dark in the rising heat of the woodstove.

If you take the sum total of good times, new friendships, pleasant conversations and feelings of conviviality on one side of the scales, and the total effort, angst and preparation (and inter-planetary wrangling about the details) on the other, I don’t think there’s any question which way the balance would tip. Even so, I think maybe, if we do this again next year, she and I might want to do less and mingle more. But then, I’m only an elf.

Buffalo in the Back Yard

image copyright Fred First

Another image picked up on the way home from the winery last weekend–and the first using the combination of (new) tripod, 80-200 telephoto lens (and new tripod mounting collar for same) and the 2x teleconverter.

The silhouetted shape behind the house takes the reposing form of a buffalo, hence its name, Buffalo Mountain.

Were there buffalo in these parts in the days before the western migration of the white man? Does anybody have any info or stories about that? I’d like to know.