Just Fragments of the Whole

Hello all. Or some. It’s been far more quiet here than at any time since the summer of 2002. You might have noticed, or not. Obviously, I don’t put much thought to public writing of late—not for a long time, and especially over the past six months, taking a slide toward voicelessness since November.

The blog has lost its role as a two-way can-on-a-string between one cloistered writer-photographer and the Other World. I’ve lamented this far too often in recent years as the disconnect grows wider and wider.

This web presence, for years, was ME. As faithfully as possible, I poured myself into a daily narrative, “in words and pixels” more or less shamelessly onto this page. For years, that was a rewarding effort—and no small one, to be sure.

I think back to the thousands of hours of my life transformed into the little essays and photo-vignettes, many of which went on to become published news columns or found their way into my books. I think back to all the people I’ve met because of our common language and sense of the common good.

There was great satisfaction and joy in that sharing and those new acquaintances. I felt utterly free to speak my heart and my mind and knew I would find resonance in that other world beyond the bounds of this tiny ridge-rimmed watershed.

But over that course of time and since the precipice of shattered focus since November, it has become impossible for me to connect with the ME that draws story from nature with gratitude, celebration, wonder and the urge and need to spread that good word.

Maybe this is not a permanent suppression of the core of connection with the telling of the simple life in Floyd County. I would be less concerned about outliving this funk if I were as young as I was when Fragments began, fourteen years ago.

But in this moment, I still need to write—no less than I have since being afflicted by the Muse of the Written Word in June of 2002. I just know, after some recent effort to do so,  that I can’t write from my Happy Place, and I can’t write to an empty room that blogging has become.

And yet, I must write; and if the old energies of discovery and awe and wonder are beyond reach in these dark times, perhaps indignation and outrage will serve to power the poor insulted and aggrieved Muse. Bless her, she stands to take quite a groping in the near term, from sea to shining sea.

The book I was half-way into sits idle. I just can’t get there from here. I almost thought there for a while I’d have it ready to go by a year from now. Nope. I can’t do the interior work required to get those kinds of words to the page.

So I’m researching and potentially, in the future, writing about some local environmental issues that impact us here on Goose Creek and in Floyd County and ultimately across the planet. That writing has to do with our local Virginia forests being strip-mined for European biofuels-powered electricity generation. It is a microcosmic symptom of our larger broken story.

And on this topic, maybe, something here at some future date.

Time and a World of Change ~ Part V

Rainforest to hamburgers: the cost of cheap quick US food

This is part 5 of excerpts from a piece that may someday (or may not) be a chapter in a book, given adequate keystrokes in these out-of-warranty joints; enough minutes of absolute time but especially minutes with adequate clarity and passion, wisdom and focus; and a remaining pool of neurons who get along well enough with each other to produce actual words.

From the end of Part IV I have jumped to the end of the draft for this final installment, taking pity on any who might feel compelled to actually read the intervening thousand words. You’re welcome.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

We stagger from now to now and forget how we have come here. We live in each present moment, marching in place, mindless of the path behind us and ahead. Myopia of yesterday and tomorrow makes the Big Story invisible to us. We cannot know the wisdom of the book if we forget each sentence as we read it and move on, unchanged.

Cameras from space now do what Disney did for us in early timelapse, showing us decades of change to glaciers, deserts, the night-blinding glare of cities into space, and the bleaching of the last coral reefs. We can no longer say our eyes were not equipped to see our impact over time.

We nurture a personal ecology of connectedness to place, and from that place to all places by coming to see ourselves and everything within our viewfinder held together and enmeshed in a common matrix of time.

We walk only in the present and this is our mortal predicament and impediment, while the consequences of today’s choices stretch out over the lifetimes of forests and rivers and of mountains where our distant children will make their lives.

We urgently need to train our eyes for the vision to see ahead even as we look back to see our ancestors looking forward with this hope for us in their own times past.

Google Earth Timelapse update shows Earth from 1984-2016

Timelapse – Google Earth Engine   


Image screen-captured from a video of earth-and-sky timelapse scenes.
Image screen-captured from a video of earth-and-sky timelapse scenes.

The first time-lapse segment I saw on Disneyland was the closest thing to magic I had ever experienced. Normally slow-changing objects or scenes were filmed over hours or days or even weeks with an umoving camera to reveal  glacially-slow and otherwise imperceptible changes of form or color. This was not Disney’s animation work but that of nature itself.

This was real and true just outside my door–a state of flux and motion happening every second of every day. I couldn’t see it with my own eyes, but I was made able to imagine and to know it, having been shown the existence of this grand motion and dance. In subtle ways, it gave me a new lens for seeing the world.

From this kind of photography came landscapes–desert or mountaintop or seashore scenes–captured over full light-and-shadow-shifting of dawn to dusk, daylight melting beautifully into the after-dark appearance of the Milky Way and wheeling constellations overhead against fixed and motionless objects in the foreground.

The spinning field of stars revolved majesticallyagainst the blackest heaven, slashed by bright streaks of high-altitude jets and meteors and sometimes stroked by the fast-moving squiggly red taillights of auto traffic in a city. The busy-ness and stir of a single day anywhere in this world was anything but ordinary!

This is the third excerpt from this topic of “seeing time” taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018.

Time and a World of Change ~ Part I
Time and a World of Change ~ Part II

(Mis)Figures of Speech


I know it is said that your enemies will tell you what your friends won’t. And so even though I think of you as my friends, I hope you’ll tell me to my face. I so rankle when I hear it in the speech of others, so if I am guilty please, risk injuring my hidebound ego. Rescue me by pointing it out at once. I’ll do the same for you. We’ll be doing each other a favor, truly.

The offense to which I refer and from which I try to steer clear is ORPs: the use of Obnoxious and Repetitive Phrases in one’s day to day speech. This comes to mind because all day long (I hate to admit it) I’ve been yelling at someone on a teaching DVD as if she could hear my hollering every time (and oh there have been so many times) she says “go ahead and…” as in “go ahead and open a new layer.”

In twenty minutes of narrative, she’ll use it 40 times, and she consistently has done so now across twenty hours of her otherwise pleasant and knowledgeable voice. I keep shouting to her “No, just tell us to OPEN a new layer. It won’t make you sound pushy if you do. We won’t think you rude or controlling. Just tell us what to do. Not to go ahead and do. That’s just saying the same thing twice. Can’t you hear yourself!” But she doesn’t listen. Or doesn’t care, I can’t say which.

I suppose some people can just tune out that sort of thing and get to the meat of what the speaker is saying. I cannot. In college (somewhere I still have the notebook) I couldn’t attend to the vertebrate zoology professor for all of his “uh’s” and “um’s”. Every one of them was a little road bump that made my mental needle skip, and I ended up off track.

I counted the skips with little hash marks–all around the edge of the page, until they spilled into the center where my notes should have been. We’re talking duhs by the hundreds! And that was the same prof, who, like my CD maven, didn’t want to seem too forceful or cock-sure, so he used the terms “pretty much” and “and that sort of a thing.”

Which reminds me: we had a neighbor, a man who perhaps had sworn the secret pledge of Devout Indecisiveness. He ended almost every sentence with “and so on and so forth and what-have-you-there.” I kid you not. This was an intelligent man capable of normal human vocabulary! But he was mired in this bog of habit and without help, he could not escape. I imagine he is there to this day, and **stuff and such and whathaveyouthere. (**An occasional variant.)

Some people mush their adjectives into a puree to make them easy to swallow: the woods are not dark, they are KINDA dark. The dog that bit them was KINDA mean. They KINDA make my flesh crawl! Ya know? Or “don’t ya know?” Crimminy! Don’t ask me if I know, turning declarative into interrogative. You might as well turn down that dark road to uptalk if you’re going to Ya Know me over and over again before you make your point. Assuming you don’t think that would be too threatening to actually just say it out and move on.

Sorry. I got on my high horse there for a minute. Didn’t mean to throw stones. I don’t doubt that I am blind to my own ORPs that make people cringe. Should you and I meet someday for a nice afternoon of conversation, you may find yourself making mental hashmarks, keeping score of my own obnoxious verbal habits.

But ’til then, tell us about ORPers you have known–a neighbor, classmate, family member or coworker. What meaningless space-filling sentence fluff and egregious wishywashies have you been exposed to? Wink Wink. Nudge Nudge. Know what I mean? Eh?

Writing Regularity: A Blessed Necessity

Even though you’ve heard much less from me here on the once-regular blog (the least since its beginnings in 2002), I sit behind the keyboard every morning and think about you–the mostly Imaginary Audience of Fragments. Without You I’d sit frozen and motionless, not having a would-be friend to tell my stories to. Finally, it’s okay that you are, mostly, not out there. I still remember and leave a place at the table for you.

And I am still writing most days, invisible behind the store front of the weblog.

As I have mentioned, I continue to harbor the hope of a third book, am making progress in that direction, and am taking some concrete exploratory steps towards potential publication avenues later today.

But I also write because I find that the effort of gathering my thoughts in a structured expressive journaling kind of way generates a number of benefits to body and spirit. Writing regularly has become a matter of psychological hygiene, you might say. Prunes are sometimes required, but mostly, the keystrokes just come naturally from an internal rhythm.

If you have thought “I should really write about ___” but have not yet made expressive writing a part of your daily routine, here is prescription for that new habit that offers a number of potential benefits.

The Psychological Benefits of Writing Regularly

The paragraph from this article that caught my attention, that resonated with me, was the one that briefly discussed “Writing and Gratitude.”

It quotes findings from this longer article (pdf) that finds that people who write regularly (but not too much) about the “good things in their life” were more positive and motivated about their current situations that those who did not write in this way.

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change

That sounds rather much like the fourteen years of ramblings at Fragments from Floyd.

Yes there are frequent blog posts here about the sorry state of the world, especially our neglect and abuse of the planet and each other. There are occasionally whiny pieces about the weather or the wife  or the dog du jour or the indignities of age.

But mostly, over the years, the blog has been a vehicle for appreciation, celebration and proclamation of the good things in life in Floyd County, on Goose Creek, and under this roof, be it ever so humble.

And I feel certain the gratitude that comes with a deep sense of belonging in place will be woven all through the hoped-for book, should I have enough keystrokes on a regular basis to give birth to it.