Winery Weekend

image copyright Fred First

I think I heard somewhere that the winery building at Chateau Morrisette was the largest timberframe structure east of the Mississippi. I do know the timbers were dredged from the bottom of Puget Sound after being submerged in cold waters for a hundred years–massively large and long. It would take more camera than I went with or own to do it justice. The upstairs room where the winetastings take place for this year’s Wine Club Open House was still rough when I first saw it back in the summer.

I had stopped by in June with low expectations that the gift shop folk would consent to putting Slow Road Home on their limited shelving for books. They consented and bought 12. Emboldened, I told the store manager I’d be happy to do a reading and signing, should they ever have an event where such was suitable. She brightened at the idea, envisioning this double weekend of crowds upstairs, and took me up to show it to me. Impressive, I thought, and tried to imagine my little book table in such a grand castle of a building. Today will be my fourth and final day, and it has been most interesting and rewarding, and I am most appreciative of the opportunity!

I spoke with so many interesting people. The situation is somewhat like blogging: nobody forces a visitor to stop by the table, examine the book, and know from what they see that we might have something to say to each other. There either is or there is not a connection between the book browser and author. For those who stopped to chat, there were interesting stories.

One poor gal choked up after reading the back cover. “I loved it here. My husband made me leave. I’ve never quit hurting or missing the mountains. They are a part of me, and I see that same connection from what little I’ve seen of your book.”

Another book-buyer said he was convinced that the mountains (of Patrick County along the parkway) was where they belonged. His wife was not convinced. He hollered at me from the cash-register line: “Fred, does your wife like living here?” I told me that, if anything, she was more attached to this place than I was. And he called his wife over to hear our testimonial of how well this lifestyle fits our needs and preferences. “But it’s not for everybody” I told her. You’ll know it if it fits you.

image copyright Fred First

Others stopped to say hello, book readers already, or blog visitors, or appreciative of the radio pieces or newspaper column–people I would never have had opportunity to meet. One lady said “I loved your book, but there was one part, after I read the first paragraph, I couldn’t go any farther. I was already crying.” And of course it was the sad account of putting Buster down.

Another book reader, of all the little mundane details, delighted in the tale of walking with a “spider stick” down our loop through the woods. “We do that too! It was so powerfully connecting with the little rituals of our daily lives in the mountains to find common ground with you on Goose Creek. And when we’re away (so many have weekend places here) we enjoy picking up Slow Road to remind us of how the season is changing back up here in the mountains.”

There were people from Giles County, Pulaski County, Patrick County, and over in the Roanoke area who felt the same connection to place that Ann and I do here in Floyd. Yes, there are unique qualities here, but it is the larger connection and attachment to the southern mountains that we all love and seem to need. One fella, in conversation of “where are you from” told me about a T-shirt he’d seen in another nearby county. I’ll just adapt it to here. It said…

No, I’m not a native of Floyd County, but I got here fast as I could!

It has been gratifying to find out that others have the same sense as we do, that we have arrived at a place we’ve been moving toward all our lives.

The Front

Tattered clouds scattered east across what had an hour before been a cloudless cold-blue sky. The first arctic air mass of the season was on its way, predicted to arrive by late afternoon. Already the air had taken on a solemn and heavy feel. There was no cheer in the wind.

We are woefully behind on dry firewood for the coming winter. The woodsman has taken more to the pen than the chain saw of late, and words won’t keep him warm in February. So across the county I headed for some easy wood on a friend’s place, after stopping for a while in town for coffee with Dennis.

The old Dakota truck, abandoned since the new (used) Subaru replaced in August, lurched sideways on its shocks when a gust of wind tried to push it into the oncoming lane of traffic. But there was no traffic. Stonewall road was empty and quiet but for one man in one old truck, and someone’s kite in the near distance, tumbling, falling, rising; for an instant it righted itself–stabilized briefly as if it regained a tail of torn fabric that gave it enough drag to balance left, right, front and back, and soar. Then it pitched and crumpled, barely airborne, moving my way. A great blue heron battered by the polar gale wished he had gone south after all, to visit relatives on the Gulf Coast.

After a short round of discussion at the local cafe, I wanted to show my friend a special place. It was the land that had been the love of another friend who never knew this weblog. She died about the time it was born. But that gal loved those woods. She’d be heartsick to see it has been logged–in a kind way, compared to most–but happy, I think, to know that I could still feel her presence there. And more than the firewood I wanted to show Dennis a special plant in this special place: pennyroyal in winter.

I can’t find on the web any suitable pictures of it in winter. It is decidedly not much to look at. But I think next time I run across it, I’ll hope to have my camera, so I can show you first, how to find it. Then, encourage you to smell it. More about that later.

By the time I turned and headed for home, the front loomed like an arching flint-gray wave overhead. The temperature had fallen ten degrees since the heron struggled to find refuge from the storm. The first flakes blew sideways, first a few, then a white blur, then patches of clear sky and nothing. Turning off 221 into the countryside was like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. Here, flakes at first blew like smoke, undulated like a dry-ice-vapor across the road. A mile further down into the hills, it began to stick on the northy patches that never see the sun. I put the truck into 4WD as I turned down into Goose Creek, descending into winter. I carried an armload of wood in with me for the stove.

Let the game begin. Another winter has officially arrived.