Crossing our little creek in my green rubber boots today, I stepped in water that last night seeped through dark crevices in bedrock underground. And a week from now, that same water will flow into the salty Atlantic by way of the James.
Having creeks in our back yard makes me feel a part of this predictable and regular cycle and of never-the-same-river transience and change. I can sit on the creek bank and think on these things for a half hour a few times each week and never tire of it. Where does it come from? Where does it go: time, memory, and Nameless Creek?
When I was fifty eight…
No, I’ll stifle my first impulse to write my own verse to this old song. But I have given no small thought and reflection here lately to the events of the past year–remembering mostly while driving, my mind wandering its own roads with hands on autopilot.
I’ll spare you the long list of personal victories and defeats of 2006, but say only that thankfully there seem to have been more of the former than the latter. I suppose it is no great surprise that the most tangible goal accomplished, a material embodiment of a resolution kept, is the book. Most everything in it was already written this time last year, but getting it finally done, between covers and delivered is certainly one large milestone on the greater sweep of recent years.
We look back on things accomplished now and realize, had we not done that then (like undertaking the restoration of this old house, for instance, when we were 51) we never would have been able to pull it off today. Portals of possibility open briefly, and we step through them, or hang back, and the die is cast.
What windows to potential change for the better will come along in 2007? And will we be receptive, responsive, and willing to do what it takes to make them realities?
But now the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
from fine old kegs
from the brim to the dregs
And it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year
The orange balloon pulled at the thin pink ribbon that tethered it to the green mailbox, the party done and nothing to celebrate.
The sun rose, lighting just the tops of tallest trees and I untied the child’s toy from its hitch, moved back into the clearing to let it go where it would with space to rise free of the branches of maples and poplars by the house.
There had been the barest whisper of wind on the banks beside the creek at first light and from there, the orange teardrop rose vertically, slipping gracefully through the bare limbs outside the back door, drifting north up behind the little white house on a gentle slant into rising sun–itself an orange ball with a blue planet tethered to it.
Fifty feet above the silver metal of the roof, invisible waves pushed down, tossed and jostled the thin rim of elemental air in the undertoe of the surging wave, lurching, twisting, uncertain which way to go–pulled, tossed, lifted and swirled, the ribbon traced the erratic scribble of an alien hand.
At 100 feet, the golden dot was released, let go from the hold of the chaotic swirl that bedeviled its rise, found hints of the persistent northerlies, still bobbing and lurching a little along what would be its final course southeast.
At 200 feet, the struggle calmed above the level of the upwind ridge, a barrier like a snow fence that drops winds down our valley like drifts, crazy, erratic and weak.
And at 250 feet the tiny speck of gold lifted above the rim of our hollow, into the sun, out of the turbulence, its tail gone stiff behind it, rushing with certainty, driven above the bowl that holds home by the great blow of arctic air pushed heavy down from Canada.
Then on, no wavering, no ripples, no looking back. And at the rim of the distant ridge, it cleared the treetops as I knew it would and disappeared.
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.
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…
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.