Sunday Jots

Thunderstorms in November! We were over at a neighbors for a pot luck gathering. I would have loved to have had a camera when the first lightning flashed, and everybody in the room lifted off the floor simultaneously in surprise. We were among the first to leave, and already the sloping pasture had claimed on car sideways of the hill. Thank goodness for Subaru!

I keep running into bee people. Last night, had a conversation with a fellow that keeps 70 hives not far from here. It might be his hives that house those bees I saw on our corn tassels summer before last, though at the time I imagined them to be from a (rare these days) wild hive. Then I learned from another bee keeper last week that a bee will fly five miles to and from a hive, so in that radius, I’m sure there are kept hives I didn’t know about. Anyway, he told about a new hive pest–as if another was needed: the small hive beetle, thank you very much, South Africa.

Having the tools creates the work. Last night (same party) I was glad that yesterday I had ordered a digital recorder (Olympus DS2) to record interviews for an upcoming project. Two unexpected and immediate opportunities fell at my feet, with folks approaching me to tell about their neighbors in late 80s or 90s who had stories too rich to lose. So I’ll maybe field test my new tool soon, and close to home, before wandering wider afield.

I also acquiesced to the inevitable yesterday and ordered DragonDictate Naturally Speaking Preferred (a $40 rebate coupon expired after yesterday’s date.) Keystrokes saved now by this speech-to-text software may allow these uncooperative finger joints to participate at some level for a few more years. I dread the learning curve.

And finally, here’s one I’m hoping to get a beta-invite for: SCRYBE, an online (and offline) PIM that seems a cut above most other calendar – scheduling – reminder programs I’ve seen so far. Watch the video and see if you think it would be useful for you. I’m always looking for ways to shore up the failing intracranial software (and the hand joints, I suppose, would be hardware.) Gotta roll with da punches, eh?

And Upon This Rock

image copyright Fred First

Here’s an image collected on the drive down to Mt. Airy last week.

This is the Bluemont Rock Church, one of several built during the period between the world wars in Floyd and adjacent counties by Bob Childress and his congregations.

You can read a brief account of the Childress history and legacy in the Buffalo Mountain region of Floyd and Carroll Counties. Interesting how this man’s reputation and good deeds are not universally agreed upon by all who knew those times and personalities as contrasted to the description of them in “The Man Who Moved A Mountain”, the book about Bob Childress’ ministry that started here in 1926.

Placing Ourselves

image copyright Fred First

Birmingham: Red Mountain and the Vulcan
Wytheville: Sand Mountain and the towers
Sylva: Plott Balsam Mountain’s ice covered summit
Morganton: Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain
Floyd: Buffalo Mountain

Everywhere I’ve lived (all in or very near the southern Appalachians) there has been some feature of skyline that has oriented me to where I was in the world, some high and prominent rocky fold or spire on the skyline that tells me I am exactly here. High places orient us. Perhaps, too, it is the sense of permanence that we draw from when we “lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence comes our strength” as the Psalmist said.

We are drawn to that which we can see from anywhere while the stories of our lives unfold, as if those high places look down on our petty problems, seeing them in the perspective of the ages, putting our month of despair or sorrow into the context of their million years of uplift and erosion.

We gravitate towards skylines with character. In this part of the world, we feel the gravity of mountains, and if we don’t live on them, we want to look at them. But there can be places where so many want to see one of these beautiful mountain landscapes or high prominences that over time, the decks and picture windows and vaulted glass walls of one new home look out on the decks and glass walls of the next and the next. And in the end, the charm and character of the landscape is lost. Precious places can become prostituted to profit, turned into a mere selling point, and priced out of the experience of those whose lives have been told in the shadow of these special places for generations.

You yourself can buy a piece of Floyd’s unique skyline and own the Buffalo lifestyle. It’s simple. Sign here. Scroll down to chose your view.

Beautiful green ridge top parcel with grandiose four-season view of Buffalo Mountain. Strong western mountain views with neighboring orchard and nature conserve canopy. Views to the east include nearby mountain range. Quiet cul de sac with level building envelope offers exceptional plan diversity. Community panorama and four-board fencing complement the Buffalo lifestyle. 2.55+ acres. $615,210.

The pull is strong. And expensive. And in not many more generations, the view–of the Norhteast coast, the Rockies, the Pacific Crest, the Grandfather Mountains of the east–may be owned only by those few able to pay for it.

How do we decide as communities what is precious, even in what we see from our back roads and living room windows, and then, how do we protect those high places so our children’s children don’t look out on roof tops and swimming pools, strip malls and cell towers? How do we keep these grand hills from becoming grandiose, protect our special places from becoming more than mere commodity, and nurture them as a source of solace and strength long into the future?


image copyright Fred First

Please allow me to whine. I am had by the tender parts, and the camera accessory folks are squeezing for all they’re worth. Which is a lot. To use my telephoto lens with my tripod, I need a mounting bracket. It must be made of a semi-precious metal at $150 for this 6 ounce piece of hardware. I’m wondering if by some vanishingly small chance anybody has one of these sitting idle in old Uncle Mort’s chest up in the attic, rest his poor departed soul. If he doesn’t need it anymore, can we work out a deal?

And while whining, another sad story. Ann left out of here this morning stressed for an important continuing ed meeting with which she had become involved in planning. Her neck was in a bind as she hurried down the front steps in the first light. Ten minutes later, I heard a short horn-honk and went to the front porch.

A large tree had fallen down across the road, requiring Ann (who is reverse-impaired under the best of circumstances) to back down the mountain about a half mile. Actually, from a therapy point of view, this might have been just the end-of-range active motion she needed to help with her neck pain. And hey: it just might mean a couple of week’s worth of stove wood. I asked the VDOT guys to go gently and leave what they could for those what might come along and fetch it home to the woodstacks.

Sigh. White oak. A half-cord or more of it. And all either too steep on the high side or tumbling almost vertical down the creek side. I horsed a few pieces into the back of the truck, including one that was too big for me. I horsed it anyway, and it may come back to haunt my back tomorrow. What price, firewood.