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.

Doing The Hard Thing

Image copyright Fred First I told you a few weeks ago that we knew what must be done. It has taken this long to steel myself to do it.

CJ the Cat (from CJ Harris Hospital where I worked) showed up as a very small lost kitten at the Emergency Room door in January, 1990. I put her in a box and carried her home to our daughter, who excitedly said that CJ (a.k.a Calvin, both perhaps from our Presbyterian connections but more probably from our son’s hero, who also had a cat sidekick) would go with her to college the next year. Daughter went, cat never did.

CJ was an indoor cat once upon a time, but her shreading effect on the furniture sent her permanently alfresco–except for when she and I lived on Walnut Knob that first year in Floyd County without the SheBoss, during which time cat went anywhere inside or out that her highness desired. She’s never been an especially affectionate cat, but we bonded that year of living with only each other’s company most of the time. We came to an understanding.

Since moving to Goose Creek, she’s been a porch cat, and until recently, managing quite well for herself. Until she started going blind a few months back, a process completed several weeks ago. It’s a terrible thing to watch a cat fall off the edge of the porch or walk into her water bowl. Winter is soon upon us, and already CJ howled in the wee hours, unable to find her box in the cold.

As of a half hour ago, she now is in her final rest, up beside Nameless Creek, under a headstone formed by one of the big rocks plowed out of the pasture ground a century ago. She felt no pain. I, on the other hand, will need some time to recover from the sting of sending her out of this world after almost 17 good years. There were just barely enough Powermilk Biscuits to get up and do what needed to be done.

Barn Redux

image copyright Fred First
Thanks, Andy, for providing a caption for this image. All I expected was to put up the picture, but was pleased to find your perceptive words in a Flickr comment for this one this morning.

Some photos have a “being there” quality about them; maybe its something familiar about the scene which stikes a chord, maybe its to do with the clarity of the shot. Whatever it is, this is one of those. Obviously I’ve never been to Goose Creek (although I’ve heard a bit about it!) yet I can feel myself there, feel the chill in my fingers and cold air in my lungs, the stillness of the morning. Scenes and times like these I’ve known and loved. Maybe its because the scene has an air of suspended animation; soon the stillness will transition gently into the day’s activity – I almost expect to see Tsuga come nosing round the corner of the barn in a moment…

Oh, and from a purely photographic point of view, that reflection in the creek is magical.

Swing over and take a look at Andy’s photos of his travels in and about the peaks and glades of Western Europe and the UK.

A Mountaintop Experience

image copyright Fred First

I can’t even imagine, but we should all try to, and sometimes I do.

I am standing on the front porch in the early morning with my coffee. The sun is just painting enough light behind the ridgetops to make rise and fall of their silhouette into the rim of this chalice-valley that holds our lives.

With a sudden, sickening slap against my feet in the near-light, the yard, the house, the entire watershed of Goose Creek shocks as smoke and dust rise from what had been forest along the skyline. And when the cloud of pulverized earth settles, the trees are gone. The familiar contours like the lines of loved one’s face, have disappeared forever.

Then, a massive machine rises above the ragged horizon. It pushes what is left of our mountaintop through what is left of our forest in to what used to be Nameless Creek, into my Fortress of Solitude where the three poplars converge, where I wanted my ashes placed; where our sitting bench has been, next to the little island covered in asters where the white waters will be no more. This image of an early morning spider web was taken at just this place of my nightmare.

A bad dream. Mountaintop Removal is a bad dream that is a new reality every day for someone, for some family, for some community somewhere in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee or Virginia. And unless we force ourselves to look at it in all its ugliness, unless we come to see our own complicity by our very silence and by our consumption without regard for the costs, there will be no end to it.

Some of you who are from or have a heart for the southern Appalachian mountains are surely aware of the costs of “cheap coal”. Most of you who read this here are genuinely uninformed, and there’s a reason for that. Until recently, the people most affected have not had sufficient voice to lift this issue above and against the powerful forces that want it invisible in the national media; that want vast stretches of remote, sparcely-settled, pristine watershed, forested plant and animal habitat and the physical context of mountain people’s lives to be seen as nothing but “overburden”. There has been an political policy of silence at the highest levels.

This must stop. We must be a part of the end of mountaintop removal for coal extraction.

Please take a few minutes and watch this short video from ilovemountains.com that just begins to tell the story. Do you love mountains? Then take 8 minutes to learn what’s at stake.