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About the Title

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 9 months ago

About ''Slow Road Home: a blue ridge book of days


So Fred, what is your book about?


    Slow Road Home records a personal journey of discovery and celebration, of belonging at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Through word pictures and rich prose, musings and meditations, the reader settles into an examined life in a quiet mountain valley where nature, the seasons and the senses tell the story.


From the back cover of the book...


With a naturalist's curiosity, a photographer's eye, and the heart of one who knows that he is living at last where he belongs, Fred First, in Slow Road Home, invites the reader to join him on a field trip through time and place.


Following the sudden realization at fifty-four that his working life had left him unfulfilled in those needs that mattered most, First leaves that world behind. Tracking the quiet turns of solitude's seasons, these short essays capture the daily miracles of an extraordinary time in a beautiful place.


First finds himself home at last in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, and most especially, in one narrow valley along Goose Creek in Floyd County. Why, he wonders do some places call to us so strongly that we cannot ignore their pull? What does belonging to place mean? Can it be felt fully apart from a reverence for and deep connection with the ordinary just outside the back door?


It is that connection you will find in the particulars here, in a book best read the way it was lived: slowly, a day, a moment at a time.


What is a "book of days?"


First, "book of days" was a term I used in "On Eagle Wings"--the longest, most memoirish piece in the book. It was a phrase I used in the sense of "scrapbook" that just seemed to fit the growing story that Ann and I were living, and about which I was writing. The weblog, I suppose, had served me since 2002 for storing saved moments and days, long before I had an idea of ever assembling a book from the saved word-snapshots of our lives.


But what, then, to call the assorted and varied snippets of day-to-day life on Goose Creek when the book was needing a name? If the collection had been only pictures, it could have been called an album; if only personal reflections, a journal. If it was less personal and more about the weather, the garden and nature, perhaps it would have been an almanac. But the terms didn't suit, and I wouldn't have liked any of them in my title. Instead, I found that the weblog and then the book were large enough containers to hold whatever came from each day's efforts to clip, snip and preserve them--it was a book made up of days.


But it turns out, the phrase has been used before, with some similarities to what has become Slow Road Home.


Chamber's Book of Days (1869) has the typically long subtitle of the times that describes the book as a "Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, including Anecdote, Biography and History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character". I suppose this 135 year old Book of Days is not all that different in scope from the assembled fragments in Slow Road Home, while that latter is far more personal in voice and local in focus.


I wanted the book title in some way to reflect that it was rooted in place, so the addition of Blue Ridge to Book of Days, I think, does that for the name of the book. When referring to it, I find I simply use the main title, but I'm glad the subtitle is there on the cover, to give a potential reader a little more information about what's inside, while leaving them pleasantly puzzled, perhaps, wondering "just what is a Book of Days?"




Further memoirish ruminations about the title


Someone told me recently that he had just purchased the book What Dreams May Come. I was struck by the title because it pulled me back both to the concrete language of Shakespeare from which it was extracted and to the haunting, unspeakable expectations of the imagined unknown. It drew me in.


I don't know how similarly evocative the title of my book, Slow Road Home, will be for other readers, but thinking back, I've laden it with personal meaning and poignancy. While the title refers to both the journey and the ultimate destination, there is more. It carries back farther in time and into a different personal space than you'll read in the narrative of the book. There is some element of memoir, perhaps, even in the title.


I grew up in the era of Sunday drives. Still in our "church clothes" after lunch at a favorite sit-down restaurant--there were no fast food franchises in those days--we would strike out into the countryside in the family car. Sometimes we had a destination in mind, often frivilous and sometimes contrived on the spot. Other times, we were simply on the road, exploring places where the driver only knew generally where he was. The driver: my father--not a longstanding or significant part of my years beyond adolescence--gained my respect for his uncanny ability to always get us home from places where I thought we were hopelessly lost.


He sometimes made a point of taking a half-dozen random turns that would lead us in directions that even a ten-year-old could tell were not in the direction home.


"Where are we going now?" my brother and I asked, half hoping he could tell us, and other half that he didn't really know himself.


"We're going home the slow way. Let's see where we end up."


And so the slow way home then was a prolonging our exploration for a little longer, and it was a part of the adventure itself. It was both the purpose and the means of learning our way home from whereever we were.


I think I see that now in this book. I started asking four years ago "Where am I going now?" knowing that I didn't know the answer exactly, but having the conviction that there was adventure ahead on the slow road home and that the journey itself would be as important as the destination.

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