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Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 4 months ago

Thanks to Wilma Snyder for chosing to review Slow Road Home on her regular radio broadcast About Books on WXBX on January 11, 2007. Wilma is wife of former community college president, Bill Snyder, who hired me to teach back about the time the amphibians first ventured onto dry land.


Henry David Thoreau wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I thought of those words as I was reading Fred First’s book, Slow Road Home: A Blue Ridge Book of Days. Above all else, this author looks at his surroundings deliberately.


Fred First taught biology at Wytheville Community College for twelve years from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. Then further education and a career change took the First family away from the area. The lure of the mountains brought them back to Southwest Virginia in the late nineties. In 1999, the First family bought a farm in Floyd County. In 2002, Fred took a break from his career to restore the farmhouse and concentrate on his writing. No lesser objective was to get reacquainted with himself.


Fred’s first public writing was to his weblog, Fragments from Floyd. Slow Road Home was distilled from that daily writing. In language both precise and poetic, he writes about the changing seasons, the weather, the natural world of his Floyd Country acres, his wife and family, and his perceptions of his life at this point.


He writes, “I am digging, and sometimes finding, even when I’m only working in the garden or bringing in the wood. I put away scraps from the everyday, collect odd bits of experience and memory – strings of adjectives, strong verbs, the small revelations or perplexities I discover under rocks while exploring the creek bank. I keep curiosities that make me smile – a nice phrase here, an alliterative couplet there, or some odd voice I hear in the wind or water. I once threw away such foolish things. Now I save them all. My journal is a junk drawer – a place to save the parts I might one day need for a paragraph. I dig into the jumbled springs and strings, wires and washers and pull out the piece I want, to tie up a sentence. I don’t throw away scraps of language anymore, I am a collector of fragments from these days on Nameless Creek.”


Sometimes the isolation of his space First acknowledges as loneliness. On such a day, the sighting of a soaring eagle inspired these words, “I do know that the overshadowing of those wings was my burning bush. This was my sign, this bird that spread its wings above me like an angel, motionless while the wind lifted, held him up. This was my messenger come to proclaim that, while there would be strong winds in days ahead that would make us pull inside ourselves unsure of tomorrow, we would stay the course, face the hard times, and make our way forward.”


I hope that Fred First’s book gains a wide reading audience, but whatever its wider success, I hope that many of you in Southwest Virginia will read this book. Its lyricism and its wisdom will remind you to look more intentionally and to appreciate more deeply God’s creation which we are lucky enough to share. Order it from slowroadhome.com.

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