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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.



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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