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Fragments from Slow Road Home

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 8 months ago


I'll add to this list of "fragments" from Slow Road Home over the coming weeks. These brief selected paragraphs give a potential reader an idea of the voice and tone of the writing, while not all of the "types" of entries are included.



Image copyright Fred First


So here I am all at once, thrown into this brier patch, a beautiful place to be tossed, though I would not have chosen to get here this way. I still feel like a stranger in my own country, but less so than last month. Three months from now, will I be more content with my lot? Will I be by then so immersed in this place that I look like it, become invisible against it, evolving, camouflaged and part of the landscape myself? Will I become lost here, or found?



Gravity pulls me down and I lie on my back, on cool stone horizontal, before a mock-infinity of space, wondering: what is my place in this world of men and of words? Do I deserve to be so blessed among Earth’s teeming humanity? What must I do in the warmth of this gentle epiphany that is revealed to me tonight and how should I then live? Maybe I will try to find the words in the morning, after the house is quiet again and the fireflies have gone to bed and the world smells of heat and ozone and toast.





We approach each blind curve with care, and on slowing down, see the graceful way that light slips past hemlock branches and how the creek eddies flash in the shadows of rhododendrons. We would never see this on a fast road. As we near home one bend at a time, our meandering road becomes a welcomed part of the detoxification ritual that brings down our blood pressure, calms our racing minds, and brings us to center again on the simple act of living here in the present moment. I imagine I am as busy as my city friend, but I know I am not as hurried.




A revelation of radiant webs like prayers floating unseen above my head for fifty autumns has made me conversant with floating spiders. Perhaps they are angels. What wonders hide beneath my boots or hover in air just above my skin, I cannot imagine. Look up. Miracles must be everywhere.



Morning on Goose Creek in the September of our lives sounds like this: drops falling from dew-wet branches; bush crickets whirring, one from a goldenrod along the pasture whose song blends with the next, higher up in the meadow, and a dozen more in monotone requiem to summer past; and beneath all other sounds, and around them, the rift of water over rock, falling into the hollow of itself, a spattering, tinkling liquid philharmonic of peace. If there were no humans on earth, this is what it would sound like. And there are two, standing utterly still, and thankful.



Ann, the dog and I walk up the field, along the creek and back every day. The green peace there feels as if it has always been just so, waiting for us to come into the open, our field of dreams. From the far end of the grassy floodplain, we look back down the narrow valley over the flat earth and see the barn and north ridge, and at night from the middle of the clearing, a golden light glows from inside our house. Overhead, more of Heaven swirls around me than I can comprehend.



Image copyright Fred First


What they know about buoyancy and loft, about milkweed toxins and about the geography of the continent is hardwired, ordained, immutable and the same from one butterfly to its offspring—truth unchanging through an infinite procession of a thousand generations. A Monarch, with its tiny speck of brain simply knows that it knows what it knows and that is enough. These orange and black wisps of will know where they’re going and how to get there, born with Heaven in their wiring and their wings.



We aren’t taught to value what our noses could tell us about the world, and this indifference makes poorer those moments in our lives at which, had we smelled more intentionally for memory’s sake, we might remember now more clearly.




When we are young, we live where we're born. For some of us, the place of our birth is a perfect fit and we never leave it. For others like me, something is missing there, and we look for home in places we have never been but long to find. … Whether we know or deny it, place molds into each of us its latitude and elevation, its geometry and chemistry. But it is possible to live so fast that we become oblivious to our relationship to the where of our lives. An intimate relationship with the land requires a daily attention to the particulars through every season.



Never before has the natural world needed each of us to know it, care for it and act on its behalf in such a way as it does in our times. We cannot be responsible stewards of a threatened planet if its creatures are distant, anonymous and irrelevant strangers. Be more aware than you've ever been in this cathedral made without hands, as John Muir called our world. Make friends of its inhabitants and call them by name.



The stove's care and feeding for the next six months will be as essential as our own eating and breathing. We will open its mouth and feed it often; we will check its temperature to make sure it becomes neither too hot nor too cold and we'll watch its breath out the chimney for signs of congestion. After feedings we will clean up the crumbs with a small brush and a dustpan. All winter long, we will pay homage with split oak, locust and ash-offerings to this revered, cast iron symbiotic creature in our midst.



Image copyright Fred First


It is good to be here. I wonder what I will say about our lives on this October morning three or five years down the road. Already, we are deeply rooted here, and I like to think our grandchildren and their children will love it just as we do. We will make this ours, and as I have said on many occasions, Lord willing, when we move from this house and this home, it will be in a simple pine box.




Nameless Creek comes from darkness underground, beginning in a dozen springs a mile south. In its past, it has raged back and forth between the ridges, swollen and angry, carving our narrow valley from Appalachian stone. Today the little stream purrs along peacefully enough, cold, clear as liquid glass, on its way down mountains. It carries the smell of snow to a sandy beach on the sea. Tonight our little creek will freeze along the edges. In a month, we will hear a river embryo calling faintly from under ice and we will walk on water.




Winter smells of wool and of wrapped humanity inside. From beyond the thick shroud of winter clothes there is only the near-fragrance of frost. No motes of aroma escape on warm currents from spicebush, sassafras, white pine, from dank soft creek mud or pasture clover. There should be an olfactory adjective, like monochrome, to describe the lunar-stark aromasphere of winter.




If this new reality of mine is a journey, then I am approaching the edge of a featureless tundra just ahead-the unknown terrain of the coming winter in isolation. To get to the other side of it, I choose to be an explorer embarking on an expedition, not a lost soul wandering aimlessly in the frozen desert. But I don't know what lies ahead. Explorers have a destination, a goal, some reason for crossing unknown lands. And a map. What are my reasons? What are the landmarks on my new map to give me bearings, and what is at its farthest edge?




Image copyright Fred First


Fluted. Filigreed. Lacey. Cancellous. Clear as crystal glass, green as a glacier. Granular and rough over here at the top of this rocky ledge; and just there in the shadow of the bluff, a smooth, flat sheet that protects itself by reflecting the pale pastel light of a weak winter sun. Ice buttons and balls, goblets and goblins that decorate the drab grasses at creek's edge with bright colorless ornaments. Air bubbles under glass move rodent-like downstream, in a warren of liquid and crystal.

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