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Meredith Sue Willis review

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 11 months ago

Fred First's Slow Road Home: A Blue Ridge Book of Days


Fred First, biologist and naturalist, has collected the best of his newspaper column and blog about his life on a small property in Floyd County, Virginia. He and his wife chose this property in this location after much thought, and his life in these southwestern Virginia mountains is a conscious, indeed ideological choice– that is to say, he is attempting to live in a way that is exemplary and instructive to others. He believes that it is a good thing to garden in the summer and a good thing to chop wood and tend the wood stove in the winter. In particular, he believes that a meditative observation of nature is a good thing, and some of his paragraphs of description are as powerful as any I’ve ever read about nature.


These passages represent a very simple but very profound observing and opening to the world we live in, and even if there were only three instead of dozens, First’s book would be a valuable project: “Snow falls onto the creases of my parka,” he writes, “and does not melt. What had looked through the windows like falling flakes are not flakes but aggregations– light loose thatches of tiny ice needles, linear and sharp-tipped–loose feathers of filamentous crystal down There is no sight of a six-sided lacy flake in any of it. The locks fall from the shoulders of my jacket onto my arms, white against the dark of my coat like my hair short from barber’s shears, slivers of gray and white, they tumble softly to the ground.”


Of a meteor shower he writes, “The light of a setting full moon and the wet haze in the predawn air washed out the weakest stars. But it was dark enough. In thirty minutes, I saw perhaps 200 meteors. Most were zips at the edge of vision. Some were spectacular, lighting up the valley in less than a blink, like a photographic flash. Others left persistent trails across the sky in the way an artist would lightly dash a perfectly straight line on black canvas with a luminescent pale blue pigment with a fine-tipped brush. One split into two, each fragment sizzling off to die dark death, extinguished in the protective shield of atmosphere.”


Find more book reviews at Meredith Sue Willis's Books For Readers

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