Stop the Presses!

Actually, the presses are still six weeks off (hopefully not more, so I can have books for the Mt Rogers Naturalist Rally May 8.)

But I’ve changed the structure from “categorized” to “clustered”. I was able to sort 96 personal essays (not all are essays but we’ll use that terminology) into eight areas of subject matter. My first notion was to have each “chapter” of the book devoted to one of the categories. (You can read descriptions of the first four below, the last four, come back tomorrow.)

I’ll tell you more about the new “clustered” structure (that I think I’m sticking with) tomorrow or Wednesday. I’ll be seeking your advice as the jumping off point gets closer!

I. Curious By Nature: Today’s youngest generation stands at risk of becoming completely distanced from the natural world, and this is not okay. Today’s cloistered kids are deprived of the nutrients of outdoor play every day and by choice, cocooned indoors, by and large lacking curiosity that leads to learning about the real world under the sky. They may not know the joy of free outdoor play, “protected” as they often are from direct contact with the natural world and the certain risks of learning their physical limits. They need guides back outside. Maybe you do, too.

If this is a subject you’d like to explore in more detail, I recommend Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods”, a book that goes to some length to understand and successfully address what the author describes as “nature deficit disorder”. Also find the Child and Nature Network online.

II. Earth Companions: My first love even as a toddler was nature, my mother tells me. “Look mommy!” I called with amazement from the front porch step. “A pillowcase!” The disgusted caterpillar just moved on, and fortunately, I improved my taxonomic precision and word retrieval skills somewhat over the years. My first graduate education was in zoology, and a major fascination with the plant kingdom came along later, flames fanned by my zeal for wildflower photography.

I’ve been a “biology watcher” since the last Ice Age and it’s intricacies and marvels never cease to delight, educate and amaze the little boy that still lives on in me. Nature (yes, even spiders and snakes and “bugs”) offers an unending source of wonder and beauty for both pen and camera lens, as well as for the lessons we can learn about life at large. Here are a few lightly-illuminating cameos of a few of the creatures we live with (for good or ill) in Southwest Virginia.

III. Within Our Means: Heads up! This file cabinet of varied topical focus looks particularly at the adults of our species and the choices we make. These ten essays are issues-centered, often with local reference, on subjects including invasive plants, the roadside scourge of the plastic bag, the recent luxury of the manicured lawn and the central community issue of water.

Here-and-now matters like these are not made irrelevant to a wider readership by placing them on our small stage and at a particular point in time. (Paper or plastic? Don’t tell me you haven’t wondered.)

IV. Not Fish Nor Fowl: Now don’t tell me otherwise. I know you have a drawer at your house just like we have at ours. It is near the kitchen phone. You don’t open it when company comes or they’ll see a rat’s nest of grocery receipts, the last two or three sheets of a dozen different pastel sticky note pads, dog-eared from being crumpled in purse and pocket; some Green Stamps collected in the past millennium; point-broken pencils, out of ink ball points, a few dog treats and some pocket lint, all held together by a tangle of paper clips. This, dear reader, is that drawer of hard to label odds and ends.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Your description in “Not Fish nor Fowl” fit two or three of the rooms in our house, to a “t”. I well know what a junk drawer is; but, we have junk rooms! ; )