A Book By Its Cover ~ Part One

"Her arms knew without study the physics of balance."
"Her arms knew without study the physics of balance."

I was asked by a reader how and why I chose the name What We Hold In Our Hands as the title for this book. I was happy for the question because it made me remember or realize the answers.

The most immediate answer is that the current book contains an earlier book that never happened and that book was where the  idea for the name originated.

That book concept which never passed draft stage would have been full color and targeted toward a readership of potential “nature guides”–the guides in this case not being a small field book of illustrative pictures but the parents or grandparents, teachers or guardians of children. The book was first tentatively titled “Bridging the Nature Gap” and had the picture of my grand daughter Abby crossing the icy board bridge with her arms outstretched in a balancing act. That image remains in What We Hold to illustrate the piece about allowing our children to face risks in the outdoors. It is called “Early Physics.”

The second name considered for that earlier almost-book and the title I would have used had it gone to print was “What They Hold in Their Hands.” The cover would have been a montage of four things held in my grand daughter’s hands–a box turtle, mushroom, millipede and newt. As I said, that book would have hoped to address the matter of “nature deficit disorder” including some natural history pieces as well, such as the “Ghost That Lives on Trees” piece, now in What We Hold.

So, when for various reasons I did not proceed to complete and publish the earlier book, I incorporated its subject matter and broadened its name into the current title, and I am happy to have done so. This book that was delivered to Goose Creek on May 6, 2009, contains the message about our children’s denatured plight and some thoughts about how to reverse those problems. But the reach of the book in hand is wider than that, extending to grownup matters of stewardship, belonging to place and personal ecology.

Tomorrow I’ll tell some other reasons why I am satisfied with the title, What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader.

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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. I’m glad to learn the history of the earlier book idea and how it ended up being incorporated in the new book. I’m looking forward to receiving my copy when I return home in August!