Beauty and the Beast

Blooming of a New Era: Yucca Blossoms at Local Sunrise

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour. ~ Blake

Mornings lately have been lovely. I’m enjoying the freedom to submerge in the details just out the back door.

As you know from my morning musings, I do not take for granted the total healthfulness of this place and the well-being we feel here.

I am blessed to have my senses mostly intact and to indulge them in this quiet enclave, season after season, and to be able to share photographs and paragraphs out of this rural valley and lifestyle. Fragments has been a celebration of this particular habitatation, of nature and of community–an almost-daily celebration of the hyperlocal and one man’s personal ecology.

The writing from my perceptions and understanding of nature and landscape is what I enjoy most. (And I’ll have more to show and tell about the Yuccas growing over by the barn.)

But a mature personal ecology does not end at the edge of the yard, the county or the country, even if the day begins standing on a dew-covered creek bank serenaded by indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers. As lovely as that is, writing  only about and out of this place compartmentalizes the local from the global, as if we could stop and smell the roses, and never think or feel beyond so many still-life cameos of life.

An ecological world view doesn’t allow a snap-shot reality. Everything is part of some other whole, far beyond our own place and time. Knowing that, to filter out of reality only the close at hand for this personal journal has been impossible, even though more than once I have had complaints when the topic ventured away from the warm fuzzies. “That is not why we come here” readers said, and they threatened to go away. And they did.

I am blessed that my life is full, that my sensory world is pleasant, that I have enough. And at the same time, I’m profoundly aware, after four decades of effort at ecological holistic integration in my world view, that we have only a little time in which to change our broken relationship with this nature I reach out and touch each day–this microcosm that connects me to the Web of Life that is threatened in ways that are unprecedented in scope, severity and consequences.

The Earth is full, Paul Gilding says in the TED video below. And if we want our children’s children to know the well-being we have known (though there has been less and less in recent decades as things fall apart) we must change minds and hearts and our way of life while there is still time.

And so I highly recommend watching this TED video at least twice. Take notes. Ponder and discuss. This lays out the game board of humanity’s future. How will our generation’s action or inaction be the key to the very future of civilization? In 2012, what will we tell our children we were doing to make the future fit for them? Smelling the roses will not be enough.

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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. A reading suggestion – The World Behind the World, by Michael Meade. A writer, master storyteller and mythologist, he offers an interesting perspective on what he terms “the slow apocalypse” viewing what is unfolding in mythic terms. No bandaids offered, but a comforting reassurance from a truly deep ecology.

  2. Thanks Heidi, I will certainly take a look. There is surely a story behind the story. I’m not sure, for those who see it, if it is blessing or curse that it is becoming ever more visible.

  3. The TED talk was excellent. My husband was linked to it by someone else, and he had listened to it previously. Your blog entry was as passionately stated, too. This will help me follow through on my opportunity to participate in a newly begun community garden in my very urban town.