Chewing My Cud


I suppose all human contemplation is to some degree derivative. Even in our personal ruminations we think what we’ve thought, spout advice to ourselves for which we’ve been the object from others, and retrace rabbit trails that didn’t lead anywhere the last time we went down them in the wee hours.

There are times it just seems like Groundhog Day–been there, done that, I know exactly what comes next, and next after that–not that most of those things are terribly bad. I just don’t seem to find traction to move me to another view of things, standing pretty much in the same place chewing on what I bit off yesterday, last week, a decade ago and never really got all the roughage processed to swallow. That’s the kind of listlessness and ennui that feels like walking in a bog this morning, going nowhere fast.

Now that paragraph is to some degree just stream of consciousness while looking at this luminous cow. And it also holds some truth.

I truly don’t have a sense of What Comes Next, something that I have had this time of year for the past several. On top of that is the lethargy that comes with hot weather–not that, with the exception of early June, we’ve had the oppressive heat and humidity yet that makes me want to bury myself in the creek sand up to my neck until mid-September.

But there is a summer torpor nevertheless. And I have lost the sense that writing out my perplexities–either in a personal journal, must less in public view–is going to gain me what it once did. So I have no idea at this moment if I’m doing my morning keyboard exercise or blogging here in the Great In-Between.

I have the tools now–the camera and lens, computer and software–that I could use to do most anything I set my mind to. Ah, the setting of the mind, there’s the rub. Whether ‘tis nobler to…sorry, got sidetracked.

To get into photography in a more evident and serious way, as I’ve mulled on Fragments, will mean getting prints out there. This will most likely mean investing in a new printer during the same year I’m needing to make enough in the wee biddness to pay for the MacPro money already spent. Slow Road Home languishes for lack of any marketing effort on my part; I think I’ve burned out on speaking to tiny groups of silverhairs an hour’s drive off mountain, and this severs the nerve of getting Book Two done.

I feel like the press pieces might be just filling up column-inches. I get scant feedback from the Roanoke readers, and only sporadically from Floyd paper readers to know if what I say entertains, enlightens or bores. The deadlines of four columns a month at times becomes oppressive. Maybe I’m just getting lazy.

But a pox on all my cud-chewing. We have big events happening here today and must prepare–some real bling and glitz and fanfare and my l’il heart is all a-twitter: we’re getting a new dishwasher installed! How can I keep from singing?

LATER THAT SAME DAY: Post posted (or attempt made) at 6 am this morning: no net juice, out for three hours. Back on, thunderstorm shutter down. Back up, back down again with the next storm. Whadda day.

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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 have been reading your blog since ‘coming home’ to the Roanoke Valley after a 20 year absence(my husband was in the military). I enjoy your photos and your posts.

  2. Hi –’tis the summertime torpor, no doubt. Got it out here on the other coast, too. Real bad. I’ve still got a lotta pepper with my silver, but I just want to say that I read your book with great relish a couple weeks ago. I’m looking forward to #2! I hauled out my old VA topo map to follow during the read. SOMEday…I’ll be back in VA, Lord willing, but not just yet. In the meantime, I’m depending on your blog and photos to keep that little ray of hope going. Your photos, by the way, really take my breath away. They are beautiful. Hang in there, Floyd Friend!

  3. A new focus on photography will be just the thing, now that writing and publishing and marketing have lost their zing. Photography is your finest art, I think, so it’s high time to find all the ways to share your work with as wide an audience as possible. I know it will require a financial investment, but you owe it to your talent to do so.

  4. P. S. Allen suggests you get some of your photos printed by an online printing company,, while you wait to afford your own printer. Their quality is excellent, and the cost for an 8 x 10 is $2.00 for Kodak paper. Metallic paper (pearlescent) is $2.50. 11 x 14 is $7.00. Give it a try! They also make those “wraparound” photos, etc.

  5. Fred, I’m a bit late commenting here, but just wanted to say that I look forward to reading what’s on your mind, as well as seeing what new wonder you’ve spotted through your camera lens. You have a wonderful ear for language and a keen artistic eye.