Driveway Moment


It is my favorite short stretch of the four miles of slow road home, a place where, on the topo the contours converge from both sides, creek and road running together.

But just here, as you round the bend, the road lifts a dozen feet above the creek for the sole purpose, I muse, of giving rise to lofty thoughts that come from an elevated views of things. Another hundred yards towards the house and the creek is just a little lower than your tires once more.

The old Hemlocks–what remains of them–stand tall and close here, dark-brooding over rhododendrons. Only during the middle daylit hours, slanting sun finds the notch in the south ridge, filling this green sanctuary with shafts of glory. At its brightest, this is the Dappled Lane.

My rhythms slow a notch at this spot on the return trip home, and so it was yesterday. But wait. What is all the commotion here today? It took a moment to take it in, the contrast between sunlit ground and tree branch, between the deepest daytime shadows and sunlit patches making it all the harder to understand what was happening.

Animated slips of silver and black, of night and day, darted low across the road in front of me, shot up into the canopy from all sides, plunged toward the shallow water of Goose Creek.

Grackles–a fall-like flock of them gregarious and jostling about in forest in July! It was the water–what remains of the creek in summer, no deeper than a bird’s butt–that was the source of their excitement.

I pulled the car to just the spot I spoke of (that you can see in the photo from 2004), ten feet higher and twenty feet from the center of the stream, and stopped the engine. Sleek black birds reeled and flashed silver-white in the streaming sun,  then as quickly vanished into shadows, laughing.

In the flickering amber of the creek a dozen or more birds dipped and splashed in a single pool, then fluffed and preened on the rocky banks. Each one in turn waded back in again and again, undisturbed as I watched. Overhead under the treetops, dozens more creaked and yipped softly–joyously I’ll venture–while more waited their turn in the bath, scratching in the soft duff of last year’s leaves among tall back-lit wood ferns.

As much as I enjoy my times in the garden, my excursions to town or even some hours at work, it is this kind of unbidden, unexpected serendipitous “good” moment in nature that makes me smile when I look back and remember.

And I will remember. I lamented not having a camera with me; but there are other ways to take pictures for our book of days.

Share this with your friends!

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.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Thank you, Fred, for capturing this lovely experience for us with your vivid, poetic description. I’ve found that sometimes it’s better when I don’t have a camera because then I can be fully present for the moment, instead of seeing only through the camera’s lens.