Julys Past: A Glance Back

This is a rebroadcast–from July 2002–out of those distant archives (still hard to reach just now after the recent WordPress move.) These concrete memories help “place” me today in the context of what has come in Julys past, to better hear the rhythms of these times. If you want to dance, you have to hear the music.

July Morning Sky

Things I like about summer

~ getting out of bed wearing boxer shorts, period. Not two pair of socks, silk longjohns, sweatpants, T-shirt, sweatshirt and fleece sweater…the typical Winter straight-out-of-bed garb.

~ getting out of bed and going straight to the coffee pot. I don’t have to go out on the porch where it is obscenely dark and obscenely cold in all the garb mentioned above to get kindling to start the fire. No crumpling newspaper, wiping soot off the sleeve of my fleece sweater. In summer I don’t bang my knuckles on the woodstove door pulling singed digits back from a smouldering fire that all of a sudden leaps into a conflagration, the July sun, up close and personal.

~ sitting on the front porch in my boxers with a cup of coffee in the mornings. Maybe two cups.

~ listening to the quiet sounds not made by man, while sitting in my boxer shorts, on my front porch, with a cup of coffee, straight out of bed.

~ the warmth of the morning sun on my bare legs, while sitting on the front porch, listening to the quiet sounds of nature, holding a good book in my hands which are not covered in soot.

~ the warmth of the morning sun on a vine-ripened tomato eaten whole in the garden, in my skivvies, just after my first cup of morning coffee.

~ the smells that rise from the warm earth, wafting on the morning sun, the smell of pollen like bread baking, lilacs, yellow sweet clover, spearmint along the creek, damp loam…the smell of coffee and of ripe tomatos.

~ seeing the orderly rows of stacked firewood seasoning behind the house, waiting for a time when the sun’s scorching heat is only a uncomfortable memory, its pleasant warmth a fleeting rarity; in the heat, the sour smell of oak, the medicinal smell of walnut, and the sweet smell of cherry. Each piece in the stack from woodlot to face cord has been handled over and over by these hands that will in a few long months crumple newspaper and offer each piece into the stove like an sacrament, while my mind thinks back on how nice it was to be warm, to smell the earth, to live in my skin alone, to have experienced Summer.

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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. Nice! I am so happy to be retired down here from northern Maine. I don’t miss the below 40 actual temps (never mind wind chill) or all the wood cutting, limbing, splitting, stacking, stacking again. Driving home from work at lunchtime, up the icy driveway, just to be sure the woodfire is still going.

    But I have to admit: I adore flannel sheets in the wintertime. What a great invention, even here in SW Virginia! Just don’t try to wear flannel PJs or a flannel nightgown on flannel sheets…you cannot move…

  2. I remember reading this before, and loving it! The picture you paint of early morning peace on the porch with your coffee… heaven