Life on the Other Side

It is like coming up for air after a month submerged in holiday busyness. Finally, the first business day after New Years, and things start to resume the usual schedule of meetings and events in Floyd.

OTOH, not exactly usual, as a number of local businesses close down in January during the off-season, a fact that makes Mondays in Floyd more of a ghost town than usual.

Meanwhile, we walk our walks and haul wood, and today, prep for the numbing cold expected for mid-week during which it will be full time work just keeping the house warm enough for the one who wears long-johns year ’round.

So I’m scratching my head trying to remember what I might find to toss up on the blog this morning, and as I often do, I go to the image archives from the past few weeks–a usual off-season photographically unless we have creek ice or a significant snow. We’ve had neither for a while.

But here is an ordinary picture of an ordinary winter ever-green fern. If you know one wild fern, it is probably this one, called Christmas Fern–Polystichum acrosticoides. Why the common name?

Maybe because it is green for that holiday and finds its way onto table and mantles representative of the fact that, even if weakly, life goes on outdoors.

Or some say the name derives from the shape of the individual leaf-lets or pinnae. Squint a little and it looks (against Ann’s gloved hand) like a tall Santa’s boot.

What was remarkable about this particular moment was the color. On a somber day of thick low clouds, the sky momentarily opened partially to let a weak, flat light flood the forest floor. In that instant, the color dazzled. Then the clouds closed in like water rushing into a hollow in beach sand, and life went back to the off-season shades of gray and brown.

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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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