Milkweed and the Coming of Autumn


I have spent an inordinate amount of time indoors this week, time sitting, listening, using my ears.

Soon, I’ll over-correct for these excesses, standing and walking and using my eyes and making up for a week in a foreign land. And more details about that to be sure. I have been all around this world, as the Grateful Dead song boasted.

I’ll drive south through Whitesburg, then Wise, finally out of coal country in the long trough and furrow of the Ridge and Valley. It will seem like home again when I reach the far side of Pilot Mountain and the rounded granite hills of the Blue Ridge.

And now it is August. Milkweed will be going fast to pod and I’ll find with my camera a rogue’s gallery of insects feeding on the milky sap. Joe Pye Weed rises to dominance both by its own growth even while the lesser forbs and annuals begin to die back as if they are being drawn back into the warm soil of late 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. Hi Fred – great blog. Fantastic photos. The ghost plant is astonishing. Will enjoy burrowing deeper into the blog whenever I have a moment.
    I’m in Liverpool, UK, with one foot in Transylvania (not a goth — have a small place there). You’d love it.

  2. Ahhhhh! Autum!!!

    Four more weeks of the dreaded dog days of August. Then I will love the weather again. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, as long as it isn’t July or August, the weather’s ok with me.

    That description of “home again” sound so wonderful! Wow! I know that feeling! Come this time next September, this kid is going to be
    “home again” right there, as you described~~~ one way or the other!