Natural Abundance: For Good or Ill

IMG_4389raspberries480Should we expect a hard winter this year to come?

That might be the conclusion of some Floyd County “plant by the signs” folks. If there’s lots of acorns, it’s Nature’s (or God’s–choose your source of Providence) way of making sure there’s the potential victuals laid by come winter for those busy ants or squirrels or home gardeners who plan ahead.

We’ve never seen the pasture grasses so high across the meadows and fields of Floyd County as they have been this spring and early summer. (Ours, unfortunately and yet for another summer,  is still awaiting those who want it but never get it while it is of any quality. Next summer, we’ll make other arrangements.If you want it and can cut it in early June, it’s yours.)

The black raspberries and blackberries are everywhere, coming slowly to ripeness without  any mildew. We don’t need more than we have already picked, but can’t bear to see them unharvested.  You never know how many more years it might be til there’s a crop like this again, and those winter cobblers are such a boost to one’s anticipation of summer sun from the short dark days of January.

We have this year the “goldilocks just-right” mix of temperatures and moisture to have a blessed abundance of vegetation and fruit–so much so that we joked yesterday that for our morning cereal, we though maybe we’d leave off the cereal and just have the blueberries, peaches, black raspberries and blackberries in tupperware on the counter among the Bran Flakes and Great Grains.

IMG_4390rhododendron480The white rhododendrons (Catawba) are the most beautiful we’ve ever seen in 16 years here, all blooming in unison across the dense “laurel hell” that covers the north slope of the gorge between here and sunnier places up top.

At the same time, we’re seeing an invasion of greenery that is not so benign.

Poison Ivy is showing up in so many places we’ve never seen it before. Same thing for multiflora rose. And the newer kid on the block, Japanese Stilt Grass, obscures the ground across almost all of the end of our valley. Thankfully, we have little threat of poisonous snakes being concealed therein, but stepping on a “harmless snake” invisible underfoot is something we would not want the grand daughters or a city visitor to experience.

No telling what the rest of the summer will be like in this decade of seasonal and regional extremes. But for now, as long as we can keep ahead of it and keep the house and yard somewhat distinguishable from rank field or forest, we’re benefitting from the blessings of enough but not too much providence.

We are beholding to the rains that fall on the godly and the ungodly alike. Wish we could send some of this moisture to put out fires in the northwest; or some of this fruit to the vast millions of round-bellied children around this feral planet.

One place understood–the nature and human community of one place appreciated moment by hour by season–should make us appreciate better all places and people in their relative abundance or poverty of rain or sun, goodness or evil.

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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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