Of Mushrooms, Muses and Momentum

A shaft of late afternoon light puts mushrooms center stage
A shaft of late afternoon light puts mushrooms center stage

As Tropical Storm Fred loses strength over the Atlantic, this Fred needs to find the source of his own energy and generate winds of purpose beyond the occasional puffs of the past few weeks. Autumn weather is usually enough to make that happen after the relative torpor of summer, my generative power coming from the cool to the same degree my meteorological counterpart’s swells and rises from ocean heat.

But then what? With the surge of energy that hopefully will come with the donning of the first flannel shirt of the new season, what will I do? Where will I go during the short days when the garden is down to bare earth, kale and collards? What will I say when there are no more book audiences on the year’s calendar to talk to? What will take the place of the committee busy-ness that fills in most every free minute before the October events?

It’s not like I don’t have a long-term project folder going already. I am simply at a loss to know how to spread them out on the table to sort and rank.

There are domestic projects to be done, thankfully, gathering firewood is not one of them. We’ll have the best (if bought) wood heat we’ve had ever, 4 cords of oak and hickory plus our usual local assortment of “sissy wood” and decaying windfall.

The bridge over the branch is a verdant palette of algal exuberance, green-gray in the shade of the maples this moist summer, slippery when wet. Contractor-friend Karl brought me a gallon of outdoor Chlorox which I’ll probably apply with a brush to avoid contaminating the little trickle under the bridge that enters Goose Creek just the other side of the road.

The white-painted poplar siding (cut from these woods more than 100 years ago) is going drab and gray-tinged with mildew again–another price we pay for the maple shade. We can do some of the wiping away on the bottom story up to a point, but here again, we’ll likely pay somebody with younger joints to do the work. I don’t do ladders anymore.

I’ve been invited to hang a gallery showing in 2011, which is great but for the fact that I have very little printed and even less framed. So, with my new confidence in the Epson 2880 and some decisions about inexpensive framing and matting yet to be made, one project will be to print an image every two weeks and have one or two framed every month in 2010 so I’ll have a few dozen to hang when the time comes–and a small fortune sunk in paper and framing.

But the photography has given me a lot of pleasure lately, and August’s photo folder is way over a gigabyte, and September’s is threatening to match it. Is this just a hobby or could there be more done with the photography even while keeping the joy of it to make a bit of income?

And the blog and writing: without a doubt, there is a place for words in the coming year. I have started folders in Scrivener for each month, and there will store snippets (i.e. fragments) and ideas and clips from the weblog as seeds, maybe, towards some unknown fruit. Even while the reach and response of What We Hold has so far been less than I’d hoped for (but still too soon to tell its ultimate potential) I think something comes next.

And that next opus can’t be the terse bites that cut thoughts off at the knees for the purpose of newspaper column-inch limits or blog reader attention spans, and if you’ve read this far, you are odd among your browsing peers to have lasted this many words.

Get used to it, blog buddies. You may be the victim of the morning pages–or not. I really don’t know yet if the blog is part of the future for more than the occasional mushroom or grandchild photo.

I do know that four chickens take a disproportionate amount of one’s time for the tiny brown eggs we really don’t need and I know that anywhere within 50 feet of a place one of them has been, you’ll wish you’d not worn your running shoes with the deep poop-trapping treads. And I hear them calling to be let loose their tiny castle into what is becoming their grassless fenced lot. Hey, I owe you a picture of the darlings, don’t I?

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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. What a beautiful photo!! Center stage it is, the two dancing mushrooms,
    perhaps lovers ??

    Homeownership always has its chores…….but the pride at the end of a job well done, for home and hearth, is well worth it.

    Yes, a photo, or two, of those darling chickens, is a must.
    I just hope there are no chicken snatchers around, if your darlings go out into
    free roaming……

    While on my way to work this am, I came across a deer, a doe, in the middle lane of Lawndale Ave. Hit, I am sure, early this am. Poor small doe, here in the city, hardly a chance of crossing a busy road……, she was right across from the Country Park, Guilford Battlefield. Sad way to start a Tuesday…..

    Take care,

  2. Yep – looking forward to some chicken pics! We were thinking about getting 4 chickens at some point. Maybe I should reconsider – perhaps just get three? Two? If I only get two, will I still get poo in my shoe? These are grave considerations… I’ll have to follow your future chicken adventures before I make any rash decisions.

  3. I’ll be here, reading to the last period, be the posts long or short.
    Interesting shadow cast by the mushrooms… it’s a helicopter, I’m sure. Always helicopters overhead in our area. Fire or fugitive, all are fought via ‘copter.

  4. Don’t even hint at ending your blog, Fred. I would miss it so much. The photos are a rare treat for a city girl out west. The naturalist and country-living subject matter in your entries always interests me so much, too. Please at least keep appearing two days a week.
    You know I feel your photographs are commercially viable! I’ve been promoting for years your doing a book of photographs. All the places you worked so hard to place Slow Road Home will be perfect for your Blue Ridge Parkway nature photos (spider webs and fungi included.)
    My impression is that matted and framed photos may be a harder way to go if you are looking for economic viability. As you said, the expense is steep!
    Once your 2011 exhibit is past, all the unsold photos get to grace the walls of your home, like Allen’s do, so that’s good. You photos are exceptional; their time in the sun has come.