Out There

I use to say that I could measure the reach of my day’s accomplishments by the number of tools I had handled and used during the day.

Over winter, the tools are in hibernation along with every other object on the frozen earth.

As the temperatures climb–up to a point–there is a direct increase in the number of things in hand to cut, chop, trim, tamp, dig, pry, water, and carry.

I think for me the tool number reached its max this week–this final spring-ish week of the summer.  After this, the tool number goes down–or at least the time of tool use is constrained to the two cool tails of the daily temperature graph.

The garden is what it’s going to be. There’s not much room left for more plantings, except to stick chard seed into random spots between tomato plants.

So when a friend invites me up to his place on the ridge where the day goes on a few hours after the shadows have overtaken the valley, I’m happy to kick back, feel the callouses on my hands, the weariness in my bones, and toast the sunset from a high place.

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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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