Planet, Breathing


From all human generations, we are the first to see the wind.

It has propelled explorers, and hampered them.

It has blended hot and cold to a more-or-less just right place for human habitation, even while it rearranges our lawn furniture;  our favorites trees, houses or cities.

It is spiritus, animus, pneuma–the wind, invisible yet powerful, wrapping a planet never still. It has always been a mystery we’ve longed to ride on magic carpets. We suffer bird envy.

And in our lifetimes, we can watch the world’s winds from space. We can see so much of our home planet now that our grandparents could not imagine. [Rotate, zoom, explore at the Earth Wind Map site.]

We should be paying more attention to the Earth’s lungs, blood, bones and gut. We should not become a fatal pathogen. A successful parasite does not kill its host.

We must stop being parasite and quickly learn how to be symbionts.

Be still and listen to the rush along the ridges. Stand outside your door. Imagine these green lines coursing overheard. Feel them against your face; and now, from time to time, come back and see the world winds swirling  like living thumb prints over oceans and continents.

Somewhere in all this, a child’s voice adds its own small breath, and the blue ball twirls and tilts.


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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. The thing about these views from afar is the make the planet seem to be a very large solid sphere, a blue marble to remember CS. The reality is we live inside a rather thin film, more like a bubble. We easily move thousands of miles horizontally, but vertically we ascend only a few miles and descend only fractions of a mile. The preponderace of what constitutes the planet is totally inaccessible and fairly irrelevant to us. That thin film though is everything.