September Part One

Here’s a snippet from an except from a portion of the slowly-growing Floyd County Almanac–the part that follows the month of September, this from the latter portion of the month, and the first of three consecutive bits of that passage, to be added to this week. It deals with the real challenge to the non-human part of the living world when the thermostat falls. For humans, meh. Not so big a deal, and maybe that’s modern humanity’s loss.

Though a few poetic souls and tree-hugging types like me will make small noises about the magic of the coming of fall, for most of my fellow humans, from a practical, survival point of view, autumn really connotes not much more inconvenience than putting on warmer slippers of a morning. Homo has found divers ways to sidestep the potential loss of body heat when the planet in our half of the world tips away from the heat source for six months. The evolution of those evasive measures (called food, clothing and shelter) has resulted in the existence of human survival mechanisms available to some for winter-focused consumption, called grocery stores, mail-order clothing catalogues and residential heating and cooling professionals–none of which are readily available to your local squirrel.

We simply turn up the thermostat if the winds howl and chill factors slip towards zero, supplementing our body heat with fossilized sunlight in propane or coal. We reach for the afghan granny made when we were born and toss it over our shoulders while we type, all the while drinking steaming hot cocoa that warms us, bellies outward. Rather than adapt our physiology like most animals must do, we remake the world to suit our frail mostly-hairless hides.

Except for complaining, humans mostly ignore the coming of colder, shorter days, while every other northern hemisphere living species–every single one, plant, animal and other–will only still be around from fall to the next spring and from one eon to the next if it has learned its own survival tricks against the challenges that cold brings….

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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. Yikes, that’s a very narrow minded view of both humanity as a whole and creatures as they are. Billions of people don’t have a switch to flip or anything to dial up for utility or comfort. Animals and others don’t adapt by choice, they are adapted by evolution to survive, or they aren’t.

    How about a stinkbug report? Up here on the hilltops it’s the season for greater numbers. Fortunately I’ve never had to deal with them by the thousands. I don’t know anything about the stink as I have never squashed one intentionally. I either collect them in a sealed container or release them back to the wild pretending to care.

    It might be too early to say the Asian ladybugs are also a non issue. Those have been annoying and in larger numbers for over a decade. Whatever caused the decline is good news to me.

  2. Prediction: want to see ladybugs, tomorrow stands to be a good day for them: a warm day after a low night time temp (it was 33 here this morning.) Don’t know about the stink bugs, we’re seeing them on the screens in small numbers but not the plague seen some places.

    No don’t squash either. Ladybugs smell AND stain if you smash them; sucking them up from the corners of the windows used to be a hobby–one I am happy to give up in their (temporary?) decline this year.

  3. Now that Jeffrey pointed it out, I agree: “fellow humans” is not what you probably meant. Perhaps “fellow Americans” or “neighbors” is closer. And while I am being the critic, your opening sentence didn’t strike me right: I believe it is many more than a few of us humans who love to comment on the beauty of autumn.

  4. Language amended from the first draft to read…

    “……many Americans have succeeded, sadly, in insulating themselves from the magnitude of challenge that confronts the non-human residents of the northern hemisphere at the approach of shorter, cooler days. It requires not much more inconvenience than putting on warmer slippers of a morning.”

    OTOH, as I discovered from the very public process of blog-comment-editing of Slow Road Home, there are as many ways of framing a paragraph as there are belly buttons. Often, the suggested edits are spot on, like this one. Other times, it boils down to my way vs another way, and I chose to stick with mine.

    Wise Mr. Murphy tells us that “if you try to please everybody, somebody’s NOT going to like it!” : > }

    I guess that’s why real writers who publish real books stick with a single editor they trust and whose skills make them good allies towards the best possible results.

    And I have given some thought to going that route with this book, for that reason and not many others. If I were ten years younger, I would definitely have multiple years to wait through all the delays and other hurdles that often happen with trade publishing houses, from what I hear.