Storm Home


Almost all the leaves are gone from the maples today, this image from a week ago. Abscission seems to have come so quickly this year, in a rush to get on with it–toward what end, we cannot know.

Like every winter, this one is supposed to be “a bad one” which, if that means lots of snow, praise be. We need it badly to soak into the water table, to enrich the soil with nitrogen (I heard that was the case but will have to fact check.)

And at the same time, I dread the prospect of ice storms in the dark on a work day, especially for Ann who leaves before first light or returns on isolated black-ice roads a midnight.

But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, or however that verse goes, meaning don’t borrow trouble as you have enough already in your account to draw from.

And when trouble comes, we have, as Garrison Keillor calls it, our Storm Home.

If any of you are familiar with (or even have) Slow Road Home, the book cover was taken at just this time of year but from about the same distance from the mailbox looking from down the road, exactly opposite of this view.

As I’m writing now, you’ll see me at my cluttered oak desk if you peek into the window just left of the front porch (where golden maple and yellow poplar leaves have swirled into an eddy and found rest on our porch swing.)

This is a morning shot, the floor lamp in the window says I’d been sitting on the loveseat reading just moments before the light lured me outdoors. It was in the low 40s that morning, and it’s amazing how supercooled a metal tripod can become to bare fingers. It all comes back to me as I step into this image–the wonder of an image plus image-ination.

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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. So peaceful and inviting…Fred: this week’s People Magazine has an article called: Last Man on the Mountain. It’s about Larry Gibson who is refusing to sell his 50 acres at the top of Kayford Mountain in Whitesville, W.Va to a coal mining company that wants to take the top off the mountain. It’s the last article in the mag. You probably know about this, but just in case, I thought I’d bring it to your attention.
    Gibson has been harrassed, his dog was shot, and his wife left because she was frightened.