The Gift of Good Land

Gentle Earth: Grayson Grazing
Gentle Earth: Grayson Grazing

None of the 100 directions my brain is going this morning seem suitable for a 300 word blog post. And so I resort to the thousand words a picture can conjure–in this case, one from last October’s Land Trust photo-sessions in Grayson County.

This shot was a peripheral–not intended for the piece we hoped to produce on the donation of land along the New River. But it grabbed my eye, more for the shadow than for the light, the way the umbra of a copse of trees spilled down across the meadow, like moon shadows on the snow. (Click for larger image and possible desktop picture!)

I had not worked on this image last fall, so discovering its untapped potential in July brought both the AHA! of discovery and the AH! of deep satisfaction–two strongly emotive reasons to keep one’s eyes open, to learn to see the compositions around us every hour, and to carry the camera, ready!

Title for this post is the title of one of the first books I ever read by Wendell Berry, who therein said among so many other things that grabbed my attention:

“I want to deal directly at last with my own long held belief that Christianity, as usually presented by its organizations, in not earthly enough . . . I want to see if there is not at least implicit in the Judeo-Christian heritage a doctrine such as that the Buddhists call ‘right livelihood’ or ‘right occupation.’

Being there on that gentle Grayson County pastureside with a camera, a good story of good Earth to be told and a beautiful October afternoon seemed very like “right occupation.” Still does.

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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. Yes, Fred…… have the right occupation…….and we are all blessed that you do, and also that you share so much of it with us. I love the photo…I love those types of October afternoons…….that vast wide-open blue sky, with a slight coolness in the air……

    have a great week


  2. While Christianity is often interpreted in a way that emphasizes the heavenly, there is plenty (as Wendell Berry has worked hard to show) of text that can be used to support the concept of Stewardship. Thanks for touching on this topic.