Thirty Thousand Foot View

Yesterday I desperately needed to get away. Away from the phone, from the computer, from the house, away from all the things that would fill  my time and my mind if I didn’t leave home.

So I went with a few other souls to the top of Buffalo Mountain.

I hike to arrive and then to tarry contentedly somewhere else. The others I was with hike to walk. So we did not wander there the couple of hours I’ve spent every other walk up onto the back of this wild place.  I would have not rushed back to everything I  had left behind, but that’s what I did after all.

Maybe it was because I was in that space where I needed objectivity–needed removal from the ground to a distant view of things that might make my petty concerns and responsibilities and perplexities seem trivial, ephemeral and within my grasp.

Maybe that’s why I saw, at the top of Buffalo Mountain, this thirty thousand foot view of so many odd, winged creatures like mutant swans  flying panicked above a marsh or estuary–I could not tell much about the location, only that the beings seemed spooked by something on the ground below and were compelled, like me, to flee.

Maybe my state of mind is why this ephemeral pool, this gallon of stagnant rain caught in a bowl of the hard heart of a mountain with its thirsty victims looked like something it was not and told back to me my story of wandering in a high place, just far enough–if not nearly long enough–away from home.

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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. I had a moment like that this weekend. Got up early on Saturday and headed for Shenandoah National Park. I spent about 5 hours on the trail, no cell phone service, and mostly no other people. I felt much better when I got back home.