Tree Dancer: A Melancholy Grace

Winter of Our Lives: Gracefully Weathered

We wait with a mix of excitement and dread to see the first flakes falling later this morning. It will be beautiful for a time, though it is not likely to be one of those soft perfectly vertical snows where each flake seems like it is lowered gently by an invisible cord that connects it directly to heaven.

Winds, combined with up to eight inches of wet snow, increase the chances that we’ll have tree limbs down across power lines and lose electricity.

But for the first time, we will have a working gas generator and five gallons of gas (with Stabil) ready to go. We don’t know how much run-time a gallon will give us, but enough to shower, recharge the freezer, check email and such for a brief time, several times a day. Beside that, we have wood heat, propane for cooking, artesian pressure on the well if we need more water than we’ve saved in milk jugs and juice containers, and lots of candles. We’ll be fine.

And it might be that by this afternoon and before dark, enough snow will have fallen I’ll came back in with at least one keeper shot. I don’t really need more snow pictures, but it’s almost impossible to avoid, and I don’t want to become jaded to the beautiful ordinary of winter–or any other season. And the camera gives me fresh eyes, almost every day.

The image above reminds me of the magical presence of winter–an image from a hike up Buffalo Mt some years ago with my buddies Doug and Joe. The gnarled old snag reminds me of graceful age and bleak seasons of our lives that carry a certain beauty.

I call this one “tree dancer”–Tibetan, perhaps; oriental of some stripe, don’t you think? Click to enlarge.

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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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