Valley View


There’s a mall in Roanoke by that name: Valley View. And sure enough, you can turn ’round in the parking lot and in every direction find higher ground, the irregular ridges that rim the Roanoke Valley. Though it has grown busy and cluttered with “development”, the Roanoke Valley still seems a sheltering kind of place whose ring of mountains connects even the shopper or traveler with the landscape.

A flatter cityscape would remain more generic, less placed, devoid of the personality and landmarks that let a Roanoker orient by the distinctive skyline: Tinker mountain to the north, Poor Mountain west, the ridges the Parkway follows south, and Catawba Mountain north. It is a valley large enough to feel both spacious and sheltering.

I forget sometimes, almost eight years now living down along Goose Creek, how much I enjoy the expanse of sky, of cloudscapes, of distant vistas enjoyed from places higher and more open than the confines of our narrow cleft of valley. I would have wanted to see more of this thunderhead that boiled over Franklin County yesterday afternoon.

From our deck of the cabin on Walnut Knob where we lived before we moved to this spot in ’99, we would have had the wide-screen OmniMax view, 180 degrees of piedmont from box seats a thousand feet above the plain, and a sky full of roiling wet-pink cumulus, performing for free.

But we have to take the peeks at that larger world from the oval of clearing above our pasture. And most times, it is quite enough.

Click the image above for more details of the clouds.

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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. Neat! I watched these same clouds roll by from our farm in Franlin County. There were a few in particular that were extremely tall, huge roiling white clouds set against a deep blue sky. Given the amount of hail and rain reported south of us, I’m glad it missed us.

  2. Our writer’s circle was meeting when we were stopped short by this sky, viewed from the window. A Maxfield Parrish sky, I called it.

  3. What an excellent photo! When I was growing up in Hillsville, my friends and I would often lie on our backs in the hay field on a summer afternoon, talk about school and girls, and watch the thunder heads build, until they passed on or chased us home.

  4. One of the thickest-looking cluster of clouds I’ve ever seen. Thanks for the enlargement, too.
    We look forward to our trip east this summer where we will see such clouds. Southern California just doesn’t produce them, or only rarely.