We Just Started Running…

This is a COMMENT to my post from yesterday (The People of the Forest Save the Forest.) It got long as a comment so here it is on the front page. This photo captures me running my mouth during the panel discussion after the movie, A Fierce Green Fire, that sparked the conversation in this and the previous blog post.

Rural Roads

I don’t know, in yesterday’s ramble about our broken relationships to nature and place, if I was offering guideposts towards a kinder, gentler, more eco-responsible future as much as I’m looking back at where we’ve all made wrong turns–individually and collectively–that have lead to the Great Divorce.

Eco-apathy, culturally-nurtured myopia (eyes bigger than our planet’s pantry), and shinier toys have brought us exactly here.

And yet my here–this bucolic backwater of Floyd County–is a place where many of us intentionally retreated to achieve just this kind of personal rewilding.

And even here, we  struggle with the disconnect between our values and the practice of our lives. Yet, it seems like we are onto a not-quite-yet-attainable something.

I think a good bit lately about Paul Kingsnorth’s advice to withdraw from the angst of global activism to cut this gordian knot. Maybe we are near the point where we finally confess it cannot be cut in our lifetimes or perhaps the lifetime of “modern civilization.” Then what?

If we concede the war, what will our battles look like? If we choose to take the best action in our personal present in light of what we know, what would that action look like?

Some of that work on the ground looks like what is happening in Floyd with efforts to localize the food system, so I am gratified to be a part of that, at least. That seems like a push-back against the darkness.

Meanwhile, we’ll sit back and coexist with our acknowledged disconnect, day to day wandering nowhere in particular, cogs (that we are unwilling makes little difference) in the machinery of the failed democracy and failed economic turnings that have brought us this far towards the edge of business-as-usual.

I keep hearing Forest Gump say: “I just start-ed run-ning” when confronted with an emotional burden too large to bear standing still. [The video clip of Forest’s ” long run” is still one of my favorites.]

I guess I just start-ed writ-ing.

I’ve reached the ocean quite a few times since 2002. I just turn around and run back the way I came. I’m sorry I can’t tell you where we’re go-ing. But I am happy to have a few bearded and bedraggled companions hanging on here at Fragments from Floyd to share the journey.

From Paul Kingsnorth, “40 days: The Productivity of Retreat.”

Withdraw not with cynicism, but with a questing mind.

Withdraw so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you.

Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance–refusing to tighten the ratchet further–is a deeply moral position.

Withdraw because action is not always more effective than inaction.

Withdraw to examine your worldview: the cosmology, the paradigm, the assumptions, the direction of travel. All real change starts with withdrawal.

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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 think your analogy between Gump’s running and your writing rings true. I am also thinking of the stories I’ve read about activist indigenous people resisting harmful development, and how they are being sand in the gears, and I believe they have had some successes. When harmful actions need resisting in Floyd County, I know we can count on you to not withdraw either.

  2. You know, it would almost be easier to rise to activism if Floyd County were in the line of fire directly by one of the very baddest bad boys–like mountaintop removal. But we are blessed in our ignorance of those things, and cursed.

    As a thought exercise, a few years back I imagined that Floyd became the focus of extractive mining–for a fictional element, balonium, and all our sacred places were going to become valley fill.


    The story was fiction for us, but fact for many of our neighbors only a couple of counties away.

    The point is that we need active participation in light of a “silent killer” environmental threat, and it is our economic death-wish and emasculated political oxcart. Unless we rebuild on something other than what has already failed, I am not able to see a long-term future of much quality for most of humanity.