What’s a Meadow For?

Huffville Church viewYesterday, as I told you (mom and my other reader), I met with the students at Blue Mountain High School really for the first significant block of time. I told them my writer’s story. And we spoke a bit about creative non-fiction. One of the things I encouraged them to lift up into their radar was the power of metaphor to explain and describe and to engage the reader.

A couple of days earlier, another teacher–who has been doing the “sacred geometry” design and composition part of the class, sent me a link to a NY Times OpEd piece that used the metaphor of the mandala to describe the young author’s work with invasives in New York City.

Having a personal experience observing the creation of sand mandalas made the essay personal. Discovering that a best-selling author had employed that same metaphor in his book, Forest Unseen, then citing that work as part of her own–all of this created a nice narrative thread that held the essay together and made it “work.”

This morning, I got more details about an upcoming field trip at a conference I will attend. We will be visiting Suwanee and the University of the South as part of a look at the biodiversity of the Cumberland Plateau.

I discover just an hour ago that the author of Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature, David Haskell, will be meeting with the small group and discussing his work as it touches on biodiversity of the southern Appalachians.

What a pleasant synchronicity. Nothing magic or mysterious is at work here, anymore than a mandala is magic. The world, by creative intention or by serendipitous coinciding of unrelated threads of thought or experience, produces patterns that make the world worth noticing. Those patterns, like metaphors, can become doors to parts of the world we might otherwise have missed.

SERVING SUGGESTION: Watch this little TED-produced five minute animated look at metaphors, that ends with (pardon my paraphrase) this statement:

“Metaphors are handles to the world of what we can know or imagine. By making a handle to those doors, you can make a world.”

And that, after all, is what we want young minds to learn how to do. Quickly, please build better worlds with better ways of being together than we have thus far managed. This blog, thankfully, is not being shut down by intransigent buffoons. But when the lights go out in your city, it will become somewhat hard to read on your iPad, mom.

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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. Amazing synchronicity, Fred! I like serendipity, but I don’t know how the definitions differ. Have a good time at Sewanee. My first date was with a student there in 1958.