Winding Down, Drawing In

New photo added to "Camera Roll"The castaway leaves of the first full day of autumn have already covered over the gravel of the drive up between maple trees, smothering my wood stacks, hiding the metal of the shed roof, and spilling with the wind into the gutters. The Great Winding Down has officially begun. Tomorrow’s day will be minutes shorter than today’s, its night a few minutes longer.

I thought of this pattern looking at the snail (resident still up to date on his rent, but his insulated door was closed to guests) that I spotted along the “middle road” yesterday. Doors you ask? Let Robert Krulwich explain.

How To Build Little Doors Inside Your Shell: The Secrets of Snail Carpentry

The snail winds out as it grows, its most youthful apartment still present as the innermost coil. It adds rooms (in a mathematically-predictable ratio) as it grows. You can see the faint striations like rows and brick and mortar of the new digs after construction is temporarily complete.

Autumn feels more like a coiling within, the rooms getting smaller as the days get shorter, the space that contains me a single room with a coffee pot, a wood stove, and a dog.

This winter, a likely new member of this snowy-day crew will huddle near the glass door of the stove on a January day. And therein lies a tale. But I’m not allowed to go there. Not yet. Maybe soon.

And then, ah then…when the grass greens and the snows melt, the great uncoiling. Also a la Mr. Krulwich…

“…months later, when temperatures rise and the sun stays longer in the sky, the snail somehow senses springtime coming, breaks down its doors and steps out for a stretch and another season of crawling, eating and, with a little luck, loving. It all happens slowly, of course, but it happens year after year.

Doors are built. Doors are de-doored, the dance goes on, snail-style.”

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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. Thanks Joy, I appreciate your appreciating this sluggish start to a bleak, leaf-strewn chizzly morning. There is a certain excitement in all this winding down, a coming closer to the core kind of recentering–at least for me, the moreso the hotter the summer has been. We got away with a very mild and temperate July and August, so I say goodbye with an unfamiliar regret. I’m usually SO ready to put on the flannel!