With You, in a Box


In the round-about way this webby world provides, because Pete Seeger died this week, we found last night over dinner a YouTube of him singing with a lanky, awkward young Johnny Cash and June Carter. From there came more June Carter clips, including one of her on the Merv Griffith show, where her new book was featured.

The book’s title is “Among My Klediments.” (more about the Appalachian word derivation later.)

June went on to describe the Tennessee mountain word in a similar way to this definition from the Dictionary of American Regional English:

“A klediment can be almost anything that has earned a right to be a part of things close to you. It can be precious antique furniture gathered from grandmother, pieces of china, little handmade doilies, the straw mats on your floor, or the pricilla curtains you made yourself. A klediment can be a thing you love.A klediment can be a thing you just won’t throw away. A klediment can be a person dear to you.”

We all have these precious things. They might make no sense to anyone else. There is a story, a bond, a permanent significance to each. What are yours?

I gave myself the thought assignment of packing up my klediments–only as much as I could carry out with me in one box. What would go inside?

And what story could I tell of each of those chosen klediments?  If I choose something only for my sentimental attachment to it, is that an unhealthy thing? Would my kept things be purely useful or practical? Could I even explain why some went in and some stayed behind?

Maybe the comfort of familiarity and habit are part of what changes a present object from clutter to klediment. Some of the stuff on my desk is there because it has always been there and that’s where it belongs.  She calls it clutter.

I think of this as we begin to simplify our lives of unneeded stuff. Our closets and the Very Back Room are due a serious purging. Most will be easy to let go. But not everything. One of a hundred might need to go in the box as klediments.

Now, about the word itself.

Seems it derives from Scots clatter-traps, clatterment, clutterment; CF accoutrements.

Apparently, though I don’t have access to it, the OED has cladment as a source word meaning “a garment or dress.” That comes closer to root words more familiar. Klediments are those living and inanimate things that we are clad with, clothed with, that we wrap around us for comfort.

In a way, this keyboard that connects me to you is a klediment, as are the myriad wondrous things I discover here in my chair (a definite klediment too big for the box) about the natural and man-made world–things that make me marvel, make me wonder, make me thankful for the tapestry of the story we all share.

This is why I don’t seem to be able to imagine not having Fragments from Floyd in my box.

CAPTION: Another Bazaart mashup (I can’t help myself) with Gandy, holding one of her own klediments–an old brass bell, found outside, from a Christmas ornament we guessed, from long ago. She was so proud.

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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. A quote just floated into my head that settles nicely here: “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” ― Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book

  2. Excellent quote….good post and nice word. Before I could gather my klediments, I’d have to see the size of the box…..LOL It better be a big one!

  3. The photo of Gandy and one of her favorite klediments was wonderful! What a curious keldiment for a dog!! I guess no more curious than the ones we grow so attached to.

  4. Glad you snagged a new word. BTW I have never succeeded in capturing “sparkles” so successfully as you have–the little clouds of powdery snow in a shaft of light that seem somehow animated in their short life.


    I call them “snowdust fairies”. Most of our snows are wet ones, and those don’t make such nice fairies.

  5. Interesting word. If I had to leave home in a hurry and needed to grab what was important to me it would be easy, the art and family portraits on my walls and if time allowed my laptop. The rest could easily be replaced.