Writer’s Notes 30 Jan 09

         Morning has broken, like the first morning...
Morning has broken, like the first morning...

✸ Nostalgia

Three years ago this month, things were coming together towards a almost-nearly-final draft of Slow Road Home. It was all quite exhilarating and also quite maddening–all the unknowns in InDesign, ISBNs, LCC copyrights, pre-press, and such. It turned out to be a good experience in the end and like having a baby, most of the nauseau and pain are forgotten by now. I’ll have a quicker learning curve the next time around, should I become great with book.

✸ Geekly Things

I purchased Devonthink Pro early on in my Mac life (which, by the way, started one year ago yesterday, thank you very much.) Frankly, I could not make it consistently beat the competition for doing what I usually do. But version 2 (still in final beta) came out recently and addresses some shortcomings of earlier versions. And it is just the right tool for doing what I’m doing now with a large writing project. SaaaaWeet.

✸ Public Health

I don’t think I’m infectious, so I’m going to work today (briefly, the patient stream is drying up due to an unfortunate outbreak of orthopedic safety–what happened to all the ice-damaged wrists and elbows we usually see this time of year?) My laryngitis persists, but if I can keep the voice down in the Barry White or Lou Rawls register, I’ll be able to carry on a conversation with my couple of patients today. A physician friend suggested that, if not better after five days (that was yesterday) an antibiotic might be warranted. Don’t want any permanent bacterial residence in the bronchial tree, that’s for sure.

✸ Gramps Cramps

Danged if I remember it happening but must have had a calf muscle cramp during the night. It’s so sore I can barely put my weight on it. (HOW can you sleep through such pain?) Some while back I set out to try to better understand this not uncommon phenomenon–not just among Silverbacks but also for athletes. I intended to write about it, but never got around to it. Anyhow, the older theories about electrolyte imbalance (capitalized on by the various sports drinks like Gator Aid) seem to not hold water, if you’ll forgive the pun. This series from Sports Scientist may be more technical than you want, but it does a good job of discussing the merits and shortcomings of what we think we know about this aggravating shock that flesh is heir to.

✸ Wood or Wouldn’t

I called the first name on my list that had five potential sources for firewood. It now has four. The first guy was not all that agreeable, and when I told him we needed our wood 16″ plus or minus an inch, he balked, going to charge extra. How hard is it to make this slight change to the way he always does it, for goodness sake? I’m sorry, maybe we should look for an elastic firebox that will accept any length he wants to cut. So, we’re moving on down the list. I think we’ll make it, still warm by the end of this year’s season, but there will NOT be much left to start next year. I should be able to get across the icy creek by the weekend, maybe, and can get in a load of deadwood from up on the ridge.

✸ Looking Out

One black crow flies circles over the pasture, a holding pattern, waiting for those he hangs out with, the bird the same black as the maple branches silhouettted against a gradient of grays and gunsmoke blues. There’s frost on the barn roof pinked by the invisible reds of first light. It is utterly calm so that even the drooping inflorescence of butterfly bush outside my window could be made of a delicate stone. The world smells of winter.

✸ Looking In

Having a newly-clean glass on the wood stove door has something in common with the first night in a newly made bed. You know it will become mussed and disordered, but it is not so now. It represents a new beginning, waiting for the entropy we call living to muss it up, again and again. This morning’s fire of cherry and locust casts an orange glow into the shadows, I feel its heat on my nose and eyelids when I turn toward it. If there were no books, no computer, I would watch the fire burn, endlessly fascinating and primal.

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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 have spoken sternly with myself about the need to return to the now in my seeing, thinking, feeling and writing. I will try to be obedient to the instructions. Thanks, Kerri, for the nudge.

  2. In NYC, in the late 70’s, my apartment was above a health-food store. I ran in Central Park and got leg cramps and the proprietor of the store sold me on raw milk – great debate, I know. But I swear that within 20 minutes of drinking, the cramps and muscle soreness disappeared. Calcium? Or youth?

  3. We’ve just bought a woodburner, but alas don’t have easy access to dead wood. Luckily we don’t have any problems with our supplier, he asked us how big we wanted it cut.

    I know what you mean about clean glass though. Seeing the wood burning through it is almost warming on its own.