Fragments Side-Car: SubStack Now Live!

I’m trying to reduce the friction for peripheral writing while attempting to focus on the main train–the completion of additions and editing for Book #3, now in active revision towards publication–in a year, maybe. So if you subscribe to Fragments via email, you might find the substack consumption as or more rewarding in the next 12 months. Read on, blog-friend, and come along for the ride!

Why subscribe?

Because it’s lonely at 3 in the morning when I get up. Because I find or think or wonder all sorts of things, and sometimes my light comes on, and I really need to share. Because having a conversation is impossible if it’s only me. Because you are as curious as I am, but don’t dig for treasure in the same holes that I do, and I think you’ll take what we exchange here and then do your own digging. That’s why.

What You’re Likely to Read At Fred’s SubStack

  • I have been writing about sense of place for twenty years in my blog, Fragments from Floyd—from the same place: Goose Creek, a remote and rugged part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd County Virginia. And in June ‘20 we moved. Where? Why? and how is that settling in at 72, being detached from the familiar, the comfortable? I will share the thrill of victory, and the agony of not being able to find my winter hat–probably until April.
  • I’m determined to publish a third book, and have a signed contract and an editor. I have never written alone, and don’t intend to start now. I need people reading over my shoulder. I will post excerpts—maybe some full chapters if I go with the paid model at some point. My subscribers will be first in line to get their copies of One Place Understood ~ A Field Guide from Home
  • I am living in one of the most interesting places in the mountain south at one of the most perplexing, chaotic and rapidly morphing periods in human history. We live close to the land and to each other here in Floyd County, VA, and some chapters of the play book for the “localization” model for the New Economy will be written here. Stay tuned in the near term for the Blue Ridge EcoFair, offered to the world community by SustainFloyd. You can get a front row seat before the doors open if you subscribe.
  • And to add to this very incomplete list, I am a year into use of the most remarkable tool (Roam Research for a “knowledge worker” I’ve come across in almost three decades of computer geekery. It will assist me in providing you with fresh fodder for thought, conversation and action. And I will enjoy both the journey and the destination.

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On Seeing Things

When is the last time you stretched out on your back under a sky full of clouds?

Your mind literally cannot help but make sense of the seemingly random balloonings or smears or pulled threads of clouds. It is what minds do—create order from patterns that our eye and mind can’t help but look for.

Seeing shapes in billowing clouds or ceiling tiles was once thought to be a kind of madness.

But on looking again at pareidolia, it just may have something to teach us about creativity.

See faces in the clouds? It might be a sign of your creativity

I was reminded of this a few days back (before the near-strike of lightning at the house) when we saw a series of towering “cumulonimbus incus” clouds commonly known as Anvil Clouds of anvil-tops—a name derived from the flattened upper reaches where the air has hit the “cap” of the atmosphere and goes OUT instead of UP.

In the coming weeks, I will try to post some cloud pix, and you can import them and show us the things you see. We can compare notes, and see which one of us is the craziest. I did this to a cloud shot in the first year of blogging (2002) and titled it “The Hand of God reaches down and touches the face of….a poodle.” Guess you had to be there.

About anvil clouds so you can be alert that these things can cause mischief:

A cumulonimbus incus is a mature thunderstorm cloud generating many dangerous elements.

  • Lightning; this storm cloud is capable of producing bursts of cloud to ground lightning.
  • Hail; hailstones may fall from this cloud if it’s a highly unstable environment (which favors a more vigorous storm updraft).
  • Heavy rain; this cloud may drop several inches of rain in a short amount of time. This can cause flash flooding.
  • Strong wind; gale-force winds from a downburst may occur under this cloud.
  • Tornadoes; in severe cases (most commonly with supercells), it can produce tornadoes.

Moving Day: the Debacle

Screwup #3: They did not plan for moving boxes. “You didn’t tell us you had boxes.”

Maybe today, finally, I am calmed down enough to tell the story in broad strokes–the tale of how our moving day fell apart and then came together. Sort of.

I will save my most strongly worded language and the most agonizing detail for the site review I will write later today on the moving company’s web site, and perhaps in a letter to the BBB.

Matter of fact, I’ll just keep it short, because my coffee cup is empty and the moon is about to dip below the western horizon, behind Panther Knob, and I want to see that sight through the telescope, since by tomorrow night, the track would have moved enough to miss this twice a conjunction of heaven and our new vantage point from Earth. So out to the porch in my underwear to the telescope to hunker and squint.

So let me sweep the first four human errors under the rug in our dealings with a certain number of hominids and a truck. I’ll just jump right to their Magnum Dopus: they didn’t show up.

The reason: “I’m sorry we can’t reach your house from either end of your road.”

I had told the office person at least a week before that rains had washed out the approach from Terry’s Fork. They tried that way nevertheless, and (DUH) couldn’t reach the house. But the road from Shawsville Pike is way less steep and not in bad shape.

“Why could you not get here from Shawsville Pike” I asked, as the adrenalin surged and my temples throbbed.

“We’re sorry, our trucks (they were bringing two, and five men–despite their name) couldn’t get across the bridge.”

“Wait. You’re telling me you don’t scout the route to your destination for the width and carrying capacity of bridges on the route?”

“No sir, we don’t have that information.”

“You’re a moving company and you don’t have that information!!?”

Deleting a lot of expletives beginning when she told me they would be happy to move us 6 days later instead, I made the remark that I was a forgiving person and a reasonable person, but this was the FIFTH screw-up with this outfit, and I was going to let the public know of my horrible, no good, very bad experience with this Roanoke-based moving company.

And I will do so, hopefully later today, now that I am securely rooted at the new location, no thanks to said company, and cooled off sufficiently to delete subsequent expletives and be as dispassionately accurate, thorough and objective as possible describing the worst single job I have ever experienced by a company that advertises themselves as “professionals.”

I have since found out from several neighbors on Goose Creek that they have driven the largest rental trucks available across that bridge or have had items delivered by similarly large trucks. So we are at a loss to explain why, though we planned everything so carefully, things fell apart.

And to put a happy spin on the story, with the help of our son from Knoxville, my daughter and her husband and two daughters from near Wilmington, and two valiant and uncomplaining neighbors working in the rain all day Saturday, Sunday and half of Monday, with several trips between houses by a U-Haul trailer and a U-Haul 10 foot panel truck (from two disparate locations) we got under roof.

We are still moving in.

Morning Pages 18 March 20

And even now, there are moments that seem pleasant, hopeful, when I am excited to complete something, to start some new thing. The world feels familiar. Comfortable. Briefly ordinary.

But like waking from one dream into another, it washes over me that this is not the world I live in now. I might never live in that once-upon-a-time again. No one will.

BC: Before COVID AD: After Dystopia

We are protected here in rural Floyd County to some degree by our long-standing propensity to shelter in place. Houses are, for the most part, at some distance apart. A person can go days without seeing anybody but the mailman go by at noon.

And when we gather, it is rarely in groups of more than 200–other than the high school gym, the highest capacity in Floyd County for holding a group.

Even the county seat is low-density by big-city standards. The town of Floyd holds some 450 people on almost 300 acres, twenty miles from the nearest interstate. Isolated. Remote. Backwaters. And yet…

We are not free of risk in the current crisis. All it will take is Patient Zero, who visited a Virginia Tech world traveler or just returned from a conference in California. That unknowingly infected person sheds virus at the grocery store. Patient Two carries it to church the next day.

We need not be needlessly paranoid. Many of us might not need change our day-to-day at-home lifestyle much at all for a while. I guess not knowing how long that while might last makes me anxious. When will we see our friends again? And my mom in assisted living: we may never meet again in this life. It’s possible.

Patient Three is my age. Healthy. Active. I probably know them. They get tested (this is in June when tests are finally available, and that is when Patients One and Two are deduced, well after the fact.) They have COVID19, are quarantined at home at first, then admitted to Lewis Gale Montgomery–a crow mile from mom; near the center of a major university of tens of thousands of students and faculty and facility workers.

Those early admits are among the more fortunate who require hospital space, equipment and professional care. If you have to be hospitalized, be in the first wave before the upturn in the hockey stick of logarithmic increase in full-blown cases.

And so in my ordinary, solitary, bucolic retired life, I get up in the morning and make the coffee. I spread out the things I want to explore, think, or write about. I make and prioritize my list of tasks by the usual categories. I am pulled into a thread about some part of the world where a new reptile has been discovered. I am momentarily absorbed into that realm of life, that culture, those people and creatures in far-away villages in Indonesia. Fascinating.

And then it invades my reverie and fragile focus: where ever that place is in the world, their lives are no longer ordinary, casual or in their control. The shadow of pandemic darkens all their lives, too. And they will never be the same on the other side.

It will come –The Other Side. What will it be like? How will it be different from the world, BC? It could be better. The world system is having a Dope Slap event; a come-to-Jesus moment. We can’t go on the way we were going, BC.

We can’t treat the planet and each other that way, so very very many of us, so very very acquisitive and indifferent and selfish. We can’t put people in power who don’t respect people and planet more than profit. We can’t defy science, thinking humans are somehow less animal flesh than bats or mosquitos.

In my hopeful moments of temporary oblivion, I know there will be a few changes that put band-aids on severed limbs of civilization. But mostly when the shareholders are happy again, human enterprise will pick up just where it left off, save for the millions who died, and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that went extinct, AD, never to rise again.

And so these fleeting moments of blissful ignorance, of flow, of the joy in the moments of immutable beauty of earth and sky just out my door–that will be where I try to live. As much as possible. I will seek solace in the knowing we have never been eternal in this life. We live in a world of material consequences. Things fall apart. But life in this body is a vapor. And there is eternity built into us.

And I will think on these things.

This Old House

Click the black banner to see our place at Circa

Patina: a surface-film or polish of wood or leather and the like that shows age and use.

I am both comfortable with the not-new-and-shiny and also prefer it. Maybe that is just a sign of my age. Long-loved things around me have co-evolved (or worn out) in sync with my own surfing through time.

Despite the love-hate relationship we have had with old houses in the past, we willingly undertook the chance to save this one from the “practice for the fire department” that the first contractor recommended in the spring of 1999. We gambled that it would come some day to be to us like a favorite pair of slippers that we would wear long enough to fit us–that we would grow, if not old, at least older in.

Now we’ve added the same two decades of wear that the house has weathered, and I have to say it seems to be holding up better than we have. We could add a coat of paint, a new heat pump and move the furniture where we wanted to suit our fancy in the house. But in our own mortal edifice, there is only so much repair, redecorating and painting that can be done.

We hope that the next occupants will share the same appreciation for the history of this house, this land, this neighborhood and larger community that we have come to know. The patina of constant occupancy can be a beautiful thing–in a home or on a familiar face and pair of well-used hands.

Our property-for-sale now is being offered to potential new owners via Circa who, by definition, seek out historical architecture where structure and story have grown older and richer, together.

Please share this with the right new owners, who will know when they see it that this is their future pair of comfortable slippers.

If you have not visited the image gallery (mine is some different from the MLS version) then you might enjoy taking a look at SmugMug.

1020 Goose Creek Run ~ Historical home and 80 acres on two creeks