At this rate, I’ll be back to my high school weight by Sunday. Lost several pounds at FloydFest yesterday, in spite of the easy availability of fluids on the site. I was very happy to know I did not have to add more miles getting back to my car for the cooler-gallon I brought with me. As I soon learned, “on-site parking” only means you are still in Virginia. There are non-potable water stations around, and I managed to keep my gold bandana soaking wet and tied around my neck or tucked under my ball cap to cover my neck from the white-hot sun, Foreign-Legion style. Talk about your terminal hat-head.

I can’t say I partook of much of the event, other than people-watching from shady places. I did hear Sarah Watkins perform from some distance while I ate my dinner–which was excellent. The meal tickets while volunteering as nature hike leader is a nice bonus. I have two more for today. If only they also included a free pass to the Beer Garden, where it’s $6 for the cup, then $5 a pop. I got my wrist band to go in, then heard these prices, and said forget it. Water tastes pretty good out there anyway.

There were 14 on the hike yesterday, and I think folks had a pretty good time. Today, I get to do it twice, once (at 10) down into the Gorge. Then back up. And at 4, another pass over the “Grassy Knoll” trail, but yesterday’s shortcut (from some veterans of the trail) make it a loop instead of retracing steps along the trail. The only hurdle was getting past the very very large black bull up in the wide, high meadow, guarding his harem. We’ll hope they have found greener pastures elsewhere today. Also looks like we might get wet. That’d be nice.

Hoping my voice will last through tomorrow’s hike. The talking is as tiring as the walking, I think. Both demand a good bit of brain focus, for footing and for attention on the details of place and the monologue that goes with that. Add the elevation change and far more heat than I usually hike in, and it will take the weight off for sure. Back to my fighting weight. Put me in, coach.

Interesting question came up several times from the hikers that I think reflects our present-day relationship to nature: “What good is it?” What good are lichens; milkweed; greenbrier; mushrooms; multiflora rose?

What is the assumption that drives the question, and how would you answer it?

Share this with your friends!

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. My snide self would be inclined to respond “What good are YOU?”
    My better self would assume they were interested in the function of these things, in these days when everything must “add value”. How sad.

  2. Heidi…this is just what I said. I am formulating a different answer (and of course had specific “roles” that we know for things like milkweed and its role in the diet and behaviour of Monarch butterflies.)

  3. Funny, my first thought was how sad the lack of understanding of an ecosystem and the importance of the parts to the whole and of our relationship as humans to our ecosystem. In other words I agree with Heidi, though she said it much more succinctly!

  4. Gracious! Well, I would take the high road and educate as you and others have responded. Mention herbalism as well- perhaps include more examples like milkweed and the monarch. There is the forest ecosystem for air and water benefits and preventing erosion.
    There are some city slickers who travel to FF!
    Hope you can take some time to hear the music- had great zydeco last night and Leftover Salmon (band) was wonderful. I was picking who to see and played tunes from each on the FF website- good feature.

  5. The assumption that drives the question is that homo sapiens is the center of the universe. Doesn’t it say just that in the Bible? Unfortunately, the Bible is wrong on that point and we are soon to get our collective comeuppance. What would I say to someone who posed that question? If I was really brave and didn’t want to get shot, I’d ask the questioner what good is a child with Down’s Syndrome. Otherwise, I’d take a deep breath and give a little speech on ecosystems. Teaching is such a challenging profession!

  6. Fred – I think the assumption here could be a lack of understanding of the need/symbiotic relationship between plants and animals or the assumption could be that all is for our taking and use or perhaps the assumption is simple (and not to be connoted negatively) ignorance. As I read this yesterday, I think it is appropriate here:

    “Actually there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Sky Is Not The Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist p. 38

    So, if one doesn’t know and asks the question above – that is a very good thing. There is an opening for an explanation of how the planet lives and breathes (photosynthesis) – a very concrete example. Then there’s the opportunity to be more abstract and explain our own need for natural beauty to help keep us healthy. At least the question was asked!

    But if one does not know and then goes onto assume that there is no “good” in it and decides to destroy it, well we’ve all lost.

    Keep on educating, sir. Keep on . . .