Last Things

It is starting to sink in that this is not a drill. This is not the projection of some future possibility that one day, we would leave this place, dead or alive.

This is an acceptance, almost, that one day, this in-the-present hardscape would become a distant abstraction on the globe, an amalgamated assortment of place-and-people memories, a thousand pieces of fused colored glass–beautiful to conjure but difficult to make out any of the original bits. One day, we would not be here, would be looking out at a different viewshed, from a different HeresHome, through different eyes.

One day, we would wake up dead or be moving from this place. Those were the options. And while we often spoke of our intention to leave here in a pine box, that would not have been the responsible thing for our children. While we could have continued to herd cats and keep body and soul together here for a few more years, that would only delay the inevitable day we would leave, and years in the future, a decision to leave would offer far fewer good years to settle in and make another place our home with its own amalgam of colored-glass memories.

And so we are moving.

And it turns out, of course, that there is a lot more to it than one day waking up in the same bed in a different house. It is not like the movies where an amnesiac suddenly finds themselves transported from their last recollections in the fifties into a different movie set they do not recognize. Maybe an acute rip-the-bandaid translation into another life would be desirable, if it could somehow become possible other than in a movie script. But ours will be a creeping crisis of opportunity, unfolding for at least a year. Probably more.

Out impending reality until June will be more like a six-month metamorphosis into a late instar that emerges at The Other Place, then continues internally to reform and reconnect the inner parts for another six to twelve months before emerging in a new skin, with new eyes to appreciate that Where that is not Goose Creek.

And with this reality setting in, it is certain that many of the things we do between now and June we will be doing for the last time:

There will be a last time we sit on the front porch with friends and a bottle of wine.

There will come a last time we walk the pasture loop while calling this our own place; we may walk it years hence as visitors when it is another’s, if that is not too bittersweet a revery to contemplate.

We will hear for the last time the creek through the open bedroom window, will hear perhaps once more the whippoorwill who visits briefly in the spring, will smell for the final time the maple sweetness when the sap drips on the first warmish spring day.

I will load the list stick of firewood into the maw of the Quadrifire, the last of the thousands that have, since November 1999, been hefted a half dozen times between the forest edge and the waiting coals from last night’s fire. And since we may not have wood heat Over There, the very last loading of a lifetime may happen as the first buds swell and the days stay warm in late April. How I will miss this part of who I have been.

We will, on that last day, have taken our last senses-wide-open panorama in our minds and memories with immense gratitude, two figures in a snow-globe fantasy land left behind as we drive out of here with our past in the rear view mirror.

But I also remember that we did all those things here for a first time when Goose Creek was unfamiliar and not ours quite yet. And while not so many things for so many years after we reach The Other Place, we will know first things again.

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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. Fred,

    Wishing you all the best on your move, when you do finally leave Goose Creek. (After 22 years in our house -and now empty nesters- we are planning to fly this coop, soon.) Big changes, though exciting time. I hope the transition goes smoothly for you. Onward!

    Happy holidays to you and yours, Fred.


  2. This is a wonderful rumination on leaving a beloved home. Since I did the same things so recently I really appreciated you writing this. Our Hermosa Beach home didn’t have all the uniqueness that your home has, so moving didn’t create such a huge difference for us. We brought ourselves and all of our favorite things and made our home here quite similar to our old home.

  3. Spent almost 14 years in the house prior to this one. It was in the country too and I appreciate your thoughts and memories and the feelings about the great unknown. Now I’ve lived in my current home for 15 years and am getting close to a big downsizing and move to an easier lifestyle with fewer home maintenance issues. It’s not going to be easy or without regrets. But it’s the next step. Keep inspiring us with your words and inspiration as we all move forward – even though we’ll still have to take many looks back.

  4. Your wonderful description of living in Goose Creek will always be memories to recall. You will make new memories and friends in your next place wherever that may be with the hope you will let your readers know.

    Your expressive way of writing is a winning essay and it gives the reader
    a sense of calm while reading. Thank you for sharing this gift with us. Look forward to new experiences and new surroundings for you.

  5. I made the move from my beloved country house to a much more suited to ageing in place house in ‘town.’ While the new house had what I needed I was a bit skeptical that I would really appreciate it. I was pleasantly surprised to find new things to value in my new setting. I wish the same for you.

  6. I have read this post several times, shared it with my husband and each time the tears come unbidden.You have found just the right words one again. We, too, face decisions on how we want to use the time we might have left. It’s made even more urgent and poignant by the loss of my husband’s mother at the age of 94 and the efforts to close the book of her life on this planet. I will continue to lurk in the blogosphere/Facebook shadows (I had been a regular commenter years ago) as you move down this lane. And, in the small world department, I have a friend and former co-worker who lives near your community. I was surprised to see the link to your place on her Facebook feed.

  7. Thanks all for your supportive and kind words. I think at times about the story of this transition becoming a larger collection, not unlike Slow Road Home. But I have “book 3” already to bundle and be seen by more eyes while I have the capacity to do that. We hope and despair in fits and starts. And I write in the same pattern. And by the way, Jane, my mom is 94. We still have days together, but never know how many, so each is precious in this so-called “third age.”