The Children-Avatars of Goose Creek

It is a fact (barring worse-case outcomes in the real estate realm) that this date a year from now, I will not be sitting at this desk in this room at these coordinates on Planet Earth. But someone will be just about to experience their first spring on Goose Creek.

Who will it be? What will it be for them? How will they become embedded in the local ecology, or will they be “summer people” who simply recreate and vacation here and then go absent–snow birds wintering in the Caribbean?

I try to imagine this house with the enlivenment of other souls than ours. It never has been and never would be OURS, other than in the legal sense. They too will be semi-permanent transients, pretending their own OUR-ness for a few years, a few decades. But what do I want to think their lives will be like, in my most hopeful moments? How might the Whole Ecology of this parcel and square mile of corrugated ridges and forest become home for them?

And the thought that has given me the most pleasure to project across the next decade of new owners here is that there will be children. A boy, Ethan, age 5 and a girl, Brittany, age 8 let’s say. Their parents are educated, adventurous, curious and nurturing for their children’s nature literacy and broadest-possible citizenship among people and all creatures. And it is for that kind of living education that they chose to buy this particular and unique property.

And so, while I have decided not to flesh out this fantasy here in vast detail, I feel certain that it is something I will muse about, before and after the sale, regardless of the childless buyers who winter in the Bahamas.

It will make me smile to “know” that these two children will carry on with my “knowings” of this place; will extend my memories of some of the very same rocks that they will turn in Nameless Creek; the very same fallen logs where they will find perhaps the same Slimey Salamander I found last summer.

They will walk the length of the creek, from the bluff and well past the Fortress of Solitude. (What if anything will they call that tranquil place where so many hopes and dreams once visited an old man?) They will walk in cold kettles up to their waist, in the dappled light of a green corridor of moss and fern, and learn early on how stinging nettle got its name.

Ethan and Brittany as teenagers will delight in inviting their friends here, who discover a wildness here not present even in many places within Floyd County. They will proudly show their visitors where the water snakes sun by the barn; which trees to watch for mountain boomers; and how to find water pennies under just the right creek rocks while collecting crayfish just for fun.

While not many children their age can identify a dozen spring and summer birds by their calls, they will know the Louisiana Waterthrush; they will know when and where the Scarlet Tanagers will build their nests; and they will stop in their tracks (just like I do, I just know they will) any time a raven makes one of a dozen different calls five hundred feet above them.

They will come to know who they are because of where they are. They will be rooted, grounded and placed humans because of what this place will offer to teach them, and because they have willingly and enthusiastically offered to learn and to know and to care.

Their laughter and their music fill my imagination, though they may never fill these heart-pine walls. Even so, I will think of them often, next year and beyond, my avatars who will live forward the life I leave them here. Tend the details and the lessons, and cultivate them, children. And share them in words and pixels. Perhaps someone will listen.

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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. Your description was so vivid that those children came to life for me. I so hope that your dream comes true and they really do occupy the house. What great experiences lie ahead for them!