Unknitting The Ravelled Sleave of Care


Yesterday was one of those “pulled thread” days in which undertaking Task A pulls out Task B which unravels to reveal Task C…

The alarm to drain the water filtration tank popped up, and like most alarms, I snoozed it for almost a week until yesterday. I was going to be string-trimming the remains of the Jonquils along the branch anyway (and the tall grasses down in the wet depression where the temporary stream flows) so might as well open the door to what was a root cellar when we first saw the place and connect the garden hose and open the valve and let iron-tainted rust-colored water flow out of the tank and into the grass of the front yard.

Lo in the darkness, there were the screens that had been moved off the wooden love seat I’d tugged out of the cellar, up and over the rock wall, to put on the back porch for Abby’s friends that came to visit us while she was here two weeks ago. I’d moved the screens in front of the tank, so while I was draining the tank, having put down the string trimmer, I moved the screens out of the way and up onto the back porch.

And of course, I couldn’t have the screens as an unsightly greeting when She got home, so I forgot about the string trimmer, remembered to turn the water off after 10 minutes, and began installing screens. It was just starting to rain.

And thus last night through the screened and open windows, I was able to hear the torrential downpour and know in the wee hours that yesterday’s lettuce and chard seeds that completed the row containing the potatos, the grass seed over the ramped walkway entry into the garden and the buckwheat seeds planted yesterday afternoon as a cover crop to hold the soil over the poorer parts of the garden against erosion were all washing downstream along with more than a few pounds of our topsoil.

So I wished I’d snoozed the drain-the-tank alarm at least one more day. I’d have slept better.

” Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast”

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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. You can be my handy man any day!

    Looks like Fort Knox – those deer don’t have a chance

  2. Hi Fred, As I mentioned we’re up here fixing up the house. It only took me one day to figure out that you’ve got to fix something to fix something.