Just Fragments of the Whole

Hello all. Or some. It’s been far more quiet here than at any time since the summer of 2002. You might have noticed, or not. Obviously, I don’t put much thought to public writing of late–not for a long time, and especially over the past six months, taking a slide toward voicelessness since November.

The blog has lost its role as a two-way can-on-a-string between one cloistered writer-photographer and the Other World. I’ve lamented this far too often in recent years as the disconnect grows wider and wider.

This web presence, for years, was ME. As faithfully as possible, I poured myself into a daily narrative, “in words and pixels” more or less shamelessly onto this page. For years, that was a rewarding effort–and no small one, to be sure.

I think back to the thousands of hours of my life transformed into the little essays and photo-vignettes, many of which went on to become published news columns or found their way into my books. I think back to all the people I’ve met because of our common language and sense of the common good.

There was great satisfaction and joy in that sharing and those new acquaintances. I felt utterly free to speak my heart and my mind and knew I would find resonance in that other world beyond the bounds of this tiny ridge-rimmed watershed.

But over that course of time and since the precipice of shattered focus since November, it has become impossible for me to connect with the ME that draws story from nature with gratitude, celebration, wonder and the urge and need to spread that good word.

Maybe this is not a permanent suppression of the core of connection with the telling of the simple life in Floyd County. I would be less concerned about outliving this funk if I were as young as I was when Fragments began, fourteen years ago.

But in this moment, I still need to write–no less than I have since being afflicted by the Muse of the Written Word in June of 2002. I just know, after some recent effort to do so,  that I can’t write from my Happy Place, and I can’t write to an empty room that blogging has become.

And yet, I must write; and if the old energies of discovery and awe and wonder are beyond reach in these dark times, perhaps indignation and outrage will serve to power the poor insulted and aggrieved Muse. Bless her, she stands to take quite a groping in the near term, from sea to shining sea.

The book I was half-way into sits idle. I just can’t get there from here. I almost thought there for a while I’d have it ready to go by a year from now. Nope. I can’t do the interior work required to get those kinds of words to the page.

So I’m researching and potentially, in the future, writing about some local environmental issues that impact us here on Goose Creek and in Floyd County and ultimately across the planet. That writing has to do with our local Virginia forests being strip-mined for European biofuels-powered electricity generation. It is a microcosmic symptom of our larger broken story.

And on this topic, maybe, something here at some future date.

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.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Hang in there. We’ll be here when you drop by. Know how you feel about the current regime. Hoping we can get the 25th amendment to kick in before long.

  2. I’ve missed your thoughts as they put into words what I am trying to sort out. I agree it is difficult to put anything into words when the tweets keep changing our world. I keep looking for a sign that we will be moving forward and instead seem to be going backward. Too backward. Scary backward. Thanks for being there!

  3. It’s sad you are searching for a voice from your happy place in a time when happy places are becoming hard for many of us to maintain. I find myself writing more now, But it isn’t from my happy place, it’s more from my saddened and disgusted place… And following the news just makes it more so. But, with what is now happening, I find myself less concerned with offending readers, be they family or friends, than with trying in my small way to get the outrage out into the world.

    Keep writing Fred, you have reason to be sad, you have reason to be outraged, you have reason to not go quiet. Even when it seems no one is there to listen, your words are heard… Besides, I want to walk along Nameless Creek again even it’s only through your eyes I see the waters rushing down the stream.

  4. Of course I hope to hear and see everything around Nameless Creek again some day. I greatly miss your days of daily blogs and photos, having been a faithful follower since 2003. In the meantime, tell us about your local environmental issues such as biofuels being obtained from your forests. What is happening locally has incredibly wide-ranging effects. I wish you more peace of mind some day, Fred. Hold onto your faith in God, please.

  5. I can’t believe it’s been 14 years. I remember the first days (pardon the pun) like yesterday. Thanks for sharing your world all these years. I would have never known about Floyd and so much more without this peaceful place on the internet.

  6. Fred, as we have discussed, blogging per se is a form in transition. Social media (which is normally anything but “social”) has become the back fence for discussion for many but I think using the web to communicate is more valuable than ever.

    Last week in the days leading up to the inauguration, I found a four-year old article on my political news web site suddenly getting more than 200,000 views a day for six straight 24-hour periods because someone posted it on Facebook and Twitter and it became a “trending topic.” It sparked several discussions on other sites and brought new readers to Blue Ridge Muse.

    I’ve never based success of a web site on comments. If we, as writers, reach one person with a thought that inspires discussion, even among themselves, then I think we have accomplished our goal of attempting to stir thoughts and considerations of topics that we feel need attention.

    Sounds like a good time to sit down for a cup of coffee in Floyd sometime soon. I will buy. 🙂

  7. Why the sullen deportment? Get back on your horse and account for your causes.

    By any measure, November was a close call. There’s a large group people that probably agrees with you and a large group that doesn’t. So? Be convincing! You don’t have to affect very many people for next time to turn out differently. Four years is pretty short in the grand scheme of things.

    You could berate those who take a different opinion. I’ve heard a lot of that lately. While perhaps satisfying, it’s not likely to change the result next time.

    Testimony: I don’t agree with everything you say. You HAVE affected my view on many things you write about. I agree more with you than I used to. I didn’t vote for DJT, but I’m willing to see what happens. I’ve read your blog since it started to challenge my assumptions. I find generalizations about those who take a different opinions rather disrespectful. I don’t want you to quit until you can’t do it anymore.

    • What a lovely comment. From one who totally agrees with Fred on every topic, I am very impressed with your respect and openness to changing your views, as well as reserving your right to disagree. Kudos.

  8. I am here Fred.

    And I ditto all that everyone else has sent you…..especially the “We will be here when you drop by” and the “Get back on your horse”.

    A few days ago, I was cleaning out my bedside table…it has several drawers, as it is tall, with about 6 or 7 drawers…so, I was re-arranging things….getting rid of stuff I do not need, and so forth.

    And, Lo and Behold…..I came across the photo, of You and I, several years ago, at the Floyd VA outside Fair. My wife shot the photo…yes, we still had actual camera with film then….there we were, side by side, grinning and enjoying the day.

    Needless to say, I of course kept the photo…back into the drawer………where it will stay until I need to see it again……

    I may not understand all of the politics, environmental concerns, and so forth and so on…but I do tune in now and then to Fragments From Floyd……….been tuning in, since I found you SEVERAL years ago, while at work, on break time, and just happened to type in Floyd VA, on my computer.

    You touched my heart, my soul and my mind with your stories, your ponderings, and your deep concerns regarding this beautiful earth.

    Words cannot express how I would feel, and I am sure many others, without your Fragments From Floyd.

    Keep on. As stated by Georgia……… Hang In There. Please. We all are here.

    Take Care.

  9. Thanks for the kind and supportive words, all. I do hate to expose those within the reach of my small voice to the darker moods when they come. Most don’t come to stay. I am less sure about this brooding sadness that pervades this room, this continent, this present era. But I made a vow fourteen years ago to write from the heart and to expose whatever was in it to whoever might be looking over my shoulder as I sit arched over the keyboard on any given morning.

    I have a long backlog of saved prompts for blog posts. Many of them have by now gone stale. Many of them are too likely to incite rancor and malice from those whose eyes don’t see the world as I do. Many of them are just too complex to cram into the typical dwell-time of a typical blog butterfly. But some of them I just might dust off and share. I might also take the path of least resistance and repost long-ago entries from the blog and save my better energies for writing that might live elsewhere than on FB or FFF.

    I don’t think it is possible for me to NOT write, to not be curious and dig and gather and synthesize. Those needs are in there somewhere deep and persistent, even while so much “sharing” these days is superficial and fleeting. But as you’ve suffered here, I don’t seem to be able to find my stride here lately, more to do with changes OUT THERE than IN HERE.

    Some of the inner conflict arises from the growing awareness of urgency in my use of time and energy, with the knowledge, as I think I said on the blog before, that I have only so many hours, keystrokes and neurons left for the work of making sense. How does one order their day with this in mind? Who do I want to reach, and how do I best reach them–if I’m not deluded at the start to think that I have anything all that worthwhile to give anyone, in this tsunami of opinion and world views and words.

    Oops. I only meant to say thanks and be on my way. So thanks.

  10. Hello, there, I am a new reader, just having purchased and read your book, Slow Road Home. Just wanted to say thank you for writing that book – I really felt I was right there in your little mountain valley, sharing simple joys of everyday life with you and your wife and pets. I loved the descriptions of the scenery and nature all around, loved the story of how you came to live there. I am enjoying reading some of your blog posts, especially the ones just sharing everyday events and the ordinary-yet extraordinary!- beauty found in them. I think you are a wonderful writer and hope that you can enjoy many more days of just doing what you really love, whether just enjoying life or writing about it. Sorry to hear that you feel it’s harder to write these days. Sometimes maybe writers need time to just ‘be’? I don’t know, but just wanted to say hello and thank you for your wonderful book and all you share. I have just lost my dad to a long illness, and your book gave me a brief respite from sorrow. I felt I was stepping into a quiet and peaceful place there in your remote valley, so beautiful, fresh and lovely. It calmed my soul. Thanks again and blessings to you..

  11. Greetings, Sparrow, and thanks for taking the time to say hello and let me know you’ve somehow found my little book. I am thankful it was a comfort to you in hard times, and brought you some element of peace.

    I have neglected the blog, which was the seed bed for my late-in-life writing habit. BTW I have recently been posting photo-essays at medium.com/@fred1st so suggest you check over there from time to time.

    I have been working on a third book, but as I have shared, that focus on the wonders and beauty close at hand have been overwhelmed national events. The Muse has been battered but not killed.

    Just curious: Where on earth did you come across Slow Road Home? It is so far off the radar. I consider getting back into the speaker’s circuit to be among receptive hearts and minds, since an audience sort of self-selects by interest and affinity for the subject.

    Be well…


  12. Hello there, thank you so much for your kind reply to my comment! You asked my how I came across your book..I love reading nature writing from all over the country and was looking for books written about my native South (I am from South Carolina and live within sight of the Blue Ridge mountains)..I think I was looking at a site called southernnature.org and found your bio and grew interested in reading your book. I have just loved it. Every time I read it I am transported to that mountain valley and feel such peace. You have a real gift of transmitting that sense of peace through the descriptions of nature you share. I would love to read more about every day life there in your mountain valley, would love to hear more about what renovations you made to the farmhouse, the treats your wife cooks, the walks you take by the creek and what you find there, the ways your grandkids have enjoyed the outdoors, the ponderings on life, etc. These simple joys seem to be the most important things in life, somehow, I think, at least for me right now as I am dealing with the loss of my beloved dad, who used to walk with me through the woods on our farm and teach me the names of all the trees. I will never forget that. Your writing brought the joy of those simple pleasures out in nature right back to me. Sharing nature with those we love is such a gift and so nourishing to our souls. Thank you again and I hope that you will find words flowing again when the time is right.

  13. I’m still here but don’t check in every day like I used to, but rather I’ve taken to binge-reading posts I’ve missed. I also continue to pass my copy of Slow Road Home to friends to enjoy, most recently to a friend who writes in the darkness on his back porch, sharing his musings with a long email contact list. He and his 98-year-old mother have put in motion plans for a nature preserve to ensure his family’s little patch of woods will remain undeveloped well into the future. Your reach goes places you cannot even begin to imagine and isn’t that affirming — and comforting?

  14. Glad you stop by now and then, Jane. And yes, I think more and more lately that the value of the story in SRH is not dated, even though I stopped spreading the message some years back. It’s about time I found my voice again, especially now, when the air is so shrill with discord and intent is so fixated on the unsettling of the earth. Like your hermetic friend, many of us can carve out our piece of sanity and wholeness in the natural and human community, and share it with those who might join us there, in spirit or through words or in the flesh.