Nature Being Writ ~ Part One

I will have the opportunity in March to spend some time with two dozen university students from an urban-east college. Presumably, most will have had little exposure to the rural lifestyle and landscape as they will experience it on their week-long visit to Floyd.

Details are TBA, but it sounds like the original idea is to bring these students, individually and as a group, to some elevated experience of nature and then to guide them to write about that experience in a style that pushes deeper into the senses.I have some knee-jerk misgivings.

I’m not sure how one sends 25 students in mittens  outside briefly, with instructions to force a “deep” connection in a strange place (and probably on a chilly-windy March day) and then to come back inside and artificially emote some hurried words onto a page to meet the expectations of the moment.

I’m not saying this can’t be accomplished to some degree, but I do wonder how much any student is likely to return home changed by the experience. They should be changed.

More, tomorrow

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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. I can agree with your misgivings, Fred. Let’s hope that some miracle occurs; that between you and Mother Nature, these college kids can have a beautiful place to spend sufficient time in to get some sense of what the natural world is about. My hopes and dreams are with you!

  2. Hi Fred – My thought when I read this was that like most education, you are planting seeds. Perhaps there will be one student who takes something away and goes out on their own either in the near future or the far future. Perhaps in another part of their life so far down the road they can’t possibly imagine, they’ll have a similar experience and it will bring back the memory of their time with you. Maybe their new connection to nature is something they will share with others, too. You can’t know, but go ahead and plant the seed, Fred – who knows what will grow.