The Dog Ate My Homework
This piece about why I didn’t have a piece ready at the last deadline appeared in last week’s Floyd Press. I’ll toss it up this morning as yet another deadline looms and I’m off pleasantly following the threads into seed saving, genetic diversity and food sovereignty–about which more soon, if the dog isn’t hungry.
It is very early morning of my self-imposed Thursday deadline, four days before the Floyd Press-imposed Monday deadline to email my biweekly column text off to Wanda. After four years of The Road Less Traveled, this is not an unfamiliar obligation and one for which I typically enjoy both the journey and the destination.
Sending off a completed article is to finally birth whatever latest topic has occupied some bit of my attention and interest during two weeks gestation since the last deadline. But this morning, I look at my folder of completed work for this purpose and it is empty. I check my folder of possible topics or partially-completed work, and it too is blank.
I can’t blame writer’s block, but I do blame you, Floyd Press column readers, and I want to thank you very much for that. Perhaps I should explain.
When January rolled around this year, I pledged to get organized. One of the first things I did (because I could do it without even getting out of the chair I was in when the inspiration overtook me) was to sort and arrange my computer files, particularly the Press columns and other writing clips I wanted to keep at hand and be able to find.
As these backwards looks often go, you go to dig out one specific remembered thing, maybe a photograph in the box in the far corner of the attic. Then you end of spending a half day sitting cross-legged in the light of a hanging bare bulb up there wandering memory lane with piles sorted around you by faces, places, events: so much of your life is tied up in those photographic memories.
It is no different to sift through the writing from and about a life through time. This one makes me smile, that one makes me wince for the fool I made of myself; and oh, I’d totally forgotten so many of these mementos kept in the Kodachrome of words.
The first year in the album is 2005. Let’s see–what’s this? If I could be any kind of animal, I’d be a cow: “I’ve spent countless hours standing enthralled, cow-like in our pasture and woods, or embedded to mid-calf in the cold creek. I am bovine in my ways, happiest to be out standing in my field chewing my cud, and up to my knees in flowers.” Now that was the writer’s equivalent of dancing on the table with a lamp shade on my head.
That same year I offered the “Slippery Slope of Winter” about my near-disastrous sliding down the icy yard on Walnut Knob. Almost died. Hilarious now, not so funny then.
Not a few of the columns from that year ended up in Slow Road Home, a book that exactly three years ago this month was nearing completion to be published. I have the Press column obligation to thank for the motivation to write some of those pieces. But that’s not the end of the story.
In 2006, I wrote about the ravens on Buffalo, about hawks mating high over Goose Creek and the risks of invasive plants and not enough water in the county. A common theme was the blessings of scale and pace living away from the Fast Lane. There was a two-part retrospective of Ann and I moving to Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd in 1997.
In the box labeled 2007, you can see lots of critters: dragonflies and spiders, snakes, ladybugs and bees. And there are tales from indoors (about the dog or wife, usually) and outdoors–from our woodlot or garden (danged deer!) and the environmental issues of plastic bags, mountaintop removal and nature awareness that increasingly regained my attention and column inches.
The 2008 pile, no great surprise, is shifted toward energy and natural resource concerns. There was focus on the Naturalist Rally at Mt. Rogers, on Floyd Earth Day, and a four part series my son helped me with about his walk home from Maine to Floyd County.
So when I gathered all these various pages and story-piles around me in my cleaning and organizing frenzy, it occurred to me in an AHA moment that they might be more enjoyable in an album on the coffee table than in a dark box upstairs. And the idea for another book (in no small part from Road Less Traveled columns) was born.
So I owe you, Floyd Press readers, for having given me reason and opportunity to write, But to make the book happen (with the help of Floyd County editors and graphics gurus and such) at least this one deadline date, I’ve deferred my regular duties. So this is to tell you that the dog ate my homework.
But with a great deal of good fortune, by early May I’ll be able to turn in What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader to prove that I really have been working on my term paper. And thanks again for the assignment.