What We Hold In Our Hands: The Missing Preface

[su_heading size=”14″]I was looking for a particular quote from my 2009 book when I ran across this short passage labeled as Preface, but which never got into the printing of the book. I don’t know if this was intentional or accidental (which can be said for no small number of happenings in my lifetime.) But it is worth adding it for the record now to these few short declarations of what my hopes for the book were, and are:[/su_heading]

Let me ask you, my generation, fellow citizens of Earth, husband and wife, parent, seeker and reader of books–do we truly comprehend all that we hold in our hands?

We grasp to hold precious moments in time, captured instants of light and shadow, to hold them in the snapshot memories of day to day blessings we then easily forget.

I reach for the same, far apart as we are, and having never met, when we compare family albums, you and I, we share more together than we might have thought.

We carry in our hands the unique but not dissimilar histories of our families and communities, towns and the landscapes under our feet and off our front porches–the places of our lives that we have made unique and that in turn have shaped the contours of our sense of the good and the beautiful, places from our particular stories of what it means to be at home in the world.

This book is born from one of those places, but it is about a much wider geography than that one place.

What we hold in our hands is the destiny of our children and grandchildren across the whole Earth, particularly the young who, by choice or by house rules, do not know the freedom of unstructured play in the rough margins of cities and suburbs.

They are to their peril and ours no longer very interested in the drama of living things that goes on some small distance from the electrical outlets.

It is no less than the shape of tomorrow that we hold in unsure hands, uncertain of how to do what’s best, determined to do no less than that for those to whom we leave this earth.

We hold infinity in the palm of our hand, eternity in an hour, William Blake tells us. You don’t have to go far to see the world.

So what you hold in your hands when you read this book is most certainly a single grain of sand, one fragment from the author’s personal view of these blessings and responsibilities we’ve been given in our times. It is a narrative of particular moments and dramas in one life, one family and one remote Blue Ridge valley.

But in this collection of stories I hope you also hear a universal call for all of us to think more deeply about what we know and care about–our here, our now, our known riches of the senses, of memory, of relationship.

Perhaps this macrocosmic focus of words and images between these covers might lead in some small and lasting measure towards an enlightened desire to care for each other in profound and persistent ways.

It asks that we celebrate and sustain the precious natural world we do not own but whose fate we hold in our hands and from which our living and future ultimately derives.

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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 intend to send you a snail mail article about the value of narrative in environmetal advocacy.Facts are for testifying to Congress, etc. Narrative is for engaging the wider public..