Committees. Commitment. Community: Common Unity.

We just celebrated, at Thanksgiving, our fifteenth year of living in the Floyd County outback. We are isolated, sequestered, cloistered in this deep valley and there is good in that separation and solitude. Humans need and seek out just this kind of apartness when they must think completely and clearly and when they feel the urgency to stay connected to home ground of self and soil.

And yet, as I’ve put on pages over the years, we are social animals. The blog was an attempt–and ultimately a successful attempt–to connect with community; to join skills and passions with others; to find some common work to sink my teeth into (while I still had them) that did good in its own right but also confirmed the wholeness of the human enterprise in this place we cared about.

I write on this topic this morning because I dreamed about community in some vague way, and awoke at the end of a long subconscious rehearsal of the evolution of my civic interest and engagement that has happened only since this blog began in May, 2002. Fragments was in those earliest months and years a beacon, an inchoate but earnest message in a bottle to others I did not yet know. The morning posts said “I am here. I know I should not continue forever an island hermit bent over a keyboard. So what can we do together, here; now?”

So it is no surprise I might have such a dream last night, after returning from yet another organizational meeting. The cost of getting the community involvement I asked for in 2002  has been countless fidgeting  hours of *FMC Rostralgia. The cost has been thousands of miles and hours and words and worry. The cost has been committee commitment. This is the cost of community: of  common unity. In 2002,  I thought to use my camera and my writing and my body in place towards a common goal, unaware of the costs.

Last night’s dream was not the usual post-committee angst about budget or personnel or organizational myopia or discord as is so often the case. After all, this Star Wars Bar Room assortment of creatures sitting around the table with you may be as hard to get along with as a spouse; and yet, for better or for worse, you’ve committed to try to work it out–for the children’s sake, if nothing else. It is often very very hard to keep your eye on the prize, even when the bank account is in the black.

Last night, we birthed a new child, and for that moment of delivery, it felt very good.

A few years ago, SustainFloyd undertook a “creative economy” project which we oversaw and for which we obtained funding. We championed it for several years to the point that it has become a fixed and anticipated event on the annual Floyd County Events calendar.

This active program  was somewhat peripheral to the recent center of SustainFloyd’s mission that has chiefly come to be about supporting agriculture in the county–but also the mission is about sustaining a way of life. So the Floyd Artisan’s Tour was a good enough fit that we retained it, thinking all along that “One day it will grow up and stand on its own legs, and we might fledge it into the nest of another group that can take it on and see it to adulthood.”

As of last night, the FAT is now officially a project of the Jacksonville Center for the Arts. It is right and fitting that this be so. And there is more to it, I must have seen in my drowsy dream-state, than just this small transition of a small program between two small non-profits in a very small pond in a remote eddy of human strivings. There is more to it than that.

I place the scale of this tiny celebration of mine in proportion to  my limited and small-world experience of civic and community matters–topics that until the blog began, were not at all on my personal radar. But what has made me smile in my sleep is that increasingly, there is coming to be a level of cooperation, of transparency and of common purpose among groups that I’ve come to know as participant or officer, and to some extent, to have known as competitors for limited support dollars and member energy.

But now, lines are blurring. Boundaries between camps are not impermeable or solid or unyielding to change. Cooperation is winning, at times, over competition on this microcosmic stage of the human story at a most auspicious time on the cusp of humanity’s uncertain future.  There is a role here for science and the arts; for charity and calloused hands; for new ways of doing things informed by the oldest hands in the community. And all these players have to talk clearly with each other.

SustainFloyd, Preserve Floyd, Partnership for Floyd, the Jacksonville Center, The Music Festival (VBRMF), Plenty, the Board of Supervisors, the Economic Development Board and others have the potential to work in common unity towards a future we all want for our living offspring  a century down the road. What does that future look like? We are asking the questions and talking to each other about this. And at least at this moment this morning, I am encouraged.

[su_highlight background=”#d6eaed” color=”#191f5a”] * Folding Metal Chair butt pain[/su_highlight]

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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. Congratulations to you and to your community, Fred. I am glad your blogging led you where and how it did. It all sounds good to me. I know how many countless hours are involved in all those human efforts, and every hour made its contribution.