IMG_2039woodstove580

Sometimes on this morning page, words come and image follows.

Today at 5 a.m., the picture comes first–a spontaneous shot from my chair of the wood stove, the glass door cleaned on a warmish day for the first time in a month of unrelenting cold.

Why share such commonplace objects as subject? What does this snapshot conjure? Where does my mind go as I stare unfocused through the glass, every morning since the first overnight fire in October?

The only movement in the room in this early dark is dancing flame–what once was life going up in smoke. The warmth I feel on my skin is the giving back of summer sunshine and the industry of oak and maple.

That fact alone is centering and grounding. That image speaks as well as any of relationship to place, of what I take from and owe to this particular land-and-timescape.

I turn my chair to face the fire to see if, in it, like a conjurer’s bird bones or seer’s tea leaves, I can find my way forward.

Ashes to ashes. What light and heat may come in the interim? Words and images lay out a web of personal ecology that binds me here and obliges me to think, every day, about there. About them. About then.

This one fire in this one wood stove is microcosm, portal, mandala, a fragment of a map.

I can see it until I look at it. I feel the heat, that urgent something I should seek, find and put into words. I cannot find its source.

Published by fred

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.

Join the Conversation

5 Comments

  1. The source of that urge to seek, find and put into words, I believe, is your God-given sense of purpose. It is a wonderful thing to have that sense of purpose focused on something concrete, isn’t it! I had a lifelong sense of purpose to be a middle school science teacher. It didn’t work out as brilliantly as I dreamed, but oh well, “if man’s reach didn’t exceed his grasp . . . “

  2. I’ll leave it to quotations:

    “This one fire in this one wood stove is microcosm, portal, mandala, a fragment of a map. | I can see it until I look at it. I feel the heat, that urgent something I should seek, find and put into words. I cannot find its source.”

    “This is a gorgeous meditation.”

  3. I have a wood stove just like yours
    here in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin
    where the bathtub drain has been frozen shut for over two weeks now
    despite repeated pourings of boiling water into the tub
    where it hasn’t been above freezing for weeks
    we spend most of our time cutting hauling, splitting wood
    and feeding the fire
    (or feeding the poor woodland critters who can;t come in from the cold)

Leave a comment

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.