TIME and a World of Change ~ Part I

Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com
Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com. Click image to go there and see it live.

I am a child of the age of Disneyland, and my brain’s view of time was permanently altered by what I saw there for the first time.

Sunday nights, home in front of the round-screen television set (the size of a major appliance), my favorite Disney programs–the nature specials–looked at the planet’s places and animals. There were creatures and parts of the world that I would never have known or imagined without being shown them through this window of light and motion.

This vicarious adventure, as it remains eternally etched in memory, consisted of more than simple narrated visits by loquacious experts in pith helmets interacting with creatures doing what they do in their native places.

Maybe even more importantly, Disney’s special uses for the eye of the camera showed me for the first time two marvelous ways of seeing I had never imagined–what we now call slow motion and time-lapse imagery. We take it quite for granted today, but it was magic to me back then, and–as you might have discovered–I’m convinced our perceptions of the natural world and of each other can still be changed for the better by seeing the world in extra-ordinary ways today.

I remember ultra-slow motion stop-action sequences of bullets slowly piercing the full diameter of a watermelon. And then there were falling drops of red paint rebounding in a graceful splattering ballet of motion not visible to the naked eye because it happened faster than our brains and optical software could process it.

In visual poetry, a green and twining rose stem gyrated upward, reaching out, searching in a spiralling pirouette, and soon appeared from nowhere a red sprouting bud bursting to bloom in less time than an Ovaltine commercial! Plants were alive after all!

This is a first excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018.

► Do you have memories from early television that, looking back, changed your understanding of this world we share? Leave a comment.

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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 never knew that this was so important to you. Wish I had. I just knew you LIVED to be outside from day one. So glad you have been able to realize some of your dreams. I’m SO very proud of you!!!

  2. My dad was stationed in Spain when I was in those formative TV years of 4-7. My only memory of TV from those years is trying to watch Sesame Street in Spanish. Roots had an impact me later when we were back in the states. Military bases were the most integrated places in American society in the 70s. Skin color really didn’t matter – the number of stripes on your Dad’s sleeve determined the social order. Roots was the first time I saw discrimination in action.

  3. My formative years are too dim in my memory. Stop action photography still blows me away. The new TV series on the National Parks has thrilling examples.

  4. My early years were influenced by the TV show “Kung Fu”. The show won several Emmys I believe for cinematography, which remains unsurpassed to this day. If you ever get a chance to see the old episodes observe the camera work more than the story line; very impressive. More than cinematography however, the show espoused a philosophy of relating to both the natural and human world to millions which would have never received such exposure otherwise. Yes it was still a TV show with sometimes cheesy plots, and later attempts to revive the show and its spirit were horrible flops, but the original show was a masterpiece of exposure, both cinematic and socially.