Writers Read: Rocky Mt.


Many thanks for the invitation to be one of six readers at the Edible Vibes Coffeehouse in Rocky Mount last night. And congratulations to me for the first time ever heading for a Franklin County destination and NOT getting turned around–in spite of Google Maps lysdexia in the naming and placement of those tortuous roads, that, contrary to a navigator’s expectations, do NOT eventually come out at a recognizable intersection. Trust me. I know this.

The space was packed, standing room only, the crowd attentive, the cappuchino machine mostly mute, and the readers constrained more or less within their 15 minutes blocks of time on stage. Two hours passed pleasantly, filled with entertaining and stimulating readings that were well written, well read and well performed. I’ve put up a little gallery. Apologies I don’t have a picture of Becky Mushko, nor did I thank her for her kind introduction last night; she chose (as I did) not to use the microphone, so stood where the light just didn’t make a photo possible.

I waffled about what to read until I stood up for my spot. So much of Slow Road Home comes from a quiet place, from still waters. And following on the heels of the ukelele music (that’s right!) and theatrical readings of previous readers, and with the background buzz of coffee machines, and street rumbles, should I read pieces as tame as Dry Wells and Showers of Blessing–about drought, then the blessed rain? Gulp. I went with those pieces–first time ever I’ve read these very serene and reflective pieces to a live audience.

And then I read what will be the next Floyd Press piece, and those of you who come back can read it here toward the end of next week. Testing the waters is what I was doing, not sure if the general audience would catch on to the fictional voice speaking about a very real and urgent natural resource issue. They caught on. I’m relieved. And I get to tell Ann “I told you so.”

When I left Rocky Mount to come home at 9:15, I switched to the Weather Band just as “current readings” gave the temperatures of nearby localities. Danville, 90 degrees that with the high humidity feels like 95! Roanoke, 87. When I pulled into the driveway here on Goose Creek, it was 73.

It’s good to go off mountain to be among friends, but my gracious, it’s good to come home. I stepped out of the car into the sweet dark, thankful for the babble of Goose Creek that, though diminished, still sings our summer-night lullaby. The steady light of a satellite dimmed overhead, slipping silently through invisible clouds in an otherwise clear canopy of stars. The dark smudges of the “Coal Sacks” muted the galactic star-show, a visible blackness that tells of lower humidity and gives hope of a cooler night ahead. And life is good.

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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’m relieved too, and very glad to hear that your audience was interested in both parts of your readings.

    BTW, your new blog is really nice. I like the changing header photos, and there’s so much new stuff to explore.

  2. Fred, so happy you were able to read, and your choice of material was perfect.

    Thank you for making that long drive and adding so much to our coffeehouse readings.

  3. Fred, your reading was so appreciated and we are grateful that you were a large part of making Coffeehouse Readings such a success.

    We are exited that you will make a return trip to Rocky Mount in October when the colors of the leaves should make for a beautiful slow road home.

    Thanks so much!