Creek Jots ~ 2010-04-26

Fred on Rock Castle Creek, 1976 and 2010: Successional Stages

And Then There Were Three…

Rhoda slowed down three days ago. She began “barking” two days ago. By yesterday, she could barely stand and would not eat. Her eyes were glassy. She struggled to breathe. We put her down before the other three hens might be affected by whatever had made our largest laying hen so sick so fast. We might have been too late to protect the others. Maybe it wasn’t a pathogen at all. We know nothing about poultry diseases. I suppose we’re destined to find out.

Spring Symphony

From the porch swing, I listened with my eyes closed. The Conductor far in the distance tapped his baton inaudibly on the music stand of Walker Mountain–a county to the west–warming up the orchestra. First movement, a gentle wave of ozone-scented air with a hint of pollen. Pianissimo, a lifting of small, translucent leaves west to east, followed by the gentle percussion of the first fat drops on the walkway. And suddenly (I could imagine the conductor’s shaggy mane tossed in the direction of this movement in the music) a fortissimo: rain so hard and so fast the audience was caught off guard–but only for a few bars, then tapering to piano dolce to the very last drop. The theatre curtains opened to full slanting sun peeking from the horizon under a dun canopy, climaxing in a brilliant rainbow just before dusk. Magnificent!

The Indignities of Age

For at least a year, I’ve had some weird intermittent burning pain in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th toes of my left foot. At times it would hobble me badly. It didn’t seem to be related to foot ware and I could reproduce it with any orthopedic mechanics–flexion, extension, compression, distraction, rotation, adduction, abduction…so didn’t know what to make of it. Now, I think maybe the underlying culprit is manifesting, and I’m not happy about it: a Morton’s neuroma. It’s not so bad when I’m wearing shoes, but barefoot is out of the question. A metatarsal support will help. But this thorn in the flesh is likely another “permanent” fixture in this impermanent house of clay. Oy.

The Only Constant is Change

My first passing through Floyd County was back in 1976. The purpose was to reach the bottom of Rock Castle Gorge and photograph wild flowers along Rock Castle Creek with my Minolta SRT 101 and screw-in close up lenses. The long, deep valley was lush with Trilliums, Foam Flower, Spring Beauties and was the first and only place I’d seen Virginia Bluebells and Dwarf Crested Iris across vast swaths of cove hardwood forest floor. I saw very little of that rich diversity on two visits to the same site last week. Why? Probably simply changes associated with succession–the natural progression of plant species that come with movement towards the “climax” community of the bioregion. And on the same front porch of the one remaining house in a once-populated valley, see the early and the late successional stages of the hiker-photographer–senescent but still standing, satisfied that, with or without bluebells, this forest has a mutable immortality. Life goes on, within us and without us…

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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. Sorry to hear about Rhoda – I hope that the other chickens are okay!

    As soon as you mentioned pain in toes 2,3 and 4, I thought “Morton’s neuroma” – even before you said you couldn’t reproduce the pain by orthopedic manipulation. Sounds exactly like a Morton’s neuroma to me – I’ve had one for the past 20+ years, and it isn’t really that bad if I wear the right shoes. (Forget about high heels, but I suspect that’s not as much of an issue for you anyway.) Supposedly cortisone shots can sometimes be effective at treating neuromas, but cortisone shots are really no fun at all, and I tried it three times to no avail.

  2. I remember from cadaver lab how incredibly tough the sole of the foot is; I’d hate the thought of needing a hammer to get the needle sub-cu. I think I’ll just limp and complain a lot.

  3. I haven’t had a computer for two months while we’ve been on the road, and it was a delight to return to a “creek jots” entry, my favorite reading. You give us readers a little of everything in these entries, and this was even more wide-ranging, with the delightful poetic description of the coming of a spring shower to your valley. It’s good to be back!