Do Not Leave Adult Unattended

Finding Focus: Berries near Columbia Regional Hospital
Finding Focus: Berries near Columbia Regional Hospital

I need to be at my multitasking best, but the recent family crisis has muddled my brain.

In Columbia two weeks ago, had our daughter not been with us downtown for lunch, I would never have found my way back to the car. I had driven and parallel-parked, but had not paid the least attention to street names, landmarks, direction of travel–none of the usual carefully noted details that keep a grown-up oriented.

Disoriented. Yes, I admit to it: I’m having difficulty maintaining my direction, my drive and my determination long enough to complete a task, much less make any real progress on my long outline of today’s to-dos.

My mind wanders. Or it just fades out. In the middle of a conversation, a train of thought, even a movie for diversion, at some point I realize I haven’t been attending. This is not a good head-space with which to embark on so many hours ahead of speakers, dialogue and need for attention to place, person and time. So I’m having to slap myself around a bit this morning. Buck up, hunker down, get your head in the game, Fred.

Once I’m there (at the SEJ Madison Conference) and as totally immersed as I’m going to get, I’ll shift, I trust, into my group-centric persona, put on my socially-gregarious game face vs my tendency to back up to a wall somewhere and become invisible; be a good listener, take lots of notes, create lists for follow-up at home, drink lots of coffee (and hopefully not too much microbrew, but…) and pretend the so-called real world back home doesn’t exist on the side of the artificially anesthetic worm-hole I’ll have passed through for a short while.

With regard to keeping in touch–should there be any interest–I’m likely to post once to the blog in the morning before meetings start, and then add updates to the post for that day, not sure if updates trigger rss reader notifications. I’ll also use tweetdeck to post simultaneously to twitter and facebook for current events (Al Gore, Tom Vilsack, Paul Ehrlich, and others to speak.) I’ll act as if any of this matters, since doing so will help me stay “in attendance” perhaps to some degree. We’ll see.

And with any luck, I’ll be able to find my hotel room most of the time and my car in long term parking when I return.

Image, from a brief look away– through the blessed escape of the camera lens– two weeks ago in Columbia, a few hundred yards from Henry’s NICU. I haven’t bothered trying to ID these berries. Anybody recognize them by name?

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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. Sometimes during rough weather, after all the frantic emergency patching and all the necessary and sometimes futile (and always exhausting) rearranging and clamping down of loose objects has taken place, we need to just go and hunker down in a safe place. So hunker down, drink from the carefully and foresightfully bottled knowledge that lays stored up for you at your safe place, and come back recharged for what the next days may bring…

  2. Take time to enjoy your disorientation, I have found that mine has taken me to places I would have never been aware of. Some are surreal, some are not real, but most are just scattered fragments of my mind worth rediscovering and occasionally recovering.

    Just a thought.

  3. I had similar experiences last week of wondering where I had left my briefcase, and having to retrace the 8 mile drive to discover it in the office chair. And looking up after lunch at a meeting to discover that I had missed seeing something that was right in front of my eyes for hours. It gave solace to my wife (we are, after all, not developing dementia.) But it is a clear sign of my over-work and giving attention to so many details that in the long run don’t matter anyway. A change of scenery and focus may work wonders, but there are still matters that hold precious space in the corners of our minds.

  4. I hope you are having an exciting, diverting time of it in Madison. As you are completely helpless to have any effect on your family’s tribulation, diverting yourself and resting your brain from worry is the best thing you can do.