This Time Last Year

image copyright Fred First

“I can’t remember what I was doing this time last week, let alone this time last year” Ann often confesses when I slip into one of my time-traveling reveries. The past is the foundation for today, and every day is the anniversary of another brick and mortar time worth building into the present. The weblog certainly helps in this time travel, but all you have to do is pay attention to your senses to reconnect with last year this time, or the year before, or three decades ago.

Last November 05 shares with today the very same seasonal smell of wood smoke and dry leaves. It bears the identical feel of the cool air on my neck in this morning-drafty old house, the same insect noises or bird calls just out the door–or silence but for the creek’s babble on this frosty morning. The stage is the same, the players, props and plots have, of course, changed, as life goes on.

Last year when the leaves smelled and crunched underfoot just so and on a day after the moon rose over the east ridge in the very same notch where it did last night, I was hanging out with Jonathan. A talented freelance photographer, this kind and intelligent young man had contacted me in the spring (via a google search on Floyd) about a photo project he wanted to do in the county and pitch to a major magazine. I learned a lot from him, including how many tools of the trade it takes to be prepared for every photo-opportunity.

The day this photo was taken, he was here at the house when the lighting on the barn drew his eye and camera’s lens, as it had mine so many times before. He pulled out not only his 7 foot tripod from the back of his van, but also an aluminum stepladder to take advantage of the higher perspective that gave a composition not obtainable any other way. (Note: the metal ash bucket is not one of Jonathan’s tools.)

I coveted his study Domke camera bag. I’ve had mine almost a year now. He said I should be using a polarizing filter more; now, I do. And he had this really fine pistol-grip camera head for a tripod that would position with the legs straddled out almost their full length for a very wide base of support–a capability that was useful when he and I were trying to get sunset images from the top of Buffalo Mountain in a 35 mph wind that would have blown over a lesser support. Mine won’t extend to 7 feet, but I have the camera head now and a great Manfrotto tripod that’s certainly good enough for an amateur. I’ve had it more than a week and haven’t had a chance to use it yet.

Maybe I’ll test it out today. The sky promises to pink up a bit here just before dawn; frost is heavy on the barn roof I can see just now. Might be I’ll come inside when I’m done, have another cup of coffee, and bring to light an image–yet another image of the barn and pasture–that I’ll look back on fondly on November 05, 2007. And the years and anniversaries just keep coming.

Update: Sunrise image captured! Will post tomorrow, right here–a new-site FFF exclusive!

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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. fred- i am continuously amazed at how in tune you are with your senses. i’m definitely of the same sentiment as your wife- i have to struggle just to remember what i did 3 or 4 days ago. maybe it’s town living since i don’t have all those rich country smells and sounds to imprint and trigger memories!

  2. Fred, the new version of the blog looks great. You got rid of the terrible purple type.
    The light-gray type on darker-gray background is a little harder to read than dark type on light background, but the photos look wonderful this way. If I put my monitor on “ultra bright mode/graphics,” it’s just fine.
    Looking forward to tomorrow’s photo.

  3. Looking good. There’s a nice article on Floyd in the December issue of Blue Ridge Country magazine. The first picture with the article sure looks like your barn but the credit to the photog/barn owner was very vague.

  4. Yep, I had four images included with that article, and yep, I was miffed there were no photo credits, only my name included in the “contributing photographers” in wee print in the front of the magazine. Brought in a few dollars,though, and enough to persuade me to get a “real” tripod, finally.