Why, What, Where, When and Who?

The new year always brings a time of reflection — of looking back and looking ahead — and maybe more so than is usual what with my wide-open calendar in my future life untethered to the world of work. I’ve confessed that I’m wondering what it is that I am about. Why do I do what I do? Why do I care about what I care about, write about, and photograph? What has been and what will be at the core of my energies and time?

I have taken some care to be as succinct as I can be towards declaring a holistic mission statement for my writing in the “author’s note” to my two books. And I continue to try to distill even from that a better understanding of my purpose so that I can be a better communicator and teacher out of what small portion of good sense and wisdom I might have gained while peering through various lenses to view life and living, nature and behavior.

I had intended to go somewhere else entirely with this morning’s limited time to write, but preparations for the coming weather and a meeting in town hijacked those intentions. But I had clipped those bits of “mission” text and will include them here, if for nothing else than to be able to come back and re-examine how they might help me excavate through all the overburden daily routine and habit and ennui to find a reason to write, to share, to blog, to be. I’ll leave it at that for now.

…Looking through this lens at the terrain of your daily life may offer clarity and depth to your seeing, to your understanding and to your caring for the places and people in your own local habitat.

It’s a risky business exposing one’s thoughts and fears, memories and hopes to strangers. But I’m convinced that from this kind of unselfconscious hyper-local personal story-telling, you’ll discover that you and I are not all that different.

In the end, there’s no them and us; there’s only us. We can and must grow together in our families and communities, building our future upon each other’s humor and courage, wisdom and strength of character–now more than ever.
from What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader

I know this from my photographer’s experience: any image I take is one of a kind. Each composition in light or in words is unique. The light will never be that color from that angle on that exact configuration of barn, tree or wildflower ever again.

And this: that we too often take for granted the extraordinary senses of vision and hearing, touch and smell that are our gifts–opportunities given us by which we could know the familiar beauties too often missed or dismissed in our hurried lives.

We have so little time in the present and there is so very much to take in and share. There are wonders all around. From our everyday lives, these familiar things may seem unremarkable to us. But in these precious instants in time, if we keep our eyes open and our hearts ready to know it, there is nothing ordinary.
from Slow Road Home~ a blue ridge book of days

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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. The following quote from your “Mission Statement” is the best expression of why I read your blog as often as I can:
    “I’m convinced that from this kind of unselfconscious hyper-local personal story-telling, you’ll discover that you and I are not all that different.”
    It’s good for a city folk like me to know that she can relate to such a deeply ingrained country folk as you, and imagine myself living your life.