At six this morning, I am deep in the last-minute re-thinking of what I might say to a sizable audience of mixed-age authors and their families and friends on Friday in Wytheville.

I have not been able to get comfortable with my “commencement speechifying” and am reverting to a less formal, more conversational approach, as befits a “folk writer” like me. I am writing about writing, about story telling, about the unique events and characters and settings that come in and out of our lives that enrich our existence and our personal narratives.

And out of the revery of that deep pondering I am suddenly shaken by the dog’s resonant woofs from the next room, a more urgent barking than deer usually trigger, their object somewhere out the open windows that view the barn and pasture. Maybe this time, a stray cat, a bear, a coon or some other more unfamiliar intruder, I wondered, and got up from my keyboard to take a look.

It is our neighbor coming out of the woods, walking down our pasture road, south to north, just crossing the creek as I come to the window. She is wearing a white bathrobe.

There must be a story here. It is not mine to tell.

I come back to my work and pick up where I left off.

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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. Apparitions come in all colors; Sunday evening, driving N on 8 past Simmons we saw a incredibly defined black outline of a bear.
    Walking, no sauntering across the pavement, then ducking under the guard rail and disappearing down the bank.
    The bear was like a black hole, no features other than the absence of all light within it’s limits. And flexible like a limbo dancer as it ducked the rail.

  2. Jeff, I’ve had that same impression of “black hole” so non-reflective is the suede-black of a bear. Only the eyes give back any light, and you don’t generally see them but a brief second.