The Vision Thing

That’s a borrowed phrase–as some may remember–used to describe a perceived deficit during GB the Elder’s reign. He lacked any clear port to steer toward in his administration. Unfortunately, the current Potentate the Younger suffers no such lack of vision. It’s what he sees so clearly as his mission that scares the daylights out of me.

Sorry, that is only a tangent taken once the post title popped up there. I want to think about more important matters than presidential manifest destiny. I need to be considering in the months ahead The Goose Creek Vision Thing.

With the coming of autumn, I feel less and less the pull of the currents that have swept me along for the past six months, the past 18 months, really, since Slow Road was dropped on my doorstep in April 2006.

Winter ahead holds the potential for a kind of stillness, for waters wider, deeper and less irresistable in its tug on my time and energy. I hope to be able to steer this tiny craft in the direction I chose. But where do I chose to go with the short days of the winter months, chill dark days that I hope will become a time to take stock and draw up the map of where to go from here? I really need the vision thing.

While there are a couple of larger destinations I might plan for, it is in the coalescing of a vision for another book that needs to take the highest priority. What will be its audience, its tone and voice, its composition, feel and character?

I have just started (yet again) to brainstorm some of these issues–a process whose results will constantly change. Here’s a beginning on answering “What will a reader come away with?” and of course one book at least from this source can’t begin to meet all these reader needs. But its a start. Your input is welcomed, of course.

What would you like to see in a full-color nature-centered book of Fragments images and text? What would make you pick it off the shelf and take it home–for you or your children or grandchildren (small, growing or grown-up?)

  • They will want to know more and more about more and more, begin to build relationships and memories in the out of doors
  • They will gain an enhanced sense of seasons and when and where to expect certain creatures again next fall or summer
  • They will come away more with a sense of and care for nature than lots of factoids about it
  • Parents will be encouraged and empowered to go outdoors with their children and begin the conversation with nature, guide their kids toward spontaneous discovery and play, using their muscles, senses and imaginations
  • A new or renewed appreciation for the world not made by man
  • A slower sense of time, a reduced sense of hurry, the ability to be a passive watcher and an active seeker
  • Learn to see beyond the surface in the natural world
  • Look for lessons in the ordinary, for pattern, shape, texture and the relationship of form to function
  • They will be excited about what can be learned and experienced by paying attention to things and places once ignored or taken for granted
  • Find meaning and significance in living nature, the lessons it has to teach about cooperation, recycling, economy and time
  • Gain a better sense of themselves in the grand scheme of things and begin to comprehend their connectedness to the living world
  • They will feel compelled to take better care of the planet the more they learn of it
  • Rekindle curiosity to know more as they come to distinguish one kind of similar thing from another, to notice differences where there had been only like-ness
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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. Hi Fred, you’re question “what will they come away with?” set my mind off on an interesting journey. Here’s where I wandered, on this rather dull Friday morning when my mind should really have been engaged on more mundane bread-winning activities:

    What would make me pick such a book off the shelf? It would have to touch something that is already present within me. People will only take away something they are already predisposed to receive. To some degree, you’ll always be “preaching to the choir” — you’ll have to touch in the reader one or many of those aspects of vision which you list. But I guess that goes without saying really.

    I think there are two facets to the appeal of a book — the theme, or purpose, of the book, and the language, both verbal and visual, and spirit of it. The what and the how, if you like. Most likely it’s the theme that attracts initially, but the language and spirit which holds the attention. If I’m to take it to the cash desk and take it home with me, it would have to have the promise of blowing on the sparks that a casual glance had ignited. And that is a very personal thing; what kindles a flame in one leaves another cold. So to reach a cross-section, variety will be key.

    But going back to your brainstorm, it seems to me that a sense of wonder and delight in the natural world is perhaps the root from which grow so many of those aspirations you list. And if we believe that the inspiration for that wonder and delight is intrinsic in nature, then we simply need to have our eyes opened and our gaze brought to bear until we grasp it for ourselves.

    And here, as Hamlet would have said, is the rub — to communicate such things visually, I can’t help thinking that you’re going to need large format, very high quality printed images. Although maybe you can keep the cost down by supplementing those with images which pick out a particular element of detail in a subject – images that can be small but highly detailed – and then use the text to show us the wonder that we might otherwise pass by.

    I guess what I’m taking a very long and roundabout route to saying is: Show the readers your wonder and delight, let them share in it, hope that it will ignite similar responses of their own.

  2. Maybe the beauty, peace and wonder of what we have, and how it’s threatened by the vision of certain idiots who want to dominate and control, to obtain wealth to line their pockets, and boost their sick egos!

  3. Your pictures fill me with a sense of yearning for a place I haven’t been, as well as bring to mind sweet memories of a childhood spent in the rolling farmland of Wisconsin. Thank you. I’m sure the new book will do the same.

  4. Your visual essay (at the Franklin County Library) gave us the graphic contrast between the lights and noise of the video arcade full of young children, and your grandaughter playing with a discarded blue kite she found on the beach, then delightedly clambering around in your creek. Those images would help sell such a book…and the concept.

    Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in the woods (we are) so there would need to be something to appeal to city folks. I raised my kids, who then raised my grandkids, with a kitchen garden. They delighted in showing it off to visitors and neighbors. And they can grow many ‘crops’ such as cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, lettuce, small cukes, in pots or window boxes.

    With today’s valid concern about the cleanliness and safety of our produce, I’d suggest that possible topic.

    Schools, as you know, often set up an area as a neighborhood garden to show kids how much fun it can be to plant and tend crops, then pick them to take to their homes.

    OK, I’ll step down off my soapbox now…