Friday, January 2, 2009


We began the New Year by washing some bottles we found on our property, three small green and one larger Pepsi, all glass, will twist-off bottle caps that read “Expires 9/30/88.” Then we filled them with a rolled-up message, a large “GREETINGS” visible from the outside: “If you find this bottle, please write back to us. . . . We set this bottle adrift on January 1, 2009 from Mill Creek, in the New River Watershed. Please tell us when and where you found it and who you are." We tied a red bow around the neck to help distinguish these from the rest of the trash. We hope that this, and “Greetings,” and the shape and color of these bottles, will make them noticeable. Then we walked down below “Sam’s Dam” and bid them bon voyage, ran with them along the bank and saw them navigate snags and bends, tumble and roll down some mini-rapids, “This is a real adventure Dad,” Elliot told me, only to watch them get hung up in some ice near our neighbor’s creek. They will have to wait until the next thaw, or flood, before they continue their journey.

We also took down our tree, a live one, purchased this year again from the Lion’s Club in Radford. I have about a 30% success rate with these live fraser firs, which like it cool, so we’re hoping that they’ll do better out in the country. We chose a spot up near the sledding hill and to provide some privacy break from another neighbor’s field. I can see it from my desk window now.

It was quite a chore getting it out of the house. We have a dolly that we used to move it out, then we ran the dolly up onto a trailer that hooks onto the tractor. Sam drove the tractor switchback up the garden hill while Elliot and I pushed and tried to keep the dolly from rolling right out the back again. But we made it and after rolling the tree in its new home, we eyed it up to plumb and filled with dirt, keeping the trunk base clear and just above the ground, cut the ropes and pulled back the burlap some, add water and good wishes for a healthful New Year.

Sam kept right on digging a “foxhole” nearby when we were done. That’s one good thing about having some land. At our old place, I feared twisting an ankle at every sign of buried treasure or trench. But there plenty of places out here for foxholes.

Later in the day, we took a walk up Piney Woods and up a path that travels through some neighbor’s 50 acres. We met them the other day, an older couple, Jim and Linda Coyle, and they gave us permission to walk their land anytime. “Enjoy,” he said to me. “Really? You don’t mind?” He smiled again, waved his hand as if to cover the perimeter, ridge to ridge, road to creek, “Enjoy,” he said again, a little slower and more emphatic. So we walked past what Linda says was an old schoolhouse, brown clapboard with white trim, maroon metal roof, and then we found a fallen tree to cross Mill Creek. We walked home along the creek, crossing a built bridge this time and a gazebo of some people we don’t yet know.

All in all, a very good start to 2009, a year in which I hope for more of the same: exploring the creek, planting something green, sending greetings (by whatever means) to friends downstream. Whoever you are, wherever, happy 2009, and thanks for visiting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still remember watching the film version of Paddle to the Sea in kindergarten--I was swept away by the mystery, the adventure, and the sense of one boy's connection to a larger world. In terms of the person I have grown up to become, I can honestly say that one morning in the auditorium at Garden Hills Elementary school has resonated for 35 years. Good luck with your message bottles--I'm sure you'll keep us posted if word gets back to you.