Monday, July 30, 2007



There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.
Annie Dillard

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie Dillard penned those words in her Pulitzer Prize book, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in 1974. At the time she was writer in residence at Hollins College and spent hours upon hours sitting beside that ordinary stream. I read her book shortly thereafter, and it had a profound impact on me.

First I felt a keen sense of community pride in knowing that Annie Dillard wrote that internationally acclaimed book right here in the Roanoke Valley. One of my best friends was living in faculty housing at Hollins back then and would frequently go with Annie to just hang out by the creek with her. She even was mentioned in the book several times. I thought that was so cool.

Even more importantly, that book impacted the way I perceived my environment. Growing up beside the Kinsey Dairy which later became Arrowood (Countryside), I was used to traipsing around the course as my father played rounds of golf. While he played, I wandered the wilder sections just off the fairways.

Before Annie’s book, I already found great enjoyment in finding living treasures under the flight path of the Piedmont DC-3’s and later Boeing 707’s. I’d see all types of snakes and invariably all of them were misidentified as copperheads or water moccasins (There are no poisonous water snakes in these parts). I’d surprise red foxes and even the more shy grey foxes as they slinked around the seventeenth hole. All manner of birds flitted around, singing atop their lungs. My favorite birds were the Meadowlarks. They’re hard to come by these days, but back then, they’d nest in the grassy rough areas beside twelfth hole fairway. Their brown-speckled white eggs were tough to spot nestled in the tall grasses. Nice bass and catfish swam in the sixteenth hole lake and good-sized perch there made for some excellent fishing afternoons. The lake at the seventh tee and sixth green had some of the largest bullfrogs hiding in their mud holes on the shore. I’d walk past those big ‘ole frogs, and they would let out resonating burps before diving into their mud homes. I never was quick enough to catch them. Over at the second hole pond, snapping turtles ruled the water like alligators. Frankly, I was always scared of them. Dillard’s book made me realize how rich and fragile this living world really is.

As a judgment day looms, I find myself sitting back and wondering why I care so deeply about saving Countryside. In the end my best response to myself is that if I don’t stand up and be counted, then I’d always live to regret it. Countryside is more than a golf course and recreation space to me. It’s a living wild society co-existing with Man’s mechanical world. That society has endured the scars of Man; planes, roads, homes, and golfers. It’s learned to adapt to all of that. But the changes being contemplated by our city leaders this time, if enacted, would permanently erase that society.

There’s an avenue that is being ignored by the city, however. Countryside is a gem; a rough one, but one that only needs polishing. Wise city planners could use the existing space as a recreational hub that would utilize the existing beauty of the land coupled with the accessibility of the tract for its citizens’ benefit. Such a recreational plan, which includes golf, tennis, swimming and recreation center, need not permanently pave over the existing environment.

So as decision time nears, I say very loudly to anyone reading this: SAVE COUNTRYSIDE!

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.
Ansel Adams

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Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary

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