Editorial: In search of clarity

Early Sunday morning, for many Rappahannock residents, brought the season’s first frost. And with it comes a certain clarity of vision — the sky seems a bit clearer, the colors somehow richer. Indeed, all human senses seem heightened and honed by the crisp, clean, bracing air. The words themselves — “first frost” — have a certain poetic ring about them.

So, yes, it’s the perfect time of year to reacquaint yourself with favorite poems. For me, that means Wendell Barry of rural Kentucky and William Carlos Williams of Rutherford, N.J. I mention their geographic homes because both poets committed themselves to writing in and about the unique places that defined and inspired them. From this sense of time and place, precisely and concretely evoked, comes context and meaning.

“No ideas but in things,” was the Williams manifesto, as his poems bore down laser-like on the peculiarities of Rutherford. So, too, is Rappahannock County inspiring, defining and meaningful in the things uniquely ours this fall: apples and antiquing, high school volleyball and soccer, hummingbird sightings and always, always, the Blue Ridge Mountains as a frame.

We get into trouble when we focus not on things but on the adjectives and adverbs used to describe our neighbors’ behavior and ideas we don’t agree with: “Shameful.” “Disgruntled.” “Self-serving.” These are the kinds of words that have been heard around here a lot lately, especially regarding governance of the town of Washington. There’s no clarity in such words.

On the subject of things, this newspaper can be called a thing, at least in its printed, physical form. And last week’s edition did not manifest itself, as it usually does, in all subscribers’ hands in a timely fashion. We can’t blame the post office, but only our new printer — and thus ourselves. And we apologize.

On the subject of clarity, here’s an idea: What if the citizens of the town of Washington were to have a referendum on whether it should remain a separate jurisdiction from the rest of Rappahannock, of which it happens to be the county seat?

Like the recent vote in Scotland about whether it should remain a part of the United Kingdom, such a referendum might put any controversy — and associated name-calling — finally to rest.

Walter Nicklin