My most important memories of early childhood are of Gramercy and Baton Rouge, places that seem in memory bright with color, drenched in light, alive with beauty. They are, I believe, memories that have fed me and made me the sort of writer I am. By the age of 13, I had lived in many places--South Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, Delaware, North Carolina--but somehow those early memories of Louisiana have remained touchstones of the beautiful for me. The levee, the little mud towers under the house, the moonflowers at night, extravagance of blossom by day, the pink-throated lizards dangling helplessly from my ear lobes, the sugar garden in our backyard, the plants that spired up into the trees, the plums and bamboo, the shrimp in the rock pools: all these and more changed me. Did I regret leaving a place that was, to me, magical? Yes.
Back then I did not know that fragile, perishable things--civility, courtesy, respect, truth, goodness, beauty, order, civilization that allows the arts and human beings to flourish--are always at risk in our world. Though small, I knew death, even in the heart of my own family. But I did not yet know that such things as murder, chaos, and moral darkness could be.
And now we all know, over and over again, even on this very day, how fragile and perishable things are swept away. In Baton Rouge and Baghdad, in Dallas and Nice. We know lives lost needlessly to shadow. It is up to us, each one, to stand up for those fragile, perishable things, to praise them, to mourn when they are swept away, to do our very best to keep and protect them.
|Father and son. Officer Montrell Jackson, |
one of our public servants murdered in Baton Rouge today.
Dormit in pace.
I wrote this post especially for Greg Langley, the former (and the very wonderful) Books Editor of The Baton Rouge Advocate.