(– As we continue to do today, I can’t help thinking, present intruding into my reading of the past.)
If Walker’s Vyry had been an actual person rather than a fictional character, she might have found her way into Wilkerson’s book, although only peripherally, since she was one who stayed rather than joining the Great Migration north. Be that as it may, she seems just as real as Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a woman Wilkerson writes of so beautifully, who when a girl in Mississippi had no concern for shades of darkness or lightness in her suitors:
…One color of wildflower was no better than another to her, so she made no distinctions whatsoever. She had a way of looking past the outer layer of people and seemed to regard everyone she met with a kind of searching intensity, as if this were the first person she had ever seen.
Imagine being the object of that kind of attention! No wonder the elderly Ida Mae was so beloved in her Chicago neighborhood, with everyone, even those who made their living outside the law, looking out for her health and safety.
Anyone tempted by the notion that the South’s secession from the Union and the ensuing war was not about slavery needs to read the story of the two Democratic conventions held in 1863, told in detail in Catton’s The Coming Fury.
Terrible things happened in our country’s history, as conquerors of the land gained mile by bloody mile, and yet somehow I can more easily face the “sins of our fathers” than the current anguished divisions, probably because the people of earlier centuries, killers and victims alike, are no longer in danger, while it feels as if everyone today is endangered, simply by being alive on earth. Threatened by viruses, by fires and floods, and by human-on-human violence, both physical and emotional. Hate erupts between strangers on a daily basis. “Go outside,” some advise, claiming that nature will heal our souls, but there’s no leaving home right now even in beautiful northern Michigan without being confronted by forests of political campaign signs, and it is very hard to look away and not read each one, very hard not to see our own neighbors (because we are not seeing the people, only their yard signs) in terms of friends and foes – not because we want to go to war with our neighbors but because all of us (on both sides, I’m sure) feel our country’s future and the future of democracy itself are under threat.
Although fairly consistently “waking into dread,” often as early as 3 a.m., I also visit islands of peace on a semi-regular basis. There was Labor Day at home, filling jars with summer bounty for our winter’s delectation. There was the (last!) farmers market the following Saturday, and that same afternoon, as part of a visit from David’s daughter, we had a sunny afternoon spent with her on back roads down in Sleeping Bear country while Bruce tended shop for us in Northport. Sarah enjoyed being along on that adventure, and we all loved being within the Lakeshore boundaries and away from campaign signs.
There have been other miscellaneous country walks and cruises, drives to visit cattle and horses and to note the beginnings of fall color and onset of fall wildflowers – pyrotechnical goldenrod, bouquets of asters, subtle stands of horse mint that always delight my eye.
Even necessary automotive errands and appointments in Traverse City, business that might otherwise seem tedious, afforded us an opportunity to explore a delightful little treasure of public land on Monday: nature center (closed), wildflower gardens and plantings, trails, and viewing platform over the former Sabin Pond, where the Boardman River now runs free again, a meandering, rippling, path through open meadow, fresh, running water sparkling in the sunshine.
So, as it does until – for each of us one day – it does no longer, life goes on. And while our emotional responses to each day vary, as does the weather of northern Michigan, we go on putting one foot in front of the other, taking one breath at a time, looking up from our books and out through our windows and around at our immediate surroundings to life’s gifts, great and small. What else can I tell you?