The tears have started. They flow. They stop. They sneak out one at a time, or they flood out in a wave of pain. If you have read much of my blog, you know how much I love my native state of Mississippi.
There is so much about her history and her present that is noble and honorable and worthy of pride. A significant number of our people are far-sighted and self-sufficient and have enough self pride to dig in and work hard, hard, hard to come through disasters and problems.
Waiting for Hurricane Gustav to come ashore and rip through so many lives and families is a journey down an emotional road I have not wanted to travel for at least three years.
Gordon and I have at least one friend who died faster than her cancer should have eaten away her life, probably because of the stress of losing everything to Hurricane Katrina. I can't bear to count up all the friends who lost husbands or wives or fathers or mothers or brothers or sisters DURING the storm.
Many more died from complications after Katrina chomped her way through my state. I don't think any of my acquaintances or friends lost children to Katrina.
Thankfully, most of the people we call friends shared from what they had left, shared from what was not hurt by the hurricane, gave their time and talent, gave out of faith that God would provide and protect and would restore more than they shared.
The majority of what you saw on television immediately following Katrina and in the subsequent months does NOT represent the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding, backbone of this state.
So, while we wait today and during the night for Hurricane Gustov to hit land, glued to the Weather Channel and Fox News, I am editing some photos from our last visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, July of 2007, almost two years after the historic storm.
In these photos, I hope you see optimism and steadfast determination in my fellow Mississippians. I hope you see some humor that could not be silenced. I hope you see beauty re-emerging.
I hope you see our respect for our historic buildings. Please see it as a respect for the difficulty of the journey of our fore-fathers and fore-mothers.
My love of our past here in Mississippi is not a blanket endorsement of every moment of political history since Mississippi became a state in 1817.
If you asked for opinions right now on some controversial subject in this country...just pick a subject...you would get as many opinions as people whom you asked. Why then, do historians lump all of us Southerners together in the same bubbling cauldron of civilian unrest that preceded the War Between the States and dotted the decades after the War?
Why, six generations after my great-great-great grandfather brought his four mother-less sons to Mississippi to carve a farm out of the wilderness in 1837, am I pre-judged and attributed with opinions or social perspectives based on what has been written in textbooks and history books by non Southerners or non-Mississippians?
Most of those books do not represent my hard-working farm based family nor the families who moved from the Carolinas at the same time and settled in the same area of Mississippi as my family, becoming multi-generational family friends.
Who was it who first said those words that have proven true throughout all of recorded history, "the victor writes the history"?
What I am sharing with you here is from the most private, the most intimate and sensitive part of my heart. This is from the part of my heart that guards my belief in and experiences with God and holds tight my growing love and trust in my husband. My love and responsibility to my family is guarded in this same part of my heart.
The Friendship Live Oak tree on the Gulf Coast Campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Long Beach, Mississippi, is a visual representation of what Mississippi is to me. She has provided acorns to start thousands, even millions of live oak trees all over the world. Her branches (family foundations and character) have provided shelter for millions who have come and stayed or who have come through this state on their way West.
Mississippi's generosity in charitable donations is documented at the top, per capita, in the nation for the last dozen or more years...just as the arms of this giant Historic Friendship Oak generously spread shade and shelter to countless visitors.
On this July, 2007, fast trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to give a speech, we had so little time to take pictures, so the yellow house pictures and dolphin topiary pics were shot through the windshield.
I was struck by how many restored or rebuilt house were painted a happy, hopeful yellow. I deeply understand that color choice.
Gordon and I have more photos to share with you from this trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I'll probably be editing them tonight while I cannot sleep.
May God protect life and health of those in the path of Hurricane Gustov tonight and tomorrow. The material possessions are just "stuff" that can be replaced.