Yesterday was my twentieth birthday. Twenty years ago Mississippi was hot and sweaty; today it's still pretty hot and sweaty. A hurricane was bearing down on the US coast, and hurricanes have come and gone a few more times. Some we remember more than others. Reagan was President; more Presidents have been made and unmade. Wars have been fought and won and lost and left to simmer. Wars and rumours of wars and echoes of the end. Empires have crashed and risen; nations come and gone. The Wall came down; others still remain. Things have been shaken we never thought could be.
Some things I remember from the years in between:
Watching the tanks roll across the sand. Watching them again.
Sledding on cardboard in two-inch deep Alabama snow.
The Gulf angry and grey in the wintertime.
Watching the sun rise over the Appalachians and the mountains burst into golden fire.
Watching the clouds drift in the Chinese mountains and the sun break out and illumine the rice terraces falling down the valley.
Realizing just how wonderful bluegrass sounded.
That first campfire and sandy campsite with my father by the Sipsey Fork.
Seeing those towers fall and feeling it was all a dream we would wake up from soon.
Realizing how bad people can be- people you know and trusted- and wishing it were all a dream and we would wake up soon.
Listening to the trees shattering and falling in the wind.
My first airplane ride and thinking how beautiful the quilted plains looked from up so high.
Playing bingo with my great-grandmother in her little house at night and traveling into the past with her.
The impeachment trials.
Eating breakfast in a monastery.
The time my father got his shoulders stuck in a narrow little cave passage and I was behind him and he was really badly stuck. (He shoved and pushed until he eventually got free.)
Baptisms in the Sipsey River (a different one) among the tea-orangebrown water and the cypress knees.
Burrowing in the hay piles in the barn with my brother and my grandfather in his red and black plaid watching from the four-wheeler.
Showering under waterfalls.
Walking out of the airport in Kunming.
The sun setting through the pine trees and the wind blowing and it smelling so good it was like some kind of rapture.
I have had a remarkably good life so far. I have seen more and experienced more than I ever dreamed I would when I was young and dreamt my way into far-off places. I have been blessed by God more than I ever could deserve. I hope I can become more grateful. I pray I will not waste whatever further years are given me.