As I grow older, I spend a lot of time reminiscing about the 1960s. From The Beatles and Dark Shadows to POW bracelets, the My Lai Massacre, and Kent State, my strongest memories, those that formed the adult I became, have roots in that decade.
Last Thursday, I attended a reception for Alabama writer Frye Gaillard. His latest book, A Hard Rain: Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost, owes its title to a Bob Dylan song; the soul of the book, as its subtitle indicates, pays homage to the dark and light sides of the 1960s.
Gaillard, writer-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, combines personal memory with research in his remarkable book. He eloquently addresses not only the political turmoil but also the culture of the time: the role literature, music, and art, as well as religion, played in calling for peace and equality and an appreciation for the planet.
Gaillard shares stories, some first-hand experiences, about Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, but also acknowledged the importance of Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, Mister Rogers, and Johnny Cash, John Glenn, Harper Lee, Rachel Carson, Janis Joplin, and many other activists and icons.
His book is a bittersweet look that goes far beyond nostalgia to offer hope and inspiration: to bring back the spirit of a time when so many Americans – even against the backdrop of a horrible war –stood for peace and made strides to ensure social justice and protect our environment.
When he quoted Amos’s words about letting justice “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” I felt tears forming in my eyes. By the time he read Wendall Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things, the tears had started to roll – and that’s a good thing.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
…. I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I highly recommend A Dark Rain.
Marian Carcache welcomes
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.