A road is a scar that takes you somewhere
Land to me means a gravel road beneath my childhood feet, seashells and debris where houses once stood, and an ever-deepening realization that what we love must be cared for, not possessed. My family was, is, a phenomenon disappearing from American life – the extended clan of grandmothers, parents, ancient aunts, wandering uncles, overflowing cousins all living on one shared parcel of land, six generations running. Our land touched the grey Gulf of Mexico, hugging each side of a bayou, bordered by thin pine glades to the east and west. I only realized how well I knew those geographic contours the day I saw a satellite image, hours after Hurricane Katrina tore through, and recognized just where that bayou wound, bordered now by concrete slabs and broken tree trunks. I was far away when it happened, but later I dug with my father through the sand where our house had been. I found a seashell: a fragile, unmistakable token of the ocean’s incontestable claim upon what I had loved.
Four years later, my family still lives in the same community, but not on that land so familiar to my feet. We are learning what it is to remain rooted even in the absence of security. We have been given the knowledge, bitter and joyful, that what matters is how we care for the people beside us today and the earth upon which we stand right now; that our claims are short-lived but our responsibility immense.