Southern Festival of Books

The last event this fall in celebration of Underwater Panther takes me to Nashville, Tennessee, to the Southern Festival of Books this weekend.

Our panel is titled “Light in Darkness,” and I’ve thought a lot about that phrase. No matter where we come from, we all know how darkness can make us feel small.

Near Nashville is Stones River National Battlefield and Murfreesboro. Two of my grandfather’s great-uncles died there within five days of each other in February 1863. They were twins, about 19 or 20 years old.TindallStar.jpg

We don’t know much about them, and we’ll never know what motivated them to serve the Union. But idealism did run high in our family. This branch had owned slaves in Delaware, but they left that behind when they moved to Illinois in the 1830s. The twins’ big brother, my greater-grandfather, was a Baptist minister full of the Word.

When I think of light in darkness, in this place, I can’t help but think of these two young men, and I am encouraged to think past death, and grief, where I have been struggling, to the gift of possibilities that they bequeathed me. This, of course, is only a very small part of a much larger picture.

We inherit the world created by the people before us. Our children inherit the world we are creating now.

When I was little and my father tucked me in, he would say, “Good night, sleep tight. Wake up bright in the morning light, to do with right, with all your might,” and he would pause, and I would say, “with everybody.” By definition, light makes darkness go away.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. in the Nashville Public Library, I’ll be part of this panel with the fantastic Christina Stoddard and John C. MannoneHumanities Tennessee works to bring together a wide variety of writers from across the country for this festival. Look over the list here and see what you might enjoy.

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