History, which is more than famous events,
And places, which are more than what we know of their histories,
Have life. Ancestral and modern, easily accessible and secret,
Life flows in streams and collects in pools
Such that those who wander by
Are free to share.
But seeing is not knowing:
Even more, knowing is not feeling
The reality of a place; that is only granted
To those willing to love long through
All the changing seasons and ways.
And so have I loved Alabama:
Its highways and back roads,
Shores and rivers, hills and forests,
People and places, music and lyrics,
Dreams and aspirations,
Sentences and paragraphs.
A place is not a thing, defined
Primarily by its unity; it is
A Shakespeare Festival and a fried chicken stand,
An ice skating rink and a windsurfer’s shop,
And teenage girl playing soccer and a young man shooting pool.
It is every kind of music sung by every kind of voice,
Some whose ancestors lived here long before yours or mine,
And others who got here ten minutes ago.
And so have I known many of Alabama’s moods
Through seasons and through decades,
Turbulent, complicated, transformative, regenerative;
Following signs, some of them pointing merely to other signs,
Through words and over headlines, out to that long stretch
Where stories get told and lives get lived,
And the traveler gets welcomed in for
A cool drink, and a chance to catch his bearings.
So share I these, now, with you:
As part of what I am, and what I’ve felt.