How 1968 Changed My Life in 2020

As a kid, I checked out a book about Martin Luther King from our small public library for a writing assignment. My dad drove me, helped me find the book, and we discussed it together. Nightly he proofed my draft essay, encouraging me to “think deeply.” My parents wanted us kids to understand racial injustice, then commonly slotted as “discrimination.”

At the same time, he worried that the library would register me as a “subversive.” I rather doubt that, but he wasn’t wrong about what was going on with “tracking,” as we all know now, though on a more sophisticated level.

Our house went dark when MLK was assassinated and then again for Robert F. Kennedy. I realize now that my parents didn’t know exactly how to talk about it to us, but we knew their outrage, grief, and sense of wrong. That sticks with you.

That turbulent summer of 1968, we made our annual trek to visit my dad’s parents in a small town in upper peninsula Michigan. Although we were far from Detroit, Watts, and D.C., where riots broke out nightly, this town of less than 5,000 people (in 2018), enforced curfews. When my grandparents scooted us outside and away from the news, my little brother and I peeked out from moonlit shrubs, concerned by what we’d seen on TV and wondering if we’d be arrested for being out past time.

At the same time, Lady Bird Johnson’s calm voice invited us to join her energetic projects to beautify America with plants that bolster spirits and regional botanical respect.

All these childhood influences came together in my adulthood: respect for people without regard to race, ethnicity, age, or partner preference, along with the importance of protecting and preserving our natural resources.

Native rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) was one of my first native plants. Native plants were hard to come by, but innovative Barton Springs Nursery (then on Sterzing just off Barton Springs Road) was growing for the future.

Recently, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s newsletter took a fascinating closeup look at how rock rose and pollinators interact. My picture doesn’t even come close to their phenomenal macro shots, so do give it a read!

And, thanks to gardening and CTG, I’m connected to gardeners around the country for their perceptions about life as much as about regional conservation work. One vibrant leader is Cottage in the Court’s Teresa Speight in D.C.
Cottage in the Court Teresa Speight website
With the latest murders of Black Americans, she wrote a powerful, heartfelt essay “How Long. . . A Grandmother’s Nightmare” where she asks, “How long will the color of my skin allow my race be assumed guilty just because?” Her deeply personal message gives me new insight that I value.

On the home front, next week Austin PBS and Decibel (the team that amplifies stories and issues important to Austin) presents ATX Together: Confronting Racism. Join the live conversation on Facebook on Monday, June 8 at noon or watch on Austin PBS June 11 at 7 p.m.
We CAN change the future though seeds of understanding and proactive response.

Thank you for stopping by, Linda