Saturday, September 15, 2012

Atticus' daughters

I have started three different blogs and diverted each time.  Travel can do that to me.  My trip has taken me across the panhandle of Oklahoma, where dusty wheat stubble and abandoned homesteads paint images of the dust bowl.

New Mexico was singed by fires, but here in Southern Colorado the air is crisp and clear, the mountains are just tinged by the rising sun, and a snow capped peak is just over the next ridge.  I decided this morning, surrounded by all this beauty, to write about one of my first trips.  It was the journey that I now realize played a part in opening my mind and expanding my perspective about the world and it's people.

I had lived my life in rural Georgia where people around me had shown a civility that melted away as racial tensions in the south came to a head.  People I had respected began to use the "N" word and to speak with a vicious venom that frightened me.  I am going back in time to a different type of journey, to the early 60's when the adults around me began to show their human frailties, and their prejudice.

Just before I turned 13, after a summer of escalating violence and demonstrations, four girls, my age, were killed when a church was bombed in Birmingham Alabama.  I identified with them and from that moment on looked for something to help me understand what was happening around me.  The adults were wrong.  I lost my faith and looked for something that could help me find a moral center.  (Alright, moral center is my older way of thinking about it, but that truly is what my 13 year old self did.)

Then I read a book.  It was a journey, a trip to a different place and time to an earlier version of Alabama than the one that I saw burning, but to a version that had the same forces that were driving the horrors of the day.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  Harper Lee gave me such a personal gift when she shared her father through Atticus Finch.  I was Scout sitting on his knee as he talked calmly and wisely and with a truth and rightness that I so  needed to hear.  I became one of Atticus' daughters.

I have found many other of his daughters, women of an age, who found strength and hope from Atticus, and steered by the compass he set. Sin is to go against your heart, to willfully do what you know is wrong.  I think we all have the ability to know right from wrong.  It sometimes takes energy and courage to make the right choice.  Thank you Atticus.  It is a sin to kill a mockingbird.


  1. I don't know how I missed this post but I am grateful to have read your account. I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird at my grandmother's when I was twelve. The impact was just as you described, a seminal moment...forever changed. Thank you.

  2. I read it too, and saw the movie. It was during the time that the little girls were killed. I think the affect of the book was enhanced by the need I had because of those killings.