Jayber Crow, born in Goforth, Kentucky, orphaned at age ten, began his search as a “pre-ministerial student” at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with “Old Grit,” his profound professor of New Testament Greek. “You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out–perhaps a little at a time.” “And how long is that going to take?” “I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.” “That could be a long time.” “I will tell you a further mystery,” he said. “It may take longer.” Eventually, after the flood of 1937, Jayber becomes the barber of the small community of Port William, Kentucky. From behind that barber chair he lives out the questions that drove him from seminary and begins to accept the gifts of community that enclose his answers. The chair gives him a perfect perch from which to listen, to talk, and to see, as life spends itself all around. In this novel full of remarkable characters, he tells his story that becomes the story of his town and its transcendent membership.
A damp and soggy weekend followed close on the heels of Joaquin – a blessing in disguise for the Blackmon clan. Most all of our activities were cancelled in anticipation of bad weather. We ended up spending the entire weekend together, as a family should. With each peek out the window to check the weather I stared at another house, which caused me to pine for the South. I was reminded of the late Charles Kuralt who wrote:
“In the South, the breeze blows softer than elsewhere through the pine trees, and accents fall softer on the ear. Neighbors are friendlier, and noiser, and more talkative. (By contrast with the Yankee, the Southerner never uses one word when ten or twenty will do.) The spring is prettier, the summer hotter and happier, the fall longer and sadder, the winter shorter than elsewhere on the continent. This is a different place. Our way of thinking is different, as are our ways of seeing, laughing, singing, eating, meeting and parting. Our walk is different, as the old song goes, our talk and our names. Nothing about us is quite the same as in the country to the north and west. What we carry in our memories is different too, and that may explain everything else.”
The colorful crescendo of fall is nigh at hand. Certainly, the Old Dominion State will be draped in beautiful color soon, but I find myself longing for the smell of Tennessee tobacco barns. I’ve been so busy I almost failed to recognize that my favorite season is upon us.
We can get busy in this rat race if were not careful – neglect that which is most precious. In 1990, Barbara Bush gave us some sage advice. She told the ladies of Wellesley College, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”
In the coming weeks I hope we all carve out a little time, steal a few hours, to strole along a scenic byway with someone we love. It’s medicinal, I assure you.