Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Remembering Wilma Dykeman

Isn't it time to set up a realistic accounting system? One to include damage to air or water or land, to the health of a human being?

The above words were penned by author Wilma Dykeman, in her novel Return The Innocent Earth. Today I attended a memorial service honoring Wilma, and it was glorious, and humbling, and thrilling, and educational. I can't remember a time when Wilma Dykeman's name was not known to me; I knew of her first because her name was on the dust jacket of The French Broad, an autographed First Edition of which sat on my parents' bookshelf (as it now has an honored place on mine). In later years I would read some of her works, and I came to know of her as friend to my great aunt, Dexter Dillingham, and my cousin, Norma Dillingham Morgan.

But I don't believe I fully realized, until today, what an exceptional human being she was. She wrote about the environment before Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. She wrote about race relations before Martin Luther King made his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Her novels featured strong female characters before "Women's Lib" came into full swing. Today's celebration included practically a Who's Who of North Carolina -- including some of my favorite authors, namely Fred Chappell, John Ehle, and Sharyn McCrumb -- and all of them, even her contemporaries, seemed as awed by her as I now am.

In the words of her son, James Stokely III, "I would put her in the 'renaissance' tradition. She had such a broad spectrum of talents, such an impressive series of artistic paths. She turned out to be good at everything she tried. And she turned out to be very good at a few things."  

Someone I should do well to emulate, I believe.

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