Type to search

Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

By Jim Durrett, President of The Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of Buckhead Community Improvement District

This view is not from Peachtree. As I write this from our cozy yurt in Teton Valley, Idaho, my view is of the sun rising over the Teton mountain range and beginning to warm our little slice of paradise, joining the fire in our wood stove as it has been taking the edge off of the cold for the last hour. We found this place years ago because I did a very good job of picking my grandparents. Their daughter, my mother, brought me out to Jackson Hole during my first year of life, and somewhere I have a photo of my diapers drying on the sagebrush in front of the cabin my grandparents built in the 1950s on the Wyoming side of the Tetons.

I have been corresponding this past week with a friend in Portland, Oregon who has not had the same relationship with fire as I have lately. He and his wife have been breathing some of the worst air on the planet, and his county has begun distributing N95 facemasks to help its citizens breathe more safely. As he shared with me in an email a few days ago, “The extent of the fires out here in the Northwest and California is mind-boggling.”

When we began our cross-country drive from Atlanta to Teton Valley two weeks ago, we planned our departure so as not to encounter the worst of the rain and wind from Hurricane Laura as it tracked across our planned route. As I write this, the Atlantic hurricane season statistically peaked two days ago and there are seven systems being watched, one or more of which may bring additional devastation to communities in and near the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Vacations are supposed to provide us with respite from our workday lives. But, thanks to email and text messages, I cannot escape all the news from Atlanta, and especially reports about the continuing nighttime behavior of those who seem not to care about how their activities bother others nearby. 

During the last year or so of my mother’s life, she would ask the same question of me each time I would take my leave after a visit with her. She would ask the same question of each of my three siblings as well. The question was, “Aren’t we fortunate?”

I thank her for planting that question deep in my brain to remind me of the answer as I observe and experience the chaotic disturbances to life around me and across the planet, trying to choke pessimism down and remain upbeat.

But the aspens are beginning to turn yellow, just as they always have, come September. The elk are in rut, and their bugling has joined the voices of coyotes and sandhill cranes in this beautiful valley. Moose have come out of the willows to drink from the Teton River and bless us with their presence as we paddle past. We saw an osprey crash into the river just in front of our kayaks and emerge with its trout dinner.

Seasons change and remind us of the impermanence of things around us. Even in dark times, I know the answer to my mother’s question, and because I find optimism in it, I hope your answer is the same as mine. Let’s use this time to come together despite our differences and work on solving the problems that plague us. As my friend, the late Ray Anderson, would say, “Brighten the corner where you are; and what if everybody did it?”


  1. Mark Riley September 15, 2020 9:51 am

    Great post Jim. You captured the beauty of the area with your picture and text. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful emotion and outlook! Safe travels.Report

  2. Helene Mewborn September 15, 2020 11:01 am

    Appreciate your article and the suggestion that we be more thankful for what we have!
    Your mother left you a wonderful legacy-not just the land, but her parting statement each time you left!Report

  3. Craig Pendergrast September 15, 2020 3:51 pm

    Jim, I know your mom cared deeply about others and knew that while her and others’ lives (like you and me) are fortunate/blessed, there are many others who have not had the same luck as us in our parentage and earlier ancestry. We lucky ones have to think and act outside of our fortunate places and mind the needs and difficulties of those many.Report

    1. Libby Gozansky September 18, 2020 10:11 am

      A great reminder. It is pretty hard to think about brightening your corner when your children are hungry and you aren’t sure where the next meal will come from because your SNAP allotment has been cut. Maybe we should say, “If you have enough to brighten the corner where you are, be sure to help someone else so they too can brighten their corner.”Report

    2. Mac Durrett September 20, 2020 4:43 pm

      I think of Jim’s post not so much as a reverie of counting blessings or even of appreciating nature but rather a call to do good works with a positive spirit. His call is to “use this time to come together despite our differences and work on solving the problems that plague us.” While this is always hard work, it is especially difficult to pull off with any hope of success if one is in a perpetual state of despair. I believe that Jim’s intent here (though I haven’t checked with him to ask) is to remind us that our world is wonderful and the need is worth the effort – and we must take this on together in community.
      These days, one cannot be in the American West in the summertime and not be especially cognizant of wildfire and its disruption and danger – and its necessity. Our mom would appreciate once again how Jim can keep more than one thought and feeling in mind here while keeping them connected beautifully.Report


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.