The force field that pulls us back to our hometowns cannot be charted or measured. Some of us rocket away and never return, others never venture far from our nest. Still others explore the wider world and wind up back home through circumstances that could never be predicted.
Kelle Barfield grew up in Vicksburg, daughter of a Corps of Engineer man in a city where engineers have wrestled Old Man River for generations. Kelle went to University of Texas, moved to New York City and worked for the Museum of American Folk Art where she met someone seeking writers for Southern Living. Thirty-one years ago, she returned to Vicksburg for a friend’s wedding and met her husband, a nuclear power engineer. They raised three children, assembled 900 acres of beautiful hunting forest five miles east of town, and hand-built an impressive house festooned with equally impressive mounted deer. Kelle redirected her career as a communications writer for Grand Gulch Nuclear Station, and works with the International Atomic Energy Commission on nuclear power strategies in developing countries.
Son Waid followed his mother’s footsteps at University of Texas. He is home for a gap year before attending law school; study for which this nuanced young man is well suited.
Our dinner conversation centered on communication. Kelle is fascinated by Rachel Botsman’s recent TED Talk about how we have stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers. Does that bode well or ill for our society? Kelle also wants to take her lifelong interest in communication in a new direction. “I am interested in studying listening. People are not trained to listen.” We become entrenched in our ideas, often based in incomplete or inaccurate information, and we cease being open to new input that can affect our positions. “When was the last time you changed your mind on a major issue?”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I also think about politics coming off the election. I watched an interview on The Daily Show of a woman who’s very conservative. It turned into a debate. After it was all over, everything was about ‘who won.’ Debate ideally is an effort shape opinions and find common ground. If the future is ‘my opinion vs. your opinion’ and one is right, we are not going in a good direction.
“The cynic doesn’t see good signs ahead. But morally, we are making many strides with interracial couples, gay and transgender issues. I think people are more accepting, but then, I did live in Austin for a few years.” – Waid
“I’m interested in how we view the past versus the future. In St. Augustine’s Confessions he writes about time. People find happiness and contentment in their past and are fearful and anxious of the future. There is no golden time, except in our minds.” – Kelle