Published 9:19 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Reader: I have had the grand privilege for the past six years of speaking to you, my community, through this column. My first was printed in the spring of 2008, about 300 columns ago. My last will be printed today. It has been an enjoyable, fulfilling, illuminating journey. You — though you probably never realized it — gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings, ideology, passions, hurts, celebrations and challenges. As a result, I feel I know you. The pen was often my counselor and you were my audience. When I encountered droughts, you were there, experiencing that hard, crusty ground as the dust flew in your face and the crops screamed for a drink.

You were there when the hurricanes slammed in and rolled all the crops into one. You were there when I gave my daughter away, buried a good friend and considered the seemingly unjust ramifications of death. You were also there when the rains came, when the last row was picked and when my first irresistible grandchild was born. I have celebrated October sunsets with you, January snows, falling in love, pickup trucks, crammin’ sticks, growing old and Purple Martins.

You allowed me to contemplate the essence of life itself — what in this world is good and true and beautiful. You let me make jokes at myself and other people. With you I came to embrace “place,” where one is settled into some place on planet earth where he knows that is where he belongs. With you I was able to expound on that great mystery we call “love” and its many facets, even as I searched for it in my own heart. I have tried to share with you thoughts on technology, prejudice, insecurities and memories — really, whatever I happened to be passionate about that week. You have been a wonderful audience.

A special thanks goes to The Tidewater News for first printing my column and launching me into a regular contributor and eventually a book. Thanks also to The Suffolk News Herald, who picked up my column later and gave me opportunity to speak to a broader community.

But mostly, reader, I give thanks for you. I hope in some way my pen has added, at sometime or someplace, something to your life. Farewell.

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com