We recently learned that Greg Ghirard has died.
If you have never heard of Greg, let me tell you a little about him.
Tim and I were blessed to meet Greg in November 2015. New found friends of ours in Baton Rouge, LA arranged for us to meet him at his home on the Atchafalaya Basin, St. Martin Parish, LA. Greg welcomed us into his home, self-constructed of hand-hewn cypress boards he himself salvaged from the bottom of the Basin. To meet Greg was to be in the presence of someone holy. He had an aura of peace around him. He was passionate about the survival of the world, especially that of his home in the Atchafalaya Basin. He could navigate the bayous with his eyes shut, just about, as could his best friend Roy Blanchard, whom we spent the afternoon with traversing between and around cypress trees and knees on his home-made aluminum boat.
To walk onto Greg’s yard, you were first met with barns of wood – lots of wood. There was wood everywhere, leaning against tree trunks, abandoned old trucks, barn walls. Yet he knew where every piece was. He explained to us how he reclaimed the sunken cypress, showed us the pocky cypress, and then gave us a piece to take home!
But Greg was much more than a woodworker. He was a photographer, an author, a teacher, a naturalist – the Basin Keeper. In The Land of Dead Giants, Greg wrote about a life growing up in the Basin. In all of his books – Inherit the Atchafalaya, Seasons of the Light and Atchafalaya Autumn to name a few, when you open the cover, you are rewarded with mesmerizing photographs of the Bayou, from the eyes of a true Cajun.
Greg was a gentle man. A passionate, loving, caring, honest friend of all. When you were with Greg, you fell silent, not wanting to miss anything he had to say with his soft-spoken voice.
As we prepared to depart Greg’s home (after failed attempts to get his resident crocodile to come out for a bite to eat), he invited us back, anytime. My hope was to visit him again, to listen to his words of wisdom. Greg gave us a warm embrace, and in that moment, we knew we were in the presence of one of God’s chosen ones.
You’ve done well Greg. Rest in peace. We’ll take care of the Basin for you.