Lafayette lost a legendary leader Monday.
Dr. Griff Blakewood, who would tell anyone that he "taught reality" at UL, died after a year-long battle with cancer. On March 17, "the greenest day of the year," he liked to say, Griff turned 54.
Considered to be a visionary prophet among his pupils, Griff was a force of life with such a passion for imploring people to reconnect with nature, and with each other, for a more beautiful, sustainable future.
Classes like Biosphere Systems, Environment and the Spirit, Sustainable Futures, Human Macro-Ecology and The Meaning of Life were able to bridge the ideological gaps between students and find common ground around appreciating the beauty of our natural resources and reveling in the unique cultures that have developed in our region.
Instrumental in many movements throughout Lafayette and the state, Griff's legacy will live on forever. Under his tutelage and leadership, his students started recycling on UL's campus and at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, started EarthShare Gardens (Lafayette's first community-supported agriculture garden) and "Saved the Horse Farm."
"My favorite Griff photo is etched in love, and timelessness. It cannot be seen or communicated, only felt and understood by those who have been blessed to experience the experience of all experiences." - Greg Guidroz
Anyone who had the privilege of meeting Griff knew that there was something special about him. His infectious love of life was very evident, and people in Lafayette have learned to love this place, and each other, just a little bit more with his energy laying the groundwork for so many sustainable movements we are proud of.
For the thousands of students, citizen activists, music-lovers, dancers and just movers and shakers he leaves behind, may you continue to make Lafayette a beautiful, vibrant place to live, and remember all the ways in which Griff Blakewood inspired us to be more mindful of how lucky we all are.
We miss you so much already, Griff, and will be here always to support your lovely bride, Alice, and your two children, Eldred and Harrison.
[Editor's Note: EB Brooks is director of planning and design for Lafayette Central Park, the nonprofit entity leading the effort to convert the Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a public park. In 2005, under the support and guidance of their professor, Griff Blakewood, she and Danica Adams successfully rallied students and the community to preserve the acreage by starting a grassroots organization, Save the Horse Farm. Below is Danica's tribute to their beloved professor and friend.]
Michael Clayton, EB Brooks and Danica Adams with Griff Blakewood in his back yard last fall. For more than a decade, Blakewood and his students gathered once a month, on ArtWalk Saturday mornings, for pancake breakfasts at his house.
Through his life, Griff engaged in the practice of cultivation and creation. This creation took the form of peace and non-violence, his daily practice of trying to make the world a better place, a habit as simple and regular as a cup of coffee. Griff could be seen riding his bike all over town, cultivating community, reducing his carbon footprint, and having fun, all in one action.
In his classes and in late-night conversations, he let us know that each one of us has within our grasp the ability to cultivate this generosity of spirit. We must practice responding with love and we must cultivate non-judgment in our lives. We must allow new information into our lives and allow it to shape our worldview, even if, or especially if, we do not want it to. We must open ourselves to being challenged and learn to recognize valid arguments against our beliefs. We must look up, at the sky, at the birds, and the treetops and see - really see - Reality. Life is much larger than ourselves, and the boundaries of consciousness are infinite.
"He told me something like ... if he had three days to do something wonderful he would go canoeing in Chicot, if he had two days, Fausse Pointe and one day, Lake Martin." - Cheryl Perret
He reminded us daily, or as often as he saw us, that we depend on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth we stand on. It is our moral imperative to actively engage with the daily practice of making this world a better place.
In the days before his death, Griff sat us down and dictated, insisting that we take note:
All of the greatest sages to confront the mystery of life have recognized that the creation of the context of peace and non-violence are our only real possibility of making the world a better place, a more loving place, a more beautiful place. And so these sages, in the end of their own lives, have not attempted to construct any formal system, but only walked away to leave their disciples to try to create such a context.
While he has left us with a great legacy in Lafayette, throughout Louisiana and across the country, it is his forward motion and compelling energy, inciting us to action and driving us toward a love of the earth, that we will miss.