Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pause For The Phenomenal Woman

The day was just waking up from her night rest when there was first a post, then another, and finally a flooded space of the news.

Dr. Maya Angelou, poet, activist, memoirist, professor, feminist, mentor, silently and sweetly left the world she so changed with the magic of her pen.

News reports, postings, pictures, quotes, connections, a lifetime of a generation or two fondly remember where they were when they first read her transformative words or heard that bass in her musical cadence.

I first encountered her book, I know why the caged bird sings, when I was a young woman seeking to free myself from my own sea of questions.  Her words invited me to be authentic and encouraged me to find healing in the power of writing.

Throughout my now 50 years, she, along with her literary sister, Toni Morrison, have been the black women literary giants at the background of my chorus, encouraging me to etch what I could not say and be released in what I could not sing.

The feeling was a moment of sheer appreciation at having encountered her bravery, her total and complete acceptance of herself, that I silently thanked her for being in my life, even though I never had the honor of being in her majestic presence.

Never a woman to be confined to just one decade and remaining ageless though her tall frame was now in a chair of wheels, she used the tools of the 21st century to continue to teach us, continue to encourage us, continue to motivate us to live our fullest life.

Her last tweet, her last facebook message will be those things that we now cherish and hold as the prophet's urging for us to continue on in this journey, to live, for that is our gift to each other.

Born in the same city as I, she stretched wide her arm to experiment, to not be confined, to see the Divine in everything and to fully be bold enough to speak truth to power, and power listened.  She lived, her eighty-six years were full and a gift.

She opened her heart and shared with the the pain of a woman and the decisions of a mother, she loved and left and still, she rose about convention to be fully whole.

I can only wish, in the next phase of my life, to take on some of the lessons she has given to us, her literary daughters, to be bold and transparent, to be honest and true, to sing of the freedom of the caged bird's release.

Rest well Mother Angelou, rest well poet, you spit a new song.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Passing Love

When I think of Paris, I think of cafés, pastries, love, and the arts.

These all come together in an unexpected coming of age novel, Passing Love by Jacqueline E. Luckett.  

Two things immediately drew me to this book, the first was the softness of the cover, the second was the intermittent French, and the third was the protagonist is somewhat a woman like me - of the diaspora, older, always wanted to visit Paris, and a bit sheltered.  

Nicole, even her name is oh-so-French, felt familiar to me, like we grew up together in the same time period.  The novel, set in contemporary times as well as the times of WWII.  Both eras are tumultuous with incidents of racial unrest, uncertainty,and the dawning of a new civil rights movement.  Her experiences, as well as those of the other fully-realized women in the book, are known to us, we have lived through the angst of growing up with a mother who wants to keep us virtuous, the heartbeat of new love, the disappointment of failed relationships, the mysteries secrets of parents’ lives before us, and the promise of finding answers when we grow up.

This book was comforting to me, even as I felt myself rocking back and forth between my story, her story, and the story of the women who made her, Nicole could be sitting across from us, having a café au lait, practicing our elementary conversational French, and wondering what to do with the next half of our post-fifty life. I felt the breath released of the black ex-pats who could just Be without the cloak of racial identity hovering over them, the welcoming French and the controlling German, the abrasive Americans, all converging in Paris for the promise that city holds.  It is a wonder and a place to find some of life’s answers.  Or so we hope.

When we grow older, are we adults or still children when we encounter moments of our parent’s lives, decisions, and actions that affect our lives, decisions, and actions?  Do we have the right to reach into the treasure box, read the folded letters, step into the mind frozen by Alzheimer’s or question the mysterious lady with the very French name?  Should some things be left unsaid or should we go on a journey to discover these truths so we can be released to live authentically?

Passing Love is a beautifully written novel, familiar, hopeful, and just the right amount of conversational French in alternating chapters to encourage me to call up my ex-pat brother and insist he use the language of love when speaking to me.

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