Not just for those of us who write, but for the millions who read them. When on that cold and stormy night of legend, we feel alone and unloved, words come to warm us, to remind us that we always have a friend to lean on.
Today, I would like to do a tribute to a woman whose words have warmed many a cold night.
There are hundreds of thousands of words written by her and about her. It would be impossible to try to capture them all here in one of my humble weekly moments.
Wherever you were raised, wherever you are now, whatever you believed or believe now, gather some of those thousands of words, hold them tight to your heart, let them seep into your soul … and for this … your life will be enriched. You will be in a happy place. You will believe in yourself and to do what you love.
The first time, I was a late bloomer, in college at thirty-something. I was terrified to walk out the door, intimidated by the new and strange life I had chosen. And like so many gems I have mined in my life, I found her on 18th Street in Manhattan at the original Barnes & Noble.
“I make writing as much a part of my life
as I do eating or listening to music.”
It was on one of those days when I wanted to find more women poets. I had already fallen in love with so many of them. But on this day, I needed the comfort of another woman’s words to warm me. And I found I Know Why The Caged Bird Sing.
Did you know that words can wrap around you and hold you steady? They can protect you, fill your heart and soul with wonder, and they can liberate.
Words kept me from harm’s way and guided me along the path. Even with the knowing I was a half-decent person and a half-competent mother, words opened my mind to see all that was good in this imperfect world we live in.
Still, there are days when I think back on that young woman in her tattered jeans and her high hopes, and I smile. Did she find her way? Did she learn enough to raise good humans, those two humans she pushed into the world? What happened to her high hopes and her day dreams? Did she leave the path and lose her way?
Words came with me on a serpentine path that wove in and out my life. They were the pivotal crossroad where I might have taken the wrong turn. They were the many stops along the road, to rest, to find new adventure, to settle for a while before moving around the next bend in the road.
I love words because they are my only constant. From the toddler who was taken to Story Book Hour by her big brother, to the late blooming, senior citizen that I have become. Words have been my best friends and they have taught me much about who I am and who I will become before I take my last voyage.
What she was to me was a voice in the wilderness when I was lost, the whisper of a promise to keep, the courage to start over, even after I failed more than succeeded.
“To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents.”
In her honor, we will read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in our book club for next season. We had already selected our line-up of books when a member called and wanted to substitute one selection for Maya.
My good buddy and BETA reader called and asked what I thought. I was thrilled. Perhaps there are members of our club who have never read her, or listened to her recite poetry, perhaps she will be a new voice for some. Yet, for those of us who knew her for a very long time, reading her again can only bring back fond memories.
Rereading a book you love is like visiting an old friend. Someone once asked me why I reread some of my books, often a dozen times. I’ve read my favorite poems hundreds of time, and like music I need to hear again and again, those words are a reminder that in another time, I found a friend who guided me along the way.
Make Maya’s words your friend. Visit YouTube and listen to the many videos of her, read about her life. You’ll be glad you did.
What books do you need to reread?
To remind yourself of other times?
To take you to a new place?