Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Elegy: In Remembrance of Maya

I remember the exact moment when I received this book.  I was 18 years old; it was a gift - passed from the hands of Jacqueline Neal on December 17, 1995 to my hands.  We were exchanging gifts at a Women's Ministry Christmas event at Nehemiah Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My 18-year-old mind had not yet been formed into the ways of womanhood, in terms of my own independence; yet, there I was amongst many women from all walks of life. 
Jacqueline wrote these words inside the cover: 
"I've heard and read some of your poems and they are great.  Somehow, I thought you would enjoy this book.  God bless you."
She did not know that Maya Angelou was my favorite writer, poet, sage of all time (even at that age).  I had already read many of her books and was just beginning to build my library.  But this book, all Maya's collected poems, was the prized jewel of them all.  This beautiful woman, an example of Christian faith in my world, had thought of me when she selected my name for the secret Santa activity, and she had allowed Holy Spirit to lead her.  I really believed that then as I looked at the book in awe and met her eyes with tears in my own.
Today I still believe God led her to give me that book.
My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach when I turned my computer on this morning to do some work.  My writer, my poetess, my sage had entered Heaven just before 8 this morning.  She slipped silently into the Eternal Presence of our Lord.  The tears began to fall.  I reached for the phone to call my mother, whom had already called me twice.  We were both saddened by the news of her departure, but I knew this day would come.  I often wondered how my heart would handle it when she, of all my favorite writers, would leave for the halls of Heaven. 
I reached for the gift I had been given at 18 years old.  Surprisingly, the book and it's cover are still in rather pristine condition for the many times I have pulled it from the shelf to read a poem or two.  This book has traveled with me from place to place, never lost or left in a box.  I take it out to join me in each house I have lived in.  And today, it is even more prized because the woman that wrote the poems within has left this world and left me here to write evermore. 
I opened the book, noticing a sticky note sticking out of the very back of it.  The neon green slip of paper was attached to an essay.  I opened three stapled pages.  I knew immediately what it was and when I had written the words on those pages.  I stopped my tears and began to read the words of a 19 year old girl whom had owned the book for a year.  I had written these words.  Now they are a landmark and a comfort on this day of all days.  The title of the essay was "Maya and Me".
"My favorite writer in the known world is an extraordinary woman by name of Maya.  She is much like me in her style just as I am like her.  Her mentality in writing and her creative use and play with words are things I truly admire.
I often wonder about the realm of her creativity, if is indeed much more remarkable than that which she expresses to this outward world.  Perhaps, her more definite spiritual self is just as hidden as mine.
The majesty with which she writes can only truly express that which she understands about herself and the world around her.  The mystery which causes writers to undertake the task of expression is desired to be discerned.  This is why the words we so easily toy with down on paper seem to intrigue us so much.  There is an underlying element of suspense that causes us to search for deeper spiritual truths that, although may not be able to be voiced, could perhaps be written down.
We as writers, Maya and I, try earnestly to speak from the soul what human beings in our inadequacies cannot even fathom.  Perhaps the soul does not speak in a language discernible; perhaps it speaks as softly and simply that our search for depth is much too complex.  I believe, as I would think that Maya would hasten to agree, that life is built around the emblem of simplicity - rare and treasured.  (Just as Richard Foster.)
Maya's simplistic words, deep and frank, cause me to love her all the more.  I have found a portion of myself in her, in sync with her outlook.  Yet, my unique self is like no one else, not even her.
Her devotion to simplicity in life, her reflections on the past cause us all to recollect on what embraces us as human beings.  In this we do well to be like her in action and thinking, if nothing else.
The other quirk about our relationship through writing is the fact that Maya is in love with words.  I feel like in order to be a true writer one must establish an adoration of language and the words in language.  Written words put into expression human feelings and emotions.  If Maya did not even resolutely love words, she could never tell the world how it feels to fall in love with someone or how it feels to be abused or misused.
I guess when I read her poetry and her collections of thoughts, I see images of myself in her play of words.  Her life, though not identical to mine, explores the deep caverns of existence and the pains of existence.
Sorrow runs deep, and misery hates to be alone.  Every word so eloquently spoken in the quiet of her books' pages expresses perhaps a little sorrow, pain, and even joy within her as it is within me.
I feel like her; when I write, I can speak much more openly and clearly than physically uttering one word.  There is no such thing as foolishness in the mind of a writer, in a writer's world.  The words I speak in poetry, in discovery of self through novel-writing, can never be turned away as uselessness.
The most important thing to us, in this world, is the freedom and liberty of expression we find in writing.  There is a liberation in being able to speak one's mind, to share what is sometimes difficult for others to say.
For example, the best way for me to reach others for Christ, to come at them from their level is through poetry and through real-to-life depictions in storytelling.  In them, I unlock doors that even I have never been through.  I discover more to the extremes of human rationale than life has revealed to me in this short time.
Maya and I...we are unique in our ability to stand on top of the world and look down, with pen and notebook in hand, ready to write down the words of the silent voice of human experience.
I found this today when I needed to read it.  She is gone on.  Her words, as many have said, live on because they are still needed.  The beauty and the mystery exist in the way that words transcend time and space.  I believe God meant for them to be that way because when our lives are over, the words we have written will tell the world around us that we were here and we mattered.
Maya mattered to me.  I would not be Mya if she had not been here - if she had not been the Maya we all needed.  Her legacy has reached to Heaven, and I wonder at her entrance there.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring Looks Like This

I take a walk everyday around our backyard looking to see new beauty. We moved here in the late fall so everything was nearly past it's prime,  preparing for winter. But now that it's spring I can see flowers and plants and smell scents that I didn't before. Isn't it amazing when you can experience life all over again for the first time?

The tiny Locke dogs,  like me,  love exploring our home. But they also love the warm sun that was hidden for a while. In the winter the rays shine through the windows,  deceiving us into believing we can be embraced by them.  As the seasons have changed,  so  we change with them -  deceived no more. We can embrace warmth; it will hug us back.

I travel to the far reaches of our little piece of property and love it all, looking through eyes of wonder like a child. The purple flowers on the bush next to the blue shed,  the greenery that weeks ago didn't exist in my eyesight,  and the ferns sprouting along the fence... they all came alive when I thought there was nothing underneath the ground or inside the tree trunks or within the bushes.

Isn't that like all of us?  We go through wintry seasons and everything appears dead. But then resurrection comes and  we must rethink how we view the potential that sleeps inside.

This is how  we awaken. This is  we spring forth and bud,  producing life again. This is how spring looks.

Good morning, new person not the same.

Hello new season. 

Monday, May 5, 2014


My husband and I sang and danced our way through bagging leaves this afternoon. Honestly,  it felt awesome to be taking care of our little area of the world. The sun started shining and we worked hard to continue making our house a home. I'm sure it sounds silly but when I think of how much I have wanted a home, it felt beautiful to work on the yard. It felt beautiful to share the work with my husband,  knowing that one day we will host barbeques and birthday parties and graduation parties.  We will sit out here on warm summer nights with a Redd's in hand,  relishing the stars and the firepit and conversation without a television for distraction. For me that's home.