Picture Perfect

Honoring Dr. Maya Angelou

May 29, 2014

Yesterday felt like the whole earth shook for a moment with the news of the passing of our mother, our sister, our auntie, our friend and our teacher, Dr. Maya Angelou.

Just like with a violent storm, our foundations were loosened, our tears collected and spilled over creating an unsettled, raucous ocean, we leaned over, broken, like the trees bent and rubberized by the wind, sunglasses that typically perfect and finish the day’s look and, more functionally, protect our eyes from the sun, were flung off as we were convinced that the sun was covered by a sad, hovering cloud while our dear Darling transitioned from this life into the next. We were undone. Our social media heavy culture gave indication to just how consumed we all were with the news that Maya Angelou had passed after recently being ill and dealing with heart complications. Heart complications. Seems we temporarily inherited her affliction as we clung to the affirmations offered through her words, watched old YouTube videos to gaze upon her essence once more and reflected on our best memories of her to soothe our aching, broken heart.

She was, for so many, something of a monument; a symbol of power, intelligence, perseverance, eloquence, and freedom. We kept her in the scope and sequence of our lives and there she lived in perpetuity, keeping the pulse to every beat we made, peppering the lyrics to the  theme songs we sang to ourselves when we wanted to be courageous and incredible in the world. I’m a woman, phenomenally. 

She was like a tree; strong, deeply rooted, provisional, life giving. She was like a tree; Her long brown legs as the trunk against which we rested our backs, leaning in to her, listening to the knowledge she lyrically laid on us, knowledge that fell on our minds like leaves loosened and free, falling softly to the ground to replenish and fertilize the earth. She was ever giving, giving, giving back. We sat there underneath her and her teaching, a respite from the heat of life, comfortable in the shade and cool provided by her ever outstretched limbs, limbs that always seemed to reach out for us, hold us up and embrace us synchronously. And we made ourselves comfortable, resting there, with her living in perpetuity, comfortable with her offerings. Just like reaching up to pluck fruit heavy on the limb, ripe and ready to fall to the ground, we knew which of her poems, essays or quotes to reach for when we needed comfort, when we needed nourishment and understanding, when we wanted to express ourselves more clearly.

And while she has left with us those same pieces of herself, it is as though this passing of her physical body is an awakening. For the past day and a half, reflections of her and all that she was have lit up the world and given us a reminder about the good we had present with us for 86 years. It’s time now for us to shake ourselves loose from our resting posture, dry our tear stained cheeks and put our hands to the plow. In salute to her and the amazingly full life she lived out here among us, I say, creatives, create! Writers, write! Singers, sing! Directors, direct! Lovers, love! Encouragers, encourage! Givers, give! We must go now and be fully ourselves and watch the world shine in effect. She, along with so many other mother teachers who have gone ahead of us, has given us her back and shoulders to stand upon so that we can see more clearly, listen more carefully, and be seen and heard with much more dignity. Don’t just stand there and weep. The backs and shoulders of our mother teachers have converged and they, together, have created for us, a grand stage. Let’s gather our daughters and tell them about who she was, what she did, and what she meant to us. Let’s give the world our own version of beauty to open up and brighten their minds and lives. Let’s rock this joint.

Dr. Maya Angelou, we salute you with our art and our lives. Until we meet again, rest in paradise.

“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

-Maya Angelou  

Photo Credit: Maya Angelou’s Official Site

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