My Best Life: Learning to Read and See

I put “The Same River Twice”* by Alice Walker down momentarily to pick up “The Color Purple” and reread the opening but decided, instead, to write about how grateful and so very humble I feel in the company of this author.

Just the other night, I read Barbara Abercrombie’s recommendation in “Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story” to find a muse, “someone whose writing … reminds you why you’re so passionate about writing.” No one came to mind at the time.

But within 24 hours, for reasons having nothing to do with my embracing of Abercrombie’s text, my soul mate and I made a random agreement to each other. We would read “The Color Purple”.

The next day, while skimming the catalog at the library, I encountered Alice’s (I want to call her Ms. Walker, I’m so intimidated) nonfiction reflection on the filming of her novel. I knew instantly that I would read both books together. I moved from the fiction section to the nonfiction section, breathing in the binding of the pages and noticed my pace accelerate with an exuberance I haven’t felt in a long time.

Today, only ankle deep in either text, I find myself in awe, in kneeling-at-the-altar-awe. I want to shy away from my voice. I whisper, how can I call myself a writer? There is comfort in knowing this is merely a “blog post”. Even the words “blog” and “post” are ugly. It’s just a post. A blawg.

Barbara’s book doesn’t have “courage” in the title for nothing. Fighting the urge to childishly and neurotically get wrapped up in my own low self esteem, I will be brave enough to learn publicly here.

Alice Walker writes lovingly in “The Same River Twice” about Oprah Winfrey. I find it no coincidence that days ago, before I even knew I would be reading The Color Purple, or getting to know Alice through her non-fiction work, I took one of Oprah’s podcasts on my walk around the neighborhood. I felt so private about the subject matter that I deleted the audio file from my computer as soon as I transfered it to the iPod. It was one of her discussions with Dr. Laura Berman, sex educator.

I walked passed bending gardeners in neighboring lawns while simultaneously hearing Oprah and Laura giggle about our (my) mortification at pronouncing specific parts of the female anatomy. Their laughter reminded me to savor not only the moment, but the whole afternoon, this whole season.

The best part: I kept my eyes open. I photographed these flowers in less than 40 minutes.

This is the plain truth. Within less than a mile of my home on a January day, these blossoms graced my presence. They are every bit my teachers as much as Ms. Alice Walker, Celie and Shug, Mr.____ and Nettie, Harpo and Sofia, Barbara Abercrombie, my soul mate, Oprah, Dr. Laura Berman and the neighborhood gardeners.

I kneel to them, not as a lesser being, but as a student. A grateful student.

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*The full title is “The Same River Twice – Honoring the Difficult: A Meditation on Life, Spirit, Art and the Making of the Film The Color Purple Ten Years Later” by Alice Walker.

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