Thank you, kind readers. Thank you for a year of life-giving exchange. Some of you don’t leave comments, and that’s okay. Some of you do on occasion, and that’s wonderful. Some of you do often, and I so appreciate the vitality of that back-and-forth. But whether I hear from you or not, the exchange, tangible or otherwise, that occurs in blog reading and writing has been an unexpected force in my life this past year. Since starting a “mirror blog” at Area Voices on my 40th birthday in September, my readers have increased by 6,000 monthly hits. My Blogger blog has experienced a similar, steady increase since I began putting thought to computer “page” a year ago. There are days I wonder if I should use my blogging time for a different purpose, but then something I experience strikes me in a particular way, or I witness something that sends a zing up my spine, or I read a passage from a book that changes me and…it’s hard to deny the urge to share those life-awakening moments with others. I can’t control how others perceive my words. All I can do is stay honest and write, as best I can, from my heart.
I have found the journey deeply edifying. And though I must write, firstly, for myself, if something happens beyond that initial act of thinking and writing that makes another smile or feel a little more alive, the icing on the cake is sweet indeed. I don’t always know how my words and sharing will affect others. We labor most often without experiencing the fruits of our labors, yet most days we carry on anyway. Especially as parents, we may not see immediately how our tireless efforts at molding our children will play out. And yet we continue onward, hoping that our love for our children will translate into something meaningful, if not immediately then further down the road. There are times, though, that our efforts at parenting or in other work do produce more immediate rewards. These moments when labor meets reward hearten us and keep us moving forward. We cling to them briefly like dew to a blade of grass until something startles us, perhaps the voice of a child yelling from the other room, “Moooooom!” Our drop of dew falls into the earth then and we move on to the business of not reflecting but living.
Last night at our school carnival, I had the pleasure or bumping into one of my faithful readers at our school carnival. “I just wanted to say…thanks for your writing. It’s the first thing I go to in the morning after I’ve grabbed my cup of coffee. I always look forward to seeing what you have to say.” Could there be any higher compliment to a writer than that? The only thing better is the actual act of writing, which is, I know, a gift that not all possess or not all are in the position to nurture. I accept this gift with an open heart and thank those of you who have enjoyed what has resulted. Because even though I write for myself, I write for you as well.
Yesterday, while walking the treadmill, I finished a book I picked up at our local library. It was a random choosing, not something I’d heard of before, but I enjoy memoir and, based on the title, thought it would be something I’d appreciate. The author is both a writer and musician, as well as someone who has experienced the struggle of having ties with two cultures. I knew I’d be able to identify with these aspects of his life. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, written by James McBride, was, indeed, a wonderful read. I bookmarked a page or two and want to share an excerpt of it with you. It comes toward the end of the book (p. 178) when he is reflecting on the sacrifices of his Jewish grandmother while visiting the Southern town where she’d lived:
“That night I slept in a motel just down the road from the McDonald’s, and at about four in the morning, I sat straight up. Something just drew me awake. I tossed and turned for an hour, then got dressed and went outside, walking down the road toward the nearby wharf. As I walked along the wharf and looked over the Nansemond River, which was colored an odd purple by the light of the moon, I said to myself, ‘What am I doing here? This place is so lonely. I gotta get out of here.’ It suddenly occurred to me that my grandmother had walked around here and gazed upon this water many times, and the loneliness and agony that Hudis Shilsky felt as a Jew in this lonely southern town — far from her mother and sisters in New York, unable to speak English, a disabled Poilsh immigrant whose husband had no love for her and whose dreams of seeing her children grow up in American vanished as her life drained out of her at the age of forty-six — suddenly rose up in my blood and washed over me in waves. A penetrating loneliness covered me, lay on me so heavily I had to sit down and cover my face. I had no tears to shed. They were done long ago, but a new pain and a new awareness were born inside me. The uncertainty that lived inside me began to dissipate; the ache that the little boy who stared in the mirror felt was gone. My own humanity was awakened, rising up to greet me with a handshake as I watched the first glimmers of sunlight peek over the horizon. There’s such a big difference between being dead and alive, I told myself, and the greatest gift that anyone can give anyone else is life. And the greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life. Next to that, all the rules and religions in the world are secondary; mere words and beliefs that people choose to believe and kill and hate by. My life won’t be lived that way, and neither, I hope, will my children’s. I left for New York happy in the knowledge that my grandmother had not suffered and died for nothing.”
Powerful stuff. And if you want to check out one of the coolest author websites around, go to McBride’s site. It’s obvious creativity oozes from the soul of this man, who grew up one of twelve children. In fact, aside from the other wonderful aspects of this book, reading about the life of a large family gave me a lot of hope for my own boisterous, oftentimes chaotic brood, knowing that all twelve went on to do amazing things. Sometimes perspective from those who have “been there, done that” is enough to keep us keeping on.
Finally, and again…thanks…