Phenomenal Woman: A Tribute to Maya Angelou

Curved Diagonals by YanivG, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  YanivG 

My chubby, wobbly thighs carried me to the stage.

They were preceded by my frizzy hair and goody-two-shoes reputation. All I could feel, though, were that desert in my mouth, that sickly butterfly soup churning in my stomach, and the eyes of the entire school upon me. But that day, something greater than all this propelled me forward.

I stepped up to the microphone, knowing the words I was about to say came not from me but from a wellspring of truth somewhere deep in the earth, vast as the cosmos. I had practiced them for weeks, letting them sink into my soul. The words I was about to say had been carried along the backs of woman after woman after woman: a lineage of suffering and pride, hard-won wisdom and effortless grace.

The words I was about to recite were “Phenomenal Woman” by the great poetess, Maya Angelou. Today, she died. But on that day in my sixth grade, Read More…

Melancholic Gratitude:There’s a Word for That

Portland Japanese Garden

Alone at my writing desk on Thanksgiving Eve, a subtler, somewhat sadder kind of gratitude has crept in like a sacred fog. Confronted by the bombastic exuberance of #gratitude! posts buzzing in my Facebook newsfeed, I’m should-ing myself to feel a livelier, louder sense of abundance.

Yet there’s beauty here, too.

In this soft, tender-aching kind of love, a richer — perhaps darker, perhaps deeper — kind of gratitude expands my heart and de-cobwebs my mind.

Not surprisingly, there’s a word for that.

I recall this passage in Jane Hirshfield’s stunning collection of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry:

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