Mourning. What is mourning anyway? Does someone have to sit in a dark room and cry, howl, jeremiad and lament for days on end to really, truly be considered “in mourning”? I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t feel the same after the death of one my all-time favorite authors a few days ago. You know who I’m talking about: Momma Toni, Mother Morrison, the one, the only, Toni Morrison.
James Baldwin died three years before I was born and when Maya Angelou died, I admit I was sad, but nothing like how I feel now. I did write a pretty substantial blog post that’s now long gone on the Tumblr interwebs, though. And when Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Márquez for the unfamiliar) died in 2014…chile, please. Do NOT get me started. I lost it. THAT was true mourning. It was almost as if I’d lost a literary grandfather, you know. No. I suppose you don’t. That’s how deeply his work has touched me.
Today, I started reading Love and I can honestly say I don’t know how popular this particular Toni Morrison book is because it’s one I haven’t heard of before. But three pages in and I’m enraptured. I only stopped reading to write this blog because I needed someone to know the depth of my pain when I realized there will never be another Toni Morrison book. Think about that for a moment. Toni Morrison will never write another book…
When I was eleven, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’d just read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and honestly, the book was probably much deeper than any girl my age should have been reading; but it was in my middle school library and I was already reading at a college level, so I had my pick of the bunch. It wasn’t until many years later that I came into contact with the illustrious Momma Toni, but when I did my decision to write was totally and completely solidified. I knew that no matter what I had to do to make money, writing would always be a part of my life and it would one day be how I made a living.
Because of authors like Toni Morrison, writing…has become a part of my very soul. Let me explain. I don’t just write for fun. I don’t just write for money. I don’t just write for other people to read my thoughts and say “oh, that’s deep”. I write for solace. I write to cleanse. I write to release. I write because I am free to do so and because others before me have paved a path where I have the freedom to write what I please when I please for the audience I please. Whew!
But there is so much more to writing. Toni Morrison wrote: “The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers.” One more time for the people in the back… The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers. Language with its twists and turns and complexities and eccentricities is what makes writing worth writing! If that makes any sense whatsoever. And Morrison understood that. She lived for it just like I do. She breathed it. She felt it in her soul. She felt the power of a single word and she knew how to use it! She knew how to make you feel something by using the right word at the right time and that, my friends, takes more than skill. It takes more than talent. It’s a gift. And not of us have it. I’m not sure I have it. But I keep working at it and I stay inspired.
As I write this my heart is heavy and my throat is tight. I feel as if I’ve lost an old friend I haven’t seen in far too long. Yesterday, I bought Love and The Source of Self Regard, hoping to reconnect with that friend before too much of her memory fades, knowing she’s already too far gone. Maybe reading her stories and essays will remind me of what I need to do as a writer in order to be successful and make my mark. Or maybe they’ll just take me to that place I’ve been needing to go in my heart to find myself.