Title: Even The Stars Look Lonesome
Author: Maya Angelou
Read In: 2023
Description: A series of essays and personal writings on intimate topics such as sensuality, her home, and her mother, as well as larger topics like Oprah and Africa.
Purchase: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
I thought I’d find a small, neat little bungalow and I’d step into it and pull its beautiful walls around my shoulders. I thought that was very poetic, and that way I would just sort of muddle through the rest of my life.
This is no longer my house, it is my home. And because it is my home, I have not only found myself healed of the pain of a broken love affair, but discovered that when something I have written does not turn out as I had hoped, I am not hurt so badly. I find that my physical ailments, which are a part of growing older, do not depress me so deeply. I find that I am quicker to laugh and much quicker to forgive. I am much happier at receiving small gifts and more delighted to be a donor of large gifts. And all of that because I am settled in my home.
All sounds of life and living, death and dying are welcome to my ears.
I do not spurn the suffocating smell of burned rubber of city streets nor the scent of fresh sweat because their pungency reminds me of the bitterness of chocolate and the sting of vinegar. Some of life’s greatest pleasures are conveyed by the dual senses of taste and smell.
Black women whose ancestors were brought to the United States beginning in 1619 have lived through conditions of cruelties so horrible, so bizarre, the women had to reinvent themselves. They had to find safety and sanctity inside themselves or they would not have been able to tolerate such torture. They had to learn quickly to be self-forgiving, for often their exterior actions were at odds with their interior beliefs. Still they had to survive as wholly and healthily as possible in an infectious and sick climate.
Lives lived in such cauldrons are either obliterated or forged into impenetrable alloys. Thus, early on and consciously, black women became realities only to themselves. To others they were mostly seen and described in the abstract, concrete in their labor but surreal in their humanness.
i stand up
through your destruction
i stand up
—Lucille Clifton, “miss rosie”
. . . I believe that art encourages us to stand erect and stretch upward toward the higher ground.
I believe that without the presence and energy of art in our lives, we are capable of engaging in heartless activities without remorse and cruelties with clear consciences. We become base because we think of ourselves only as base. We find no delight in immaterial things, and address ourselves and each other in the cruelest terms, for we believe we are deserving of nothing better.
It is said that courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue with consistency.
We need art to live fully and to grow healthy. Without it we are dry husks drifting aimlessly on every ill wind, our futures are without promise and our present without grace.
We need to remember and to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. Not only is it acceptable to be alone, at times it is positively to be wished for.
It is in the interludes between being in company that we talk to ourselves. In the silence we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves to ourselves, and in the quietude we may even hear the voice of God.