When I woke up this morning I felt a strong urge to to write about this amazing woman Maya Angelou, who passed away yesterday. I got up, walked out and was in a coffee shop by 7.30 am. I felt compelled to arrange time and space to put down my thoughts. I could have written this piece at home but somehow I was captured by this urge and this felt important. I wanted to place myself in a different environment and make the most of the opportunity. My girls are spending half term with their dad I had to seize the moment.
It was great! Just me and my thoughts, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee and croissants. A great backdrop for writing a little story.
When I was a young girl, studying for my “O” levels I did a project about American women and Maya Angelou featured heavily in my work. She captured me beyond my years and taught me how to embrace the very essence that life had to offer. When my life became difficult I sometimes felt unjust to grab it with both hands and shake it like crazy, and then smooth myself down so to become all dignified and elegant and march my way through difficulties. Her voice, her smile, and that meaningful soul. What a woman she was.
Maya Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim. I still have this book after all these years. It has followed me everywhere I go. It talks about her life struggles, how she was abused at a young age and deciding not to speak for five years. It’s a truly breath-taking book. She believed in womanhood and that life had so much to offer to women.
I grabbed the Guardian newspaper whilst sitting at the café this morning, and read an article about Maya. Another rare treat for me, but very symbolic. It was about her response to her age “I am the same I was back then, a little less hair, a little less chin, a lot less lungs and much less wind. But aint I lucky I can still breathe in.“ That is exactly the type of person she was. She always looked at what she had, not what she didn’t. One of her motto’s were about your life, you only have one that is brief and frail, and if you don’t take ownership of it nobody else will. The article also describes her saying her life has been long and believing that life loves the liver of it. She has dared to try many things some trembling but daring still. Her description of words is impeccable. She described herself as a woman who was determined to go through life with passion, compassion humour and some style (I laughed).
Maya you opened my world and allowed me to feel my way through life. You gave me the tools to keep on searching for greater heights. You took that young unconfident girl with a stutter and made her believe in herself. I’ll always remember referring back to your book when I was trying to find the answers. I have followed you with so much admiration throughout my adult life and your ability to create beauty and strength with your words. My achievements to date, thanks to you, had started from that day in the classroom back in the late 80s when I read the first page of your book.
Your are Maya Angelou as fine as wine in the Summertime.