In 2008, Maya Angelou – one of the greatest writers (and women) of the past century – wrote, Letter to My Daughter, a collection of meditations addressed to the daughter she never had. These gorgeous reflections are really a blueprint to the life of meaning for any human being.
In the first essay, Angelou offers this beautiful meditation on identity, growing up, and belonging:
Thomas Wolfe warned in the title of America’s great novel that ‘You Can’t Go Home Again.’ I enjoyed the book but I never agreed with the title. I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.
Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors, are mysterious apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.
I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.
We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.
It’s a beautiful book, and you can find it here: Letter to my Daughter
You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
Russian novel does
I am terribly bored
sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie
other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease
of the kidney
god knows it has nothing to do with the heart
nothing to do with people more interesting than myself
that’s an amusing thought
how can anyone be more amusing than oneself
how can anyone fail to be
can i borrow your forty-five
I only need one bullet preferably silver
if you can’t be interesting at least you can be a legend
(but I hate all that crap)
– Frank O’Hara
We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.
The blue of distance comes with time, with the discovery of melancholy, of loss, the texture of longing, of the complexity of the terrain we traverse, and with the years of travel. If sorrow and beauty are all tied up together, then perhaps maturity brings with it not … abstraction, but an aesthetic sense that partially redeems the losses time brings and finds beauty in the faraway.
Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.
– From, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Photography by: Mike Dempsey
A long time ago – so long that he had forgotten the author’s name – he read some memorable lines in a story about a man who is trying to translate another story, by a much more famous author. In these lines – which, my neighbour said, he still remembers to this day – the translator says that a sentence is born into this world neither good nor bad, and that to establish its character is a question of the subtlest possible adjustments, a process of intuition to which exaggeration and force are fatal. Those lines concerned the art of writing, but looking around himself in early middle-age my neighbour began to see that they applied just as much to the art of living. Everywhere he looked he saw people as it were ruined by the extremity of their own experiences
– from, Outline by Rachel Cusk
Photography by: Romain Thiery
Despite the shit we put each other through –
and even though the trap of your teeth
snapped at my throat as the withering flash
of your anger fired and fell again
and again and I bent my head down beneath
that bitter rain – still I felt
the days that lengthened with you more precisely
themselves than I had ever imagined.
Through the deep rage that distorted our bodies;
through hurt, betrayal, the difficult truths
in search of some myth that might prove more
durable to our selves than each other –
still you step to this page’s bare panopticon,
belovèd, contemptuous of ruin.
I am sorry, I have been so long –
the angels have turned a little further
to watch across a field of broken statues
and the sun has fallen three thousand times
– i.m. J.F. 1978 – 2006, to O.H.
So long the dragonfly has risen from its deep,
the mouse from its labour, the vole from its sleep,
the girl from her texting, the worm from its sheep,
the king from his castle and the castle from its keep,
And I know what news you are bearing,
your sob at my ear wearing
the shape of her body in the earth’s cold springs –
but even there I hear a broken voice, singing