is always the same; wherever Life
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
I want to grow
It seems impossible that desire
can sometimes transform into devotion;
but this has happened.
And that is how I’ve survived:
how the hole
I carefully tended
in the garden of my heart
grew a heart
to fill it. Alice Walker
Alice Walker began her talk by giving us permission to be afraid, that in times of danger it was a sane response. It was not what I expected from the woman whose grace touched the audience with such warmth, simplicity and humor. She was not patronizing, did not preach – but led us through war, then into peace and eventually, joy. We did not look away from the pain of families crushed by bombs as she reminded us that women and children just want to come home, sit in a cozy chair and pet their dog. We honored the sorrow and the tragedy of the innocent victims of endless war and were advised to “feel everything and want less” in order to come to peace despite the suffering – to care and to do something for those who need our help.
She acknowledged the struggle of our divided people to get over the feeling that “she might smell nice, but . . ” when breaking bread with those whose skin is different. She encouraged us to “get to know who stands beside you, to see her as she really is.”
Alice Walker has fought so many good fights, not least being the right for women to freely claim and respect their own bodies, and to ask for the same respect from everyone else. Womanism, a term she coined decades ago, is now the subject of a class at the University of Texas “Beyonce Feminism and Rihanna Womanism“. She has inspired many scholars, authors and poets, including our moderator for this event, Dr. Melanie Harris, an associate professor of Religion at Texas Christian University. To Walker, womanists are to feminists as purple is to lavender – they also recognize the struggle for racial and class equality (particularly for black women) as a central tenant of their social activism. Also noted – wise elders can teach younger women the difference between freedom and stupidity.
Using ones’ imagination: allowing for fluid gender identities in the 11th grade and sophomore years of college are among the many ideas put forth by our wise earth woman. Joy in non-attachment, allowing it to reside in your heart is the fruit of many years of meditation and the infusion of spirit into all aspects of her life. I spoke with her briefly, to extend an invitation to come and speak to the students in our graduate program here at UT, and found myself teary eyed. Her energy was so kind that it allowed a very delicate aspect of myself to engage openly in our conversation. I will remember that impression and the other funny and poignant moments with gratitude and reverence for the wholly spirit – that which makes us whole. Many thanks to the noble soul who is Alice Walker. Our world is better for her caring.