“these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights”

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”

Maya Angelou died this week.

This woman whose words make me want to love my too-big body and dance with men I can’t stop calling beautiful. This woman with a voice like rocking chairs telling me to always say yes when someone asks for help. This woman who wanted nothing more than for little girls to never be afraid to dance.

I remember reading “Still I Rise” for the first time.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

I remember feeling like I was on the precipice of some sort of great feminist breakthrough within my own skin. That it’s okay if my thighs touch and it’s okay if I feel beautiful and it’s okay if it scares the men who scare me. That I was beautiful and should laugh in the face of anyone who told me otherwise.

When I saw her speak in 2012 at the Missouri Theatre, I cried twice while sitting in the audience. She was warm like honey and didn’t back down from tough memories and made me beam so much I thought my heart was going to explode. It was as if she was speaking directly to me. As if we were on chairs across from each other, talking about becoming rainbows in each other’s clouds.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I’ve never read a word written by her that hasn’t moved me, that hasn’t made me want to reach into the pages and hold her hand. She has fought for equality with an intensity and grace rarely seen before, and I cannot even put into words the amount she inspires me.

She is a larger-than-life voice and body and spirit and heart. She exists without apology or qualification — simply as a poet with something to say.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get down exactly why she makes me feel the way I do, but I will continue to write and write and write in hopes of discovering.

I am going to miss her as if she were a close friend, this magnificent regal wildfire of a woman.

I guess that’s what happens when you lose a rainbow in your cloud.

maya

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