Clarissa Pinkolo Estes on Toni Morrison

Dear Brave Souls:

Something Toni Morrison said when she and I and Maya were writing the libretto "Woman.Life.Song" to be performed by us in spoken word, and sung by Jessye Norman at Carnegie Hall...

We were talking about our ancestral histories of being beaten, raped, land stolen, the elders, holy people, leaders and protective people being murdered.

About no matter what ethnicity, no matter what race, somewhere back in time... our farmer and fisher people ekeing out livings on rented or subsistence land, or in putrid air of factories, for milennia without hope to even learn to read and write

Mestizo Latinos seized and enslaved by conquistadores then prelates which were the 'titles' of those organized thugs.

West Coast and inland Africans seized and enslaved by those who sold humans to the well off along the longest coastline in the world, from Canada to the tip of South America. All this done by murderous, organized thugs.

Toni wrote many books about middle class and working class African Americans, often set in the upper midwest of the USA where she too grew up. She also wrote what I would call lyrical folk-ghost-magic realism stories set in other times.

Toni had this: she could read and write when she went to first grade. Maya went mute for years after being raped. I came from people who could not read and write, and I had dyslexia so I read backward instead of forward.

We talked about the abject and divine power of being able to write, finally being able to write, even if one could not speak, could not read.

Writing is what I'd call 'extending our limited memories' into pages and pages of memories we could never recall all in one brain. What magic.

We talked about what we all felt allied with and called to. Maya in deep and heroic autobiographies; all of us in poetics and song writing, art and theatre; T

oni in so much creative fiction of a righteous nature, myself, as called by Holy Mother through hearing cries of the 'lone soul'.

Somewhere in that swirl of woman talk, all of us being 'women of size,' and deeply tied to los ancianos, our ancient people... Toni said, "I am not a victim of my past. I am free. And I write accordingly."

Maya said the blameful victim was the least of what humans could be. I added that eternal victim position was perhaps a nicely decorated cell- but with locked doors with hidden keys.

Victim: Perhaps a place to start. But not a place to remain.

We were all ensconced in Maya's New York City home in [I know you know what I mean here] "mama upholstered chairs" the size of small sedans. It took all of us rocking at least three times to catapult ourselves out of those deep mama chairs.

When time came to say goodbye for now [never just goodbye] we embraced, real kisses on cheeks, no air kissing for us, holding each other, knowing we were all aging,

not knowing what number Creator had put on our heads when we came to earth. But knowing there were fewer years ahead than behind for us all.

Maya walked onward just a few years ago. We spoke two days prior and she so hoped to be well again.

And Coretta went far too soon, one of the most truly sweet women of the universse, and Mary Oliver has flown. Betty Shabazz is gone,

Romero is gone, Martin-Baro is gone, so many persons of decency and the angelic gifts of 'holding radiant place', of not allowing bitterness, but rowing toward balance and awakening self and others to better.

Fly on Toni, Maya and all others who gave so much.... all the womanist and most beautiful angels of your families and of the realms are your escorts now.

I miss you dearly and help hold place here on earth in the meantime. Goodbye for now.

This comes with such love for you all too my Tribe fo the Sacred Heart, Many of us Scar Clan, those of you who are rowing any loved one out, those who have released a loved one into the arms of the angels


Thank you too to all of you dear souls who have sent emails to me today with condolences for Toni's passing. It is much appreciated. You are very kind and dear to me.

You need to be a member of somathread to add comments!

Join somathread

Email me when people reply –