Stuck. I have been writing about a woman for a while and decided to make her a major character in a book and I don’t know what she looks like. For the reader to decide to like or dislike her, the reader must have an image of her. I have written around her description for several days and I am stuck. I went downtown to see if anyone on the street or at the post office looked like her. Bruce at the post office doesn’t even come close. So I’ve given up for a little while.
While at the post office, I picked up a book about a teacher who was turned down by the Peace Corp and therefore applied for a job teaching at an Island named Yamacraw. Yamacraw is a fictionalized name for a real island between Savannah and Hilton Head. Jimmy Buffet sang a song about the history of the island.
The word is familiar to me because Yamacraw is in the poem “Go Down Death” by James Weldon Johnson. The pigment of the poem colors the word.
The story is not fiction and that disturbed me. The year is 1972. The teacher attempts to connect with and to teach eighteen 11-13 year-old children who are direct descendants to slaves. There is no bridge to the Island and the students have had no real contact with the world beyond their island. The students do not know what country they live in, They do not know what ocean laps on the shores of their home island. When pushed, they believe that John Kennedy was our first president and they had never heard of George Washington. They do know that the Civil War was fought between the Germans and the Japanese.
My stomach is churning because now I can’t picture a woman who I should be able to tell you the color of her eyes. But the heavy sadness is about people who have been neglected—for whatever reason—and may as well be living on another planet. Or may be as far as they know.
I can’t tell you the fictional lady’s eye color, but I do know they are wide open with anticipation and aggressively observant.
I’m feeling great gratitude that I can read and ask questions. Anticipation and alert observation are great qualities and privileges to nurture.
Stephen Mansfield Tweeted a picture of himself walking the beach of Tybee Island and his podcast today was recorded on Tybee Island, Georgia which is just down the coast from Yamacraw. We sang in a church on Tybee Island. It is a galaxy away from Yamacraw.
The other evening, something came on the news that stopped our world. It froze us. Silenced us. Carole said, “We are fortunate to have been born where we were. Nothing of our own doing.”
I am thankful to have been born where I have options.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I am reminded that I would have been born in Georgia or someplace in the Southeast except I wanted to be close to my mother at the time.
©2016 D. Dean Benton