bell hooks, a Black American writer, feminist, and a bold voice who sought justice through love died this week. She wrote and taught and insisted her chosen name be kept lower case because the word and book are what matter—not who penned them.
In a 2015 interview with philosopher George Yancy, she said, “I believe wholeheartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love.”
I wish I had known her, read all of her books by now, and found a way to attend one of her classes. From a small town in semi-rural Kentucky, she found her way to Stanford. After earning a Ph.D. in English literature from UC, Santa Cruz, she taught at Yale, Oberlin, City College of New York, and eventually made her way back to Kentucky where she taught at small Berea College. They have created the bell hooks Institute—a center for her writing and teaching.
What a generous soul this woman must have been. How does it happens? This spark she felt and lived from a young age grew into a light for the world. She lifted people to move and dance and question.
Despite all the loss and sadness, I am able to read about people like bell hooks daily, in The New York Times. I can sit at this computer and pass along stories. This afternoon I’ll gather, virtually, with the same small group of poet-friends with whom I began to meet in mid-2020 when face-to-face was rare.
We grew inventive! Though not all virtual gatherings work, this one has nourished us.
Back in August, Kira—who loves her walks—tried to tug me past when I paused for a peak into a Free Library. There stood a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
Years back I’d adopted some of the principles from this book via a conversation with my sister. After resigning from my teaching job, Michelle told me about Artist’s Dates—one of the two pillars of Cameron’s “method.” So, from the small town where I was living back then, I often took weekly excursions into the city.
Kira tugged me onward as I zipped the book into my backpack..
A few weeks later some women in my Friday morning Creative Group told me they were DOING The Artist’s Way.
“Can I join you?” I asked.
We met weekly, shared our progress, confessed to troubles and bumps, and grew a community of women—from Austin, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin—and two of us in Portland.
Plunging into this virtual circle, led by Mandy Stewart, invited me deeper into myself. I hadn’t sought out the book nor needed another Zoom group in my life—and I didn’t hesitate when I met this opportunity—unlike so many times!
Working through this creative 12-week (“12-step”) program with others was just what I needed. The women offered reflection when I shared my process, and I loved hearing and learning from each of them. One shot baskets in the park as an Artist’s Date. Another is minimalizing her life in preparation for a move across the ocean. A visual artist in the group talked about why a solo Artists Date is not what she always needs because she already spends so much time alone.
To be a creative does not require a pen or paint brush, guitar or piano, a pottery wheel or glass kiln, but we do need these artists.
I’d like to share the “Artist’s Prayer” I wrote during Week Four.
My prayer is for all, toward the New Year and as Solstice nears. We can celebrate the beauty of darkness and promise of more light in the distance—both essential for growth and renewal.
All is not well. It never is, not for everyone, not all the time, and I am sending love to all who feel pain, who grieve, fear, feel confused, torn by choice, lonely—all of us.
AN ARTIST’S PRAYER
Thank you World—Water, Birds
Earth, Sun and Moon.
Thank you Dirt and Mountains
Sea, Glacier—the furnace
that warms us.
Thank you campfire and yurt
Polar Bear and Heron.
I ask you to share with me your wonder
innocence, charm, and light.
We will share the light and dark
thirsty moments—days when our substance
wanes, along with times of overflow
and more than we believe we can endure.
Bless all of Life, Breath—all that serves
savors, enters, and falls away.
Allow my Spirit to be nurtured, my pallet
notebook, Voice, and all I hear—instruments
of divine intervention.
Allow me to open so Blood rushes through enough
only to keep me vital
for the time being
this gift-time when I walk in this body
until my breath will rest.
Until then, may I be servant to gentle strength
live toward justice for all
sacrament to love.
LINKS YOU MIGHT LIKE:
“bell hooks, Pathbreaking Black Feminist, Dies at 69” — She insisted that the fight for women’s rights had to take into account the diverse experiences of working-class and Black women. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/books/bell-hooks-dead.html