….and it is two days late!
Much has been made of the disaster of 2016, with its notable take down of artists and musicians and cultural points of light and hope.
I kept thinking of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time when the kids are with the Happy Medium and she is forced by one of the Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which etc to show the kids a happy planet, and a dark planet and then–she shows them Earth. Darkness of course, has a strong hold on Earth. There is death and suffering and fascism reigning –but there are also those who fight the darkness.
It’s not that part that threw me as a child. I was well aware of darkness. But when the Mrs. W ensemble explain to the children that one can fight the darkness through love and through creation and through art is when my mind was opened up as a kid. There’s that paragraph were L’Engle mentions a sampling of darkness fighters: Jesus. Buddha. Shakespeare. That was it. Writers fight darkness. Teachers fight darkness. I was hooked.
Fighting Evil Through Art and Creation. I think of that a lot these days. That’s why David Bowie’s death or even Carrie Fisher’s hits people so strongly. Because their art fought the darkness. And there is so much darkness. That’s why Leonard Cohen was the patron saint of my family. Because he offered a path of light through the dark forest.
If I have any resolution for 2017 it is to step up the fight against the darkness. I am needed now more than ever. You are needed now more than ever.
In between the mass shootings and the mass “post-truth” lies and the mass denial of the humanity of refugees, and the declaration of a party in our country to declare war on an already decimated environment there is hope.
There is Standing Rock.
There are all the kid drawings and paintings my kids leave on the dining room table.
There are mayors and cities declaring themselves sanctuary.
There are women getting ready to help women in dark states protect their basic rights.
There is defiance. There is resisting.
I look at 2016 though–the middle of the year, the summer, and there is you. Thousands of you. Who heard a plea for books and donated books to a strange woman in a forgotten town so that she could build a library for kids–to get books into the hands of kids.
That is what I’m looking to as encouragement. As my bright and shiny example of lightness in the world in need of defiance. You who read this and who donated a book. You participated in an act of defiance in a culture hell-bent on being proud of its own illiteracy, its own ignorance. You. Gave. Books. You. Made. Readers. I can’t stress enough how important and profound that is. Fighting the darkness.
Life has moved on beyond the summer. We opened. We checked out so far roughly 500 some books to students and an additional 400 to teachers and about 100 to community members and parents. There are waiting lists for some popular titles (Hamilton Soundtrack/Harry Potter Cursed Child, for example).
We gave bags of books away to foster kids who may not come back to our school district. We gave books to 7 schools other than our own. I officially have a box in the back of my car of duplicate titles to give away to kids who look like they could use them. Lightness.
The school district is leaving us alone finally. Religious parents are going on to fight other battles. Slowly things are shaping up. I am in the library five hours a week as a volunteer. I meet with students then, make recommendations, shelve a bit–put out new titles that are still coming in . I make displays. And I always leave there feeling like I am fighting the darkness. This world is often not a place where writer/artist mothers of limited means feel successful. But because of our thousands of donors, I feel successful every time I walk in the library. Together we have brought light into a world.
It’s January 2nd.
I am at my father-in-law’s in Santa Monica with my kids. We are going museum hopping today and tomorrow and later on we’ll go to my aunt’s and visit my grandmother. I love bringing my kids back to the homeland of Los Angeles so we can soak in the best of southern California for a week. I love the Deep North in spite of itself. It really is beautiful (and currently filled with much needed snow). The environment is, if not pristine, as close to it on the planet as you can find. Lightness. Strength. Beauty.
But I also love Los Angeles, the city of my birth. Yesterday on New Year’s Day my kids’ godfather and I saw Rogue One at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood (IMAX 3D because, of course) and then topped it off with a nostalgic trip to Canter’s on Fairfax for a Brooklyner and a black and white cookie. Lightness. Strength.
Today we head out to the Museum of Tolerance and later to LACMA for the Diego & Picasso exhibit. Tomorrow the California Academy of Science Pixar Exhibit and then my sister in law will whisk them away for fun while I catch up on work and a double feature of films that will never reach the north in a theater. I will interview a couple of people as I wrap up my book proposal I’ve been working on.
Meanwhile my husband and mother are in the north keeping the house warm from winter and managing their own fights against the darkness.
It feels like we are all gathering strength for 2017.
I haven’t said it in awhile but –Thank you, again. Know that you are appreciated daily and have provided one small town with a shining example of hope and humanity that we see and feel every time we walk through the door of the library. You decided to fight the fight (along with me) against boredom and ignorance and despair. I will always be grateful for that.
Happy New Year.–Margaret
Reblogged this on Tales of a Sierra Madre.
Thank you so much for this. And for everything you did in 2016. I hope to meet you some day.
OK. Was doing fine reading this, then I read We gave bags of books away to foster kids who may not come back to our school district.
You sent the light out, not knowing where it might land.
You do know, don’t you, that one day a woman will stand on the podium, surrounded by Secret Service drones (it will be about 50 years in the future), talking about how she found the strength to become President because her mother, who had been a foster child with a mixed African-American-Hispanic background, had been given a bag of books and learned from them that she could be anything. And that mother had passed it down to her daughter?
And now you just made me lose it. Last week I attended the Minnesota School Board Association Conference. The opening speaker was the National School Board Association President, Miranda Beard, from Laurel, Mississippi. She ended her inspiring speech with the wish that we would all “Die Empty.” That we would all come to the end with nothing of our talents, leadership skills, good works and good intentions unspent and undone. Thank you to Margaret for showing us all how to do that, and thank you Gillian, for reminding us why we need to do it. 8 or 12 years though–I want to see it and unlikely I will live another 50.
As the daughter of a bookbinder, I greatly appreciate that your sharing the love of books.