A Tribute from AquaVita: for the Great Maya Angelou
Updated: Jun 5
for the great, Maya Angelou:
I awoke this morning
from another night
of epic journeying
prefaced by the warm caress
of your familiar voice
in the catacombs
of my mind
echo, echo, ECHO
as I sleep
as I write
as I weep
as I laugh
Ohh, how I laugh-
when they say it's all okay...
because it's so much more
even when it never was
Because they don't know
that we know
it is the breath between our words
that lives to meet the wise stars
that watched our birth
and await our death
each of us a small drop
like the blood of the earth
"Just give me a cool
drink of water 'fore I diiie
Oh pray my wings
are gonna fit me well
and still I rise"
I wrote this poem two years ago when I found out that Angelou had passed. I was working on my thesis, getting ready to graduate with my Master's and SO deep in process it hurt. Words weren't making sense and I leaned on the nonlinear nature of poetry to help find order. In fact, I was so sure that I couldn't articulate what I was going through at my graduation ceremony without bawling, that when it came time to speak on stage, I read this poem. And was blown away to look up and find people crying too.
The timing of her passing, while deeply saddening, was an interesting place in my life; one of rebirth and renewal. The well of sadness at her death, from all that I was processing, and the swell of words that rose to meet it were the final catalyst... that solidified an entire creative process as one of healing, transformation, and connection that must be shared.
The power of poetry is often overlooked in our society. Sure we admire great known and published poets, but what about all of the great poems and images living in each of us? The ones with the power to heal our own personal wounds and bridge to the universal. That collective unconscious... that's where the gold lives.
It was a masterful mentor, John Fox, the founder for The Institute of Poetic Medicine, who opened me to the healing power of authentic poetic expression during my first quarter of Grad School. Reverence and deep gratitude do not even begin to express my feelings for this awakening. So much power flowed through me in words and imagery that year. An intense uncorking of my soul, AquaVita spilled forth filling an entire journal in the short few days of that class. And my visual poetry was (unknowingly) born just in time to carry me through the intensity of the program.
Words are understood. Images are felt. Together, they create a transformative experience.
We need this felt experience for true, deep communication. It is in this space that we put our logical minds on hold to create more space for the intuitive, imaginative self to be, to play. And in this process of being and play lies the power of discovery and courage to name and often solve so many of the struggles we seek to escape.
It's like Oprah says, "RELAX!" Each bump in the road is merely there to shape you into the person you need to become. I believe: to do your greatest good.
Drawing, writing, or some combination of both help give form to this unfolding higher self.
I have begun using this approach- graphic recording and facilitation- with several of my clients with tremendous results. Increased skill acquisition, stronger critical thinking, skills, less anxiety, deeper sense of joy and inter/personal connection... the visual literacy that develops as a side effect supports further creative problem solving down the road. It's something like magic for people.
This world would be a different place if each person knew how to give themselves this time/ space.
I still consider AquaVita in her infancy, so many projects and ideas to develop her into maturity. But regardless of where I am in my own process, it feels important to speak to the power of drawing and writing as a necessary pause for integration for all humans. So why not try it? Start with something simple. A brainstorming exercise... writing meditation. Whatever you want to call it.
Just ask yourself: what heals me?
Spend some time writing or drawing on it and see where it takes you. So this tribute is not just to Maya Angelou and John Fox, but to all of the other brave poets out there... willing to suspend doubt and judgement, if even for a moment, to find a bit of play, a lot of courage, and a lifetime's worth of flow with just one short daily practice.