Monday, September 26, 2005


A Certain Generosity of Spirit

On Saturday I was at another book festival. It was here in Santa Barbara and was yet another slow day. Children's book are popular and so are reference books, but it's tough to sell literature. The booth next to me belonged to Sally Ride the astronaut. Seeing her sign books brought up thoughts of my high school desires to go to Stanford, her alma mater, and how those desires had been so rudely dashed. I had been among the elite in science and mathematics. It was as if an old part of my life's desire was being modeled just a few feet in front of me. At that moment Denise Chavez, the noted Chicana writer, walked up to my table. She was at the festival to receive a prestigious award from the University of California here in Santa Barbara.

"I like Crow," she said, as she picked up one of the books. "I do to," I said. "Crow is always trying to tell us what we don't want to hear." She turned the book over and inspected it. "I'd like to come by later, maybe get a copy."

Later that afternoon people started to arrive for the award presentation. After the slowness of the day, I was amazed by the size of the crowd, mostly Chicano. As it began to start, a young Chicano man walked up and shyly asked to buy a book. I was moved that he felt willing to touch my Anglo experience. I hope he finds meaning in it.

As I watched the introductions by noted community leaders I was struck by all that the crowd derived from this woman. As she spoke and acted out a piece of work, I could see the vision she was spinning for the people. These people who felt unseen and unrecognized were being given a voice through her, and she was showing them what they could be. This is the true writer's work. I hope someday to provide such a vision.

Later I gave her a copy of my book as a gift and she asked me to pull up a chair and sit down. She does that with everyone. She had arisen like a figure from my deep mythic consciousness, the land where Crow dwells, to carry me a message about my future and break my gaze on the past. People do that for each other. We sat and talked, equals in age and intent, sharing a certain generosity of spirit.

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