As I continue this work of self-care and intense emotional discovery, I keep coming across books and magazines and essays that I want to shove in everyone’s hands and say, “READ THIS. IT WILL KEEP YOU SANE.”
I started keeping a list on my phone but I wanted to create something that made it accessible to all the women who make up this glorious community.
So here it is. The first post of the #SelfCareSyllabus series. Each week I’ll be sharing what new words I’ve been reading and how they connect to broader ideas of self-love and joy.
First up is Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.” I wrote about this book in an earlier post on this blog and there’s a reason I keep coming back to it. As I wrote then:
I read Alice Walker’s 1972 essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” a few days ago and I was stunned into silence on how her words, written more than 40 years ago, echoed the intention and design of this very website.
Walker wrote, of her own mother:
She made all the clothes we wore, even my brothers’ overalls. She made all the towels and sheets we used. She spent the summers canning vegetables and fruits. She spent the winter evenings making quilts to cover all our beds. During the ‘working’ day, she labored beside — not behind — my father in the fields. Her day began before sunup and did not end until late at night. There was never a moment for her to sit down, undisturbed, to unravel her own private thoughts; never a time free from interruptions — by work of the noisy inquires of her many children.
Her portrait of her mother as a hard-working, ceaselessly amazing woman is often what we think of when we imagine the previous generations of women who birthed us. It was not easy to fulfill your dreams in the shadow of Jim Crow, in the grips of poverty, in the face of a society that said a woman’s job was to raise children and be quiet about it.
Walker’s mother, who had little time for creative pursuits, fueled her creativity into one outlet: her garden. There her fingers worked their magic in the dirt, coaxing forth beautiful blossoms in the impossibly rocky earth. Her talent was so well-known that Walker notes, “…to this day people drive by our house in Georgia-perfect strangers — imperfect strangers and ask to stand or walk among my mother’s art.”
That’s the thing about our true yearnings. It always comes out. Always.
This book contains 36 essays written between 1966 and 1982, a period that marks my mother’s generation. I always find it significant to consider the women who have come before me — how did they move in a world that often did not recognize them as full-fledged contributors to society? How did they nurture themselves in a world that was even less forgiving than the one I currently find myself struggling within?
Walker’s words soothed me and gave me clarity. I am not working through anything that is insurmountable. I carry with me the strength of my ancestors and I can figure all this shit out. It might not be the easiest road but it’s my road and I can get through it.
To buy a copy, click here.