The late, great, Toni Morrison, once penned, “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” And, as powerful as that statement was then, it remains powerful still. The world is beautiful. Even despite the harder, sadder moments that color parts of it with duller tones. It remains beautiful.
And in the wake of Toni Morrison’s passing last month, I decided to re-enter the blogging sphere with a tribute to her. Having spent a semester during my collegiate years at Cornell University trying to emulate her writing style – as well as learning to look deeper into her literary works – I signed up for a course dedicated to the very exploration of that. Hands down, to this day, one of my favorite literature courses I’ve ever taken, I got to take a deep dive into the words Toni Morrison crafted and sewed together with such ease. Yearning to master the word as effortlessly as she did, I, instead, ended up finding my own voice – unique to me. Going about chasing to write and emulate the ONE, great author was foolish. As there will only ever be ONE Toni Morrison. Instead, I learned through her mastery of the craft, how to collect my own thoughts on the page. Leave them enough room to grow and color the page with various hues. It resulted in one of my favorites – rough, but still good enough – essay for the course, titled: Fragmented Whole – A Talk With Toni Morrison on Beloved.
Tasked with the assignment to be an interviewer and chat with the great (now late) Toni Morrison on her book Beloved, we (the class) created newspaper articles highlighting our various interviews with the author. And so, without further ado, I share a quick, excerpt of that assignment (one of my favorite moments in my essay):
Excerpt From (Written By Me):
Fragmented Whole – A Talk With Toni Morrison on Beloved “…suddenly Morrison, turned to me with a quick smile across her face, “Let’s just do it!” she said. “Let us sit in the heat of the Florida sun and add to the humidity, words.” And, that is exactly what we did. Doused in the Florida heat and humidity, we sat on the balcony, with the windowed doors open and a fan blazing to bring us a breeze that was not present in Orlando that very morning.
Miniature beads of sweat began to form across each our foreheads, but the heat, as strong and convincing as it was, didn’t deter us from having this talk outside with the Orlando skyline, clouds, and humidity. A clear pitcher of water and two cups filled to brim occupied the small table center we shared between the two whickered, rocking lounge chairs we sat in on the balcony. Rocking ever so slightly, Morrison closes her eyes for a moment longer than five minutes and says, “Now this is a spring. Not that mess they have up in New York.” Taken aback by my instant response of laugher, Morrison joined in my jubilee, adding laughter to the humidity. “Well, Toni, this is more like summer.” I explain to her. “Florida has two seasons, summer and a mild summer or fall as some may call it.” Our jubilee of sing-song laughter dancing with the humidity persisted a bit more before I pulled out my question covered notepad and “ready to record her answers” pen. It was at that moment, Morrison, rocked with more of a beat that upset the steady rhythm of the fan providing us a breeze that was not present in Orlando that morning. “I suppose you know?” I ask. “Yes.” she says to me, with her eyes closed once again. “Whether or not I want to start at this moment is the real question, but I suppose.” Reluctantly, but ready to delve into the depths that Beloved held as just one whole piece of grand writing, I turned my whickered rocking chair more in the direction of Morrison. The need to see her expressions more clearly as I had this conversation was pertinent to understand the pieces in her answers that made the whole.
Beloved, a Pulitzer prized book celebrating its 20th anniversary since its winning, penned by Toni Morrison, was more than just a fictional novel based on real precedence. It was a book on slavery and its aftermath. It was a book on history and history’s persistency in present life. It was a book on scattering, and the attempts of coming to some whole. It was a whole. Or so, I liked to believe it so before this very moment. “Beloved. ‘Be loved?” I ask. “Is something of a fragmented word made whole, is it not? Was the title intentionally meant to be read as one word or open for further readings? Double meanings?” Morrison’s eyes now opened staring out into the cityscape, finally turned her head toward me with a quiet calmness in her. “Well…I suppose you know?” With a small laugh, I reply, “Aren’t I the one asking the questions?” Smiling back at me, Morrison gives me, and of course the humidity, some words. “Beloved, as you can infer, equates to the notion of someone who is deeply loved. It is someone who is held dear to one’s mind, soul, heart and so forth. Beloved, then, is someone to ‘be loved.’ For if someone can love someone that much, then maybe we should be able to love that someone just the same? No? Would you not agree?” Taking a quick sip of her water Morrison continues on further to say that, “Beloved was someone that came to me. She needed to ‘be loved.’ So, I did that. I gave her a mother, Sethe. Sethe was to do the loving for both me and Beloved and for herself as well. Nonetheless, I couldn’t give Beloved the love she needed when she first arrived to me; hence, again, Sethe. Ultimately, however, that love, or something of the sort, finally did come but not the way it came for Sethe. Sethe, like any mother knew ‘love’ and how to ‘be loved’ and ‘give love.’ She was after all the mother of Beloved, despite the unloved and unloving world around her.” Pausing for a moment then to readjust herself in her whickered rocking chair, thus leaving me with her profile, Morrison says, “The short of it then, is yes. Beloved was more than just the name of someone, that someone being a child, it was a way of being. It was a way of going through life. To ‘be loved,’ and go through life in that state, especially in a time like slavery or even post-slavery where love was hard to come by without great sacrifice and pain, is quite different than going through life (un)loved.”
Speechless, but euphoric, I scribbled away blindly with my impenetrable gaze directed at Morrison’s profile. Feeling my gaze, I presume, Morrison turns to me, “Next?” Lightening the mood, I send a few more small laughs to mingle with the humidity…” Though this piece continues for a few more questions, I wanted to leave just a snippet behind. Hoping, I did well in embodying her essence in my interview essay, I pay tribute to Toni Morrison with my own words about her words. —
My heart, still heavy, from the news, doesn’t change the solid fact that I admire her as an author. A black, female author. She left an everlasting mark on the literary world that will continue to transcend time for years to come. I am grateful I was given the grand opportunity to see her speak – in person – at the end of that very semester I took the course to explore her literary works. I am even more grateful for the works she’s left behind for us to indulge in for as long as they remain in print.
Toni Morrison was a Black Woman with a voice that needed to be heard. And I, like many, HEARD HER.
To Toni Morrison:
May you rest in power and peace. Thank you for all you’ve given this beautiful world to embrace. May God lead you to… well… Paradise.
:: Post Rationalizing(s)
“What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?”
― Toni Morrison ―