With a heart grieving the unexpected loss of a dear friend (maid of honor, college adventure buddy, trusted confidant), I found myself alone with five full hours to obscurely wander the Tucson International Airport before flying home to Denver after her memorial. Often, in that zone of grief that comes with loss, all you can do is obscurely wander.

And so wander I did into one of those little airport shops that sell candy and beverages and magazines and books. I came across a shelf of books and reached halfheartedly for a few written lines that might divert the heavy sadness.

Into my hands, I received a gem.

The Source of Self-Regard is a forty-year compilation of the late Toni Morrison’s essays and speeches. Her words inspire contemplation and an invitation to linger beyond the threshold of a door Morrison holds open for her beloved reader/listener to enter:  the power of language, human rights, artist responsibility, the Afro-American presence in American literature, meditation, and eulogy. Morrison provides a walkway into her intellectual prowess and her keen interpretations of humanity past and present. She also shares intimate revelations about her writing process from the inception of a single image that begets the story arc to the intricate choice of each word in character thought or dialogue.

I have read, reread, and highlighted her words. I will read them again. And again.

I wonder about the timing of finding this book. There seemed to be a synchronicity about wandering through the airport and happening upon this compelling work of art as I grieved the loss of my beautiful and dear friend. Perhaps it was her kind intercession that brought this book into my hands because she herself was full of kindness. Her lovely spirit had already gathered family and friends, old and new, back together again in the memory of her vitality, laughter, and regard for life and the Creator. And that this contemplative masterpiece by an African American author came into my hands upon departure from my friend’s memorial service and on the cusp of this month’s U.S. observance of Black History Month made it all the sweeter and synchronous.

Let us savor the gift of the human spirit.

We are the moral inhabitants of the globe. To deny this, regardless of our feeble attempts to live up to it, is to lie in prison. Of course there is cruelty. Cruelty is a mystery. But if we see the world as one long brutal game, then we bump into another mystery, the mystery of beauty, of light, the canary that sings on the skull….Unless all ages and all races of man have been deluded…there seems to be such a thing as grace, such a thing as beauty, such a thing as harmony…all wholly free and available to us.
—Toni Morrison, “Moral Inhabitants”

Thanks for stopping by.

Morrison, Toni, The Source of Self-Regard, Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations. Vintage International Books, A Division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. 2019.