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I was 14 when I first read “Phenomenal Woman”. I needed it then. I was…awkward. Too smart, not skinny enough, too opinionated, not pretty enough, too honest, not fashionable enough, too hard on myself. Maya Angelou spoke to my soul. I daresay she has spoken to many souls over the years. Her words are an ode to the infinite greatness of the human spirit–of the good, the beauty, the love, the strength, the promise of courage we carry within us…of our ability to use that promise to overcome that baseness within and without.

Maya Angelou has died today. But more importantly, she lived. She lived a life of infinite greatness, of creativity, of courage, of love. She lived what she wrote, and we are all the greater for it. May she rest in peace, and may we continue to hear the wisdom of her spirit long after this day.

A great tree has fallen, and our senses will never be the same.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

― Maya Angelou

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