Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Body of Work


Academics have this thing about chronicling their lifetime of research into their body of work, that one thing, that one statement, that would be the voice of their years of study. It is something that must be experienced, must be developed, and never happens early in one's career. It is the twilight, the evening setting sun, the summation. There are writers who sometimes fall into this, often posthumously, of that one thing that defines them. Many are the chronicles that when the author is mentioned, there is this knowing, this ah-ha moment as if the mere mention speaks volumes.

I asked my husband what would be his body of work. He looked thoughtfully and said, "I'm not sure yet." His answer was very similar to the answer given by then candidate Obama when inquired to sum up his thoughts at the tender age of 48. To me I think it is not something we fully come into in our 40s. We are just reaching the mountain top, the years of striving where we can look back over the course of our lives thus far and say, yes, I'm here. But to sum up the entire lifetime of thought? Not yet, there is still much more to experience, think, and do.

My mind wandered to this thought of legacy after two recent events. One was attending the "Statesmen of Jazz" concert at Harris-Stowe State University and the other was the "Excellence in Education" awards dinner last week when Roland Martin challenged us about our legacy, our one thing. What is the one thing my daughters will say of me? My sons? My husband? My friends? My family? Should this be something I craft and direct now? Or is it the body of work that is to be studied long after my spirit has danced away from this shell?

I told my husband that in the last year and a half, I have written close to 350 pieces of work. The vast majority has been narrative essays, reflections, book reviews, couple short stories, and several pieces of poetry. He looked impressed as he said, "wow, that's amazing." I smiled and thought to myself, "yes, it is, isn't it?"

If it were up to me to choose, I couldn't choose just one piece of work. I am still developing in this craft, still hearing my voice, still discovering the words.

Yet, I do know that it would be the words that would be my legacy, more than my love of vanilla lattes, my scarf collection, my mug collection, my volumes of books, my scrapbooks, it would be the words that define me, that would leave pieces of me behind for my children and grandchildren to discover.

"Sing a song for me while I am still here to hear it, play a note for me while I am still here to feel it, dance with me while I am still here to sway. Sing a song with me while I am still here to love you back." This is my legacy, the words.

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