Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Nature of Happiness

I think I truly began my journey toward becoming a writer twenty-two years ago in 1987. I was thirty-three years old, ten years into a dead end job, and still not sure where I was going in my life. The only thing I was sure about, was I wanted to be a writer, however, that seemed like a Don- Quixote- impossible dream like goal that only other smarter, prettier and more imaginative people could achieve. Real writer didn’t look like me I thought, and besides what were the odds I had any real talent.

But I had the wordy itch and finally it occurred to me that I at least needed to try and scratch it just once. One evening as I went to an event at a local community college, I saw a poster for the school’s literary journal Northern Spies. They were requesting submissions so I sat down and over the next two weeks composed an essay about my grandfather. To my delight and surprise, Northern Spies accepted my little essay. There was a fancy reception and reading for those whose work they published. I remember being nervous as I got up in front of a small but appreciate crowd to read:

The Nature of Happiness.

On this winter day with cold so deep one could call the sun a liar, I have made my heart and archaeologist and sent it to sift through my past; down, down, down to the thin layer of subconscious matter that contain the faint images I have of my grandfather, who died when I was young.

Most of my memories of the Reverend Dr. John Van Catledge are created from my mother’s lore, but because he was what I wish to become ­scholar, writer, teacher most of what I understand about my grandfather flows from my small collection of his photographs and written works. Few photographers caught his smile. Some might say he had no love for the camera. To me, however, he embodied the African and African belief that constant smiling denotes a lack of seriousness, sincerity and character. What the Yoruba defined as ashe , a spiritual wisdom is what my grandfather projected with his calm eyes and sealed lips.

No, he had no mirth for cameras to steal, but his written work revealed a scholar’s joy of learning, a writer’s hope filled vision of life. There is one splendid letter he wrote to my mother about the nature of happiness. It is this letter I open now because today melancholy is too good a friend, contentment seems a distant rumor, and the sun still is a shameless liar. I will read myself well and whole again.

I didn’t know it back then, but the word, Ase literally means “ it is so”,or “may it be so.” I believe now that when I wrote that word down and then said it aloud up at the podium, I set into motion, the full power of my dream

Ase…it is so.

I am to be an author in a few months. Act of Grace, my novel will be birth into the world by Plenary Publishing come February 16, 2011.


Shauna Roberts said...

Congratulations, and enjoy the ride! I'm looking forward to your book.

The "Quiet" One... said...

What an awesome story Karen. Thanks for sharing and Congratulations! P.S. I need a signed copy. ;o)

Lovenia said...

Congratulations! Looking forward to reading it!