Maya Angelou-A life that proves we can be beautiful


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I was sad to learn of her failing health just yesterday and sadder still to learn of her death just minutes ago.  She LIVED.  She lived life so fully and richly until the end.  She had said in an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Masterclass that she was loving her eighties and was still writing poetry.

Maya Angelou will always be loved and remembered.  She was a remarkable woman who started out rather humbly in life.  She experienced sexual abuse when she was a child.  She told about the assault and the man was arrested but 4 days later was found dead.  This caused Maya to withdraw and to stop speaking because she thought her voice had killed him.  Through the perseverance of her teacher, she found a love for poetry and literature and subsequently found her voice.  She had scholarly ambitions and though she became pregnant when she was a teenager, she never gave up her dreams.

There was so much life in this one life.  Too much to put down in a simple blog post.  Her life story is extraordinary and powerful.  Her depth of intellect, wisdom and spirituality were amazing.  She spoke several languages and wrote seven autobiographies.  She also wrote poetry and essays.  She read one of her poems at President Clinton’s inauguration.  She was a singer, actor, writer and activist but considered herself foremost a teacher.  She was Oprah Winfrey’s mentor and an inspiration to many.  She taught me that no matter what the circumstances, we can be beautiful in spirit.  She lived that.  Through her writings, we see that her true aspirations were to love much, give much, nurture much, teach much.  She believed in equality for all.  She believed in the importance of forgiveness.  She believed all were precious and that we must all be grateful.

Below are some quotes I have gathered of this beautiful spirit followed by one of her famous poems.

‘While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else is also God’s creation.’

(This one speaks volumes to me) ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.  You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.’  

‘Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.’

‘I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.’

‘I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere.  For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter.  As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.’

‘We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.’

‘A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.’

‘My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.’

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill 
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

Maya Angelou

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