Capitol Report: Dr. Maya Angelou: A Cosmic Muse

By State Representative, Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

This week I find myself gravely sadden over the sudden passing of Maya Angelou.

During the course of her earthly trek, Maya Angelou succeeded in overcoming countless obstacles, touched the lives of millions, while continually imparting wisdom and sage counsel to all who would listen. Hence, on this the occasion of her spiritual transition, I feel compelled (as well as privileged!) to share with you my favorite Maya Angelou poem:

A Day Away
By Maya Angelou

We often think that our affairs, great or small, must be tended continuously and in detail, or our world will disintegrate, and we will lose our places in the universe.

That is not true, or if it is true, then our situations were so temporary that they would have collapsed anyway.

Once a year or so I give myself a day away. One the eve of my day of absence, I begin to unwrap the bonds which hold me in harness.

I inform housemates, my family and close friends that I will not be reachable for twenty-four hours; then I disengage the telephone.

I turn the radio dial to an all-music station, preferably one which plays the soothing golden oldies.

I sit or at least an hour in a very hot tub; then I lay out my clothes in preparation for my morning escape, and knowing that nothing will disturb me, I sleep the sleep of the just.

On the morning I wake naturally, for I will have set no clock, nor informed my body timepiece when it should alarm.

I dress in comfortable shoes and casual clothes and leave my house going no place.

If I am living in a city, I wander streets, window shop, or gaze at buildings.

I enter and leave public parks, libraries, the lobbies of skyscrapers, and movie houses.

I stay in no place for very long. On the getaway day I try for amnesia.

I do not want to know my name, where I live, or how many dire responsibilities rest on my shoulders.

I detest encountering even the closest friend, for then I am reminded of who I am, and the circumstances of my life, which I want to forget for a while.

Every person needs to take one day away.

A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from cares which will not withdraw from us.

We need hours of aimless wandering or spaces of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably preform our duties and discharge our obligations.

When we return home, I am always surprised to find some questions I sought to evade had been answered and some entanglements I had hope to flee had become unraveled in my absence.

A day away acts as a spring tonic. It can dispel rancor, transform indecision, and renew the spirit.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s journey was the epitome of a life well-spent, filled a myriad of incredibly unique life experiences: dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin.

Much has been said and will continue to be written about this remarkable woman – and rightfully so. But, in truth, Maya Angelou was a cosmic muse that used her extraordinary gifts to teach and transform the world.