Amazing things converge and leave me wondering. Like Sunday, March 5, 2006.
I remember hesitating over this magazine as I cleaned out my old office. The one copy that would least interest me, I thought, as I looked at the cover sporting a Star Wars setting with Luke Skywalker as a child, June 1999. Maybe I saved it for my adult sons who showed a talent for writing and an interest in science fiction and fantasy. It would have been something I would have done, save it in hopes that someday they would also show an interest in using their writing talents for something other than entertaining me with their cynical, acerbic, humorous, and always colorful, original emails.
It was a tough time when I sorted out my office. Our dog of more than 13 years lay dying even as we tore up yet another home to follow my husband’s job to another unfamiliar destination. I let go of most things representing the last thirty years of my life. The rest, I threw into boxes and forgot about.
Now, sitting in the midst of the cluttered closet in our new Florida home, I leafed through the magazine thinking more about the move than what was on the page.
All in all, it was a good move. I had spent almost a decade barely venturing off of our property and living a life that consisted of trips to the grocery, the post office, the various doctors, and an occasional restaurant or movie. It was time to start living again.
My hands stilled. Octavia’s name leapt off of the page at me. I know, it is cliché, but it smacked me in the face and I read her words. They spoke to me and I knew Octavia would have understood my hermit ways.
Yes! I know exactly what she means. She could have been describing me except for the African-American part, and I am a former Congregationalist instead of former Baptist.
Tears gathered when I read, “Who am I? I’m a 51-year-old writer who can remember being a 10-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an 80-year-old writer.”
After this glimpse of Octavia, I googled her name and chuckled when at one website I read “I’m a 57-year-old writer who can remember being a 10-year-old writer….”
“Caught ya!” I thought. The catch phrase that changed only with her age is just the sort of recycling I would have done if I was forced to reveal myself through interview after interview.
Not that I’ve had an interview. I’ve spent more time hiding out and losing myself in other writers’ words than crafting my own.
But I kept returning to her words “expect someday to be an 80-year-old writer.”
In the New York Times book section, Feb. 27, 2006, John Marshall noted that Octavia died from a fall outside of her
A shiver went through me.
But she had known forms of death. The first sentence of her article in that synchronistic magazine told me. “Writer’s block is a deadness. …that feeling of dead emptiness and fear, that ‘can’t write!’ feeling that isn’t quite on a par with ‘can’t breathe!’ but is almost as unnerving.”
I can imagine that she also studied philosophies and knew of synchronicity and life after death and ghosts and spiritualists. I’d like to think that she singled me out for this amazing convergence. It isn’t the first time such diverse things have come together for me, but perhaps it is the one time I’ve paid attention and acted upon it. Perhaps Octavia Butler’s face on the Sunday morning ‘in memoriam’ segment has finally awakened me to the importance of such ‘coincidences.’
But that’s the thing with following one path – you don’t really know how the other would have worked out. I will remember Octavia E. Butler, not only because she was a gifted, imaginative writer, a hermit like myself or because we shared a similar age. But also because she gave me something to write about when my own well was getting mighty dry.
And, not to be melodramatic, but she may have saved my life. I know her unexpected death has made me rethink my lifestyle choices. Plus, simply knowing that someone in the world dealt with similar feelings and fears gives me confidence that I am not alone.