Tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light …. Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of a town that cannot bear your company.
— Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture, 1993
This week, I picked up the Toni Morrison book of essays What moves at the margin, and I’m excited to spend some time with it. The last Toni Morrison book I read, embarrassingly, was in college when I read Beloved which I feel like at the time I didn’t understand as well as I likely could if I approached it again.
There’s been a decade – at least – in the meantime.
But this quote above is at the front of this book, and even within that quote there is a certain kinship or feeling that it might be time for it right now and in this moment. I feel rather on the margin. I feel rather as if I do not recognize the country that I thought I knew. And I think there might be something to going back to authors who have understood perhaps better than I have the dark places of this country, and yet persist still.
Amongst the messy disarray of every day life in a year that feels so strange to me I have lost words, or maybe I have lost the willingness to utter them, or maybe it is some mixture of both. I do not wish to speak when silence would be better, yet I do not wish by my silence to give strength to hatred and disdain. I want to speak love and kindness and healing. I want to help those who are feeling otherwise dis-empowered. I don’t know how to do this always. I’m not certain tonight that I know how to do it at all. I feel small and unimportant, like a dot on the margins in the mess of daily life.