Author Dawna Markova wrote one of my favorite books: I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion. I read it more years ago than I can remember. Yet every aspect of Markova’s writings resonates with me, among them these words:
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
The path to discovering what fed my soul began with art. I sketched neighbors’ faces when a wee one. By high school, every artistic medium was in my portfolio. I dreamed of leaving Richmond, Virginia, my family, painful memories, and traveling across the waters to Paris, France. My parents thought I was crazy and said, “You are not going to France; you are staying in Richmond and going to Virginia Union University.” Spirit-broken and trapped in a life, not of my choosing, I vowed never to do anything artistic again.
Yet, art was in me because art was not just a paintbrush or a palette. Art was how I thought and felt. My imagination soared no matter what I undertook. I failed miserably at attempts to work in restrictive, groupthink environments. Yet, I saw beauty in that seen and imagined, put ideas together without restrictive thinking, and celebrated the diversity of all life forms.
I am a soul in a human body. Soul to soul, there is love. Without knowing, art never left me because I broke through all barriers to the authenticity of who I am: a divine creation.
That authenticity led to my marriage and relocation to a historic farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg. I use my five senses as never before. Nature awakens me and reminds me of the interconnectivity of all life forms. My canvas is our land, trees, season changes, mountains, the sky, and glorious sunrises.
The farm’s calm and serenity are perfect for my public relations business. Though I never imagined living in a community where African Americans are less than 2% of the population, I feel life was bringing me here. Why? Because my artist self builds bridges, not walls and public relations is all about relationship building.
Recently I invited some of my African American female friends to experience Gettysburg through my lens. Naming the experience “When Sistas Gather,” their home for the weekend was a Black-owned B&B, Keystone Inn. I crafted shopping and eating experiences at businesses that I frequent. I arranged a Black community tour with a local friend; she is a Black historian. The women saw Gettysburg in ways that they never imagined.
So successful was the first gathering that I hosted a second one. Postings on my social media drew interest beyond my target audiences. Four are on the slate for next year. Because I have contacts with women beyond country borders, there are no limits to how much “When Sistas Gather” can grow. My artist mind has me serving as “Gettysburg’s Cultural Ambassador.” Next locations? As many as I can imagine.
Living a life of passion and purpose means taking a journey inward, to the seat of your soul, discovering yourself, and loving her. Be fearless. Fear is a manifestation of doubt. If you doubt you can achieve something, you fear doing it. Being courageous takes letting go of the noise and detractors who stand in the way of the light of why we are here: to make a difference.
Life is my canvas. I am the manifestation of my artist self. Always have been. Always will be.