By Douglas C. Lyons
I am at a point in my life where I can relate to Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston, if you don’t know by now, was a legendary author, anthropologist, playwright and journalist and an icon of the Harlem Renaissance. She loved black people in the South, particularly in the Sunshine State. She lived an extraordinary life.
In no way am I comparing my meager talents to hers — that’s not my point here. It’s the age-thing that is gnawing at me. Growing older may be a blessing, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
In Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd —perhaps the best biography on Ms. Hurston — the author describes Ms. Hurston’s views as the famed writer approached the twilight of her distinguished life.
“When I get old, and my joints and bones tell me about it,” she once said. “I can write for myself, if for no one else, and read slowly and carefully the mysticism of the East, and re-read Spinoza with love and care. All the while my days can be a succession of coffee cups.”
I’ve spent most of my adult life writing for newspapers and magazines, including EBONY, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Florida is now the place I call home. I didn’t expect to stay in the Sunshine State, given all the weirdness that comes with the abundance of diversity, sunshine and promise.
Florida always promises. It’s part of the state’s charm and bluster. What I found fascinating is the state’s unique history, particularly involving its black citizens.
For example, the first black man to set foot on the peninsula was not a servant, but a conqueror who owned slaves. The land itself became a haven for runaway slaves, long before the Underground Railroad was even recognized. And don’t think that black Floridians simply wilted in the face of harsh Jim Crow laws.
Folk do things differently in Florida. The state’s rich history shows us that. It took a while for me to appreciate what many generations of black Floridians already know. I’m just glad I have the chance to explore and experience it.
Is age anything but a number? Or does getting old set limits on boundless imagination? I’d like to think of myself as someone who will pursue what I love as long as I live. There are still, unfortunately, moments of doubt. As a longtime writer and budding blogger, I am eager to relate to Ms. Hurston’s words.