In 1972, my county built a new shiny
library that was one floor, and took up a quarter of a city block in my home
town. The children’s librarian Ms. Staratt had a round, friendly face, and her
whole body shook with a bubbly inspiration for children’s literature. The
library became a kind-of day-care-center for my sister and me during the hot
summers. While growing up, we were dropped off and would spend up to six air-conditioned
hours daily, reading books in the comfortable lime-green cushioned box chairs
that were scattered around the children’s section. I had read my way through the
Laura Ingalls Wilder series, the Nancy Drew series, and a few other adolescent
and pre-teen series when, at age 12, became bored. I had already started
reading books off of my mother’s shelves—The
Secret Life of Plants, Seth Speaks, and other esoteric favorites of that
The grown-up people’s book section was through the glass doors, where I timidly ventured—a place where for sure I’d be shushed if I became too animated, which happened infrequently. The section was organized in this particular area—fiction—alphabetized. Feeling a little timid about my straying too far from my familiar hold in the children’s section, I didn’t get past the B’s. I pulled out a book by the name of Buck. The author’s name was Pearl S. Buck. A random selection, The Good Earth felt substantial in my hands. I was intrigued by this title, because I was a country girl. Turning the soil and pulling weeds were part of my summertime tasks. My parents were “back to the earth” kind of people—intellectuals who decided to move to the land to raise their family, their garden, and their goats in the hot coastal valleys of Northern California.
And so I read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I did not just read it, I devoured it; feeling that I was deficient in values and morale, I internalized the lessons of this book. My life up to that point was riddled with many things to write about, if I had had the inclination. This book helped me make meaning and gave me an interest for travel, for truthful living, for honest reporting, for justice, God and gardening. Buck’s words challenged me to think on my own and to document my thoughts. The following excerpt was and still is poignant:
"There was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods...Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together-together-producing the fruit of this earth." The Good Earth, Chapter 1, pg. 22
The Good Earth was imprinted in my heart. This model of life from a distant country that had such elementary connections to the Divine fascinated me. I was connected to the Earth in a way that most twelve-year-old American girls weren’t. I pulled weeds and turned the soil, collected eggs and fed the animals for my chores around the house. But when most of my world was shattered by parental separation, a good friend moving away, and the death of a classmate, I clung to the words of Pearl S. Buck that summer, as if looking for a thread of security, but feeling that there was a sort of betrayal within my midst.
Writing letters became cathartic. I wrote to Timmy, to Corey, to Christine. Later, in 8th grade I began to write for journalism, and then in high school and junior college as well. I started keeping journals in spiral note pads, recording my dreams on bits of paper, on the backs of envelopes, on recycled scraps of paper. I searched for God in my written words, searched for humanity in my inner world, for sanity.
What I like most about my development as a writer, is that I’ve been able to start somewhere, and allow my stream of consciousness to take me on a journey. Of course with the wonderful editing process I can add or delete information, facts, figures, make it plausible, and give it credibility. Creative non-fiction has always been my favorite written genre. My university professors guided me to write the necessary critical essays, which I always come back to, so that my foundation is strongly set in logic and critical thinking. This writing form gave me strength and a deeper foundation to analyze text and literature. Personal narrative has shaped and defined my personal work, blogging about the life I lead in India with my dear Indian husband. My greatest strength as a writer is to tell my truth in a way that inspires people.
My childhood pen-pal Timmy contacted me recently. I wrote a short 100 word piece on our friendship, which was selected and published on a website page for Valentine’s Day:
My pen-pal contacted me 38 years later. We are married to others. Our pure and divine bond was sealed at a two-weekend children’s workshop. Of his life he says, “I remembered you during the difficult times. And then I’d feel good.” Our love is like a vehicle; this greater power works through us. We tune in to God together. That we are 8000 miles apart is irrelevant. We feel each other’s presence. Beginning my relationship with my husband, I listed my pen-pal as “one of the majors,” even though he was an eleven-year-old boy last time I saw him. Susan Rajkumar
Writing is a celebration of life, for me. I celebrate my divine inspiration, and dig deeply into my earthy soul to conjure feelings of hope and love for my fellow humanity, convinced that our source of inspiration guides and protects us. I live for Nature. Our time on this Earth is precious, and what we learn here matters. Our relationships with each other matter. This is why I write.
In : The Spiritual Life
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