happy birthday octavia

today is the day octavia butler was born into this world. the majority of my adult life has been spent reading her work, engaging it, geeking out with others about her as a writer and a person, and building work like barnacles on the structures she left behind her.

on her birthday i feel gratitude that after four miscarriages, her mother’s body was able to hold onto octavia’s body. and then that octavia was precocious enough to surrender to her calling early, to practice so tirelessly.

there were times when i wanted to be more like octavia, more serious, more demanding of respectful awe, more prolific and fearless in fiction – my queer strange distortion of love and admiration. i would wonder what octavia would make of me, and usually landed at: annoyed and amused.

but the longer lesson has been that octavia was so utterly herself, and what she channeled across time and space came through her own acceptance of who and how she was, her unapologetic realization of her self.

i don’t need to be her, or impress her across the barrier of life and death. i just need to be me, the me that nearly worships her and tries to maximize the reach of her wild and wondrous mind. the me who knows there’s an abundance of space and attention and bookshelves for brilliant black visionary fiction writing.

i met her, i shook her hand, i heard her voice, i listened to her cadence, i loved the shape of her face and how dark her eyes were, the width of her shoulders. i was moved to tears by how she understood the world and spoke of it to a room of 19-year-olds as if she believed in us, believed we could understand humanity.

it turns out that octavia is one of the great loves of my life. i have so far avoided the huntington library because in my heart she is too present to be archived. it brings me to tears to truly sit with who she was, who she is in my life.

happy birthday great spirit. i continue to give my life work and attention to you, with joy.