Saturday, April 1, 2017
"Is it one of those depressing books?" I asked, laughing so that she knew I was kidding.
"No! No, not this time..... I brought this." she answered, holding up a book called "When Clay Sings". The cover was adorned with what looked like some sort of Native American cave art.
I immediately suspected that the other kids would hate it.
Annie began reading the lyrical prose. I was surprised to watch the kids get sucked in and impressed by their comments and questions.
I looked more closely at the cover while Annie read.
"Byrd Baylor!" I said loudly.
"Oh my gosh, you guys, I know her, I mean, I've met her, more than once. I have been inside her house....I camped on her land!"
My mind's eye traveled from the small, windowless room of the public housing authority to the hot, dry, dusty hills of Arivaca. I remembered the airy, indoor/outdoor house with the rock lined porch, sitting on Byrd's couch, fascinated as she spoke, while my eyes traveled to the many Mexican figurines that lined small shelves, left by migrants that had passed through her home.
"You know her!?" Abshir exclaimed.
"I mean, we're not like, BFFs but I've met her, she's really cool, do you guys know what living off the grid means?"
They were entranced by the tales of the elderly woman that lived by herself in the desert, mere miles from the Mexican border. The story of her taking a shower with a rattlesnake that had found its way into her bathroom, stating that she didn't bother it and it didn't bother her. They were intrigued that she loved the desert, the prickly cacti, the variety of animals that most find terrifying, the heat, the clear nights.
"You should get her to come to our school." Abshir stated definitively, as if I could just call Byrd up and she'd come. Abshir and Byrd Baylor are two such different people, for some reason I loved it that he thought Byrd was a person he'd like to meet, to talk to.
Better yet, I thought, she should come here....to the Center.
"When she says 'when clay sings' does she literally mean that the clay can sing?" I asked.
"No," Abshir answered. "The clay tells us about the people from the past....they didn't write it down or anything, the clay tells the story."
"Does she have more books?"
"Yes, Abshir, she has A LOT of books."