H. A. Byrd


When I was eight I was inspired by this line which I loved from a US patriotic song: “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!” I could see those mountain majesties in my mind and I wrote a story about them.

The Purple Mountains probably wasn’t a very good story. I recall the little book made of folded and stapled paper, and the mountains in colored pencil on the front, but I don’t remember the story at all.

What remains in the files of my mind is the premise. Distant mountains, purple in the haze, turn out to actually be that color. The foliage, the slopes themselves, everything purple.

At the same age, I loved to draw horses. But horses are difficult to draw well. It’s the legs, and especially the hooves. It’s tough to make hooves look believable unless you really know how. And, anyway, what I most loved to draw was the tack. The saddles, bridles, fancy martingales, and, of course saddlebags, these are so much fun. So, of course, I drew horses that had bodies long enough to accommodate five or ten saddles. A better result for my efforts.

My brain is full of imagery and strange ideas. I grew up thinking I was a misfit but eventually I realized I do fit into society. I’m an “artist type.”

My writing is, naturally, full of imagery too. When I write it feels as though I'm painting. At the same time I have the impression that I'm chipping away at the story like a sculptor--rather than building up a story, I'm revealing to myself what already is there.

I think life is like that. We build up our personalities over time, dabbing on a little color here, carving a few ridges there, and as we reach a certain age we can truly see what we are working with. By the time we are old there will be a few bits that have been repaired. That’s why elders have so much character. And isn’t that largely what the story of life is about? Character.

Be proud of who you are. Be proud of your color, your age, your differences. We can all be proud of ourselves and supportive of others.

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