The Cushion in the Road
The New Press New York 2013
by Alice Walker [814.54 WAL]
I really don’t want to review this book of treasures, because
then I will have to return it and let someone else
feast on it. It is just as
good - or even better
- than all the other
Alice Walker books,
and her writing is still
getting stronger and
more potent, if you
ever thought that was
The curious title
caught my attention,
but the sub-title made
it impossible to pass
it up and leave it for
someone else to have:
‘Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens
to Being in Harm’s Way.’ It contains a compendium
of her writing from 2008 till 2012, a gift of 362 blessed
pages of it: articles, letters, poems, speeches, memories.
You can open it at any random page and have
your breath taken away by the beauty and strength of
her words. You could weep at any one of them.
In the year that Alice turned 60, she prepared to retire
to her home in Mexico ‘with a splendid view of a home
made fountain, with its softly falling water a perfect,
soothing backdrop’ to her final twenty years of life. Her
cushion awaited in her meditation room, and visions of
a (hoped for) grand daughter and stillness beckoned.
As is its way, life threw her three curved balls close
together: Barack Obama ran for President, she heard
on the radio that bombs were falling on Gaza, and she
saw a story of a mother who unconscious herself, had
lost all five of her daughters.
Being Alice Walker, student activist in the Civil Rights
Movement (doesn’t that sound easy when you say it?)
and then in every way open (and some not open) to
her in the ensuing 40 years, she could not sit on her
beautiful cushion. Urgency drove her and she set off
travelling the world and writing her witness: from celebrations
in Washington DC through Myanmar, Thailand,
Gaza and Israel, Jordan, India, Kerala and Dharamsala.
She felt torn between her desire to live a meditative
life, and her deep response to the need for action. One
night she had a dream of her rose-coloured meditation
cushion sitting directly on the yellow line in the middle
of the highway just outside of her grandparents’ home.
Her cushion was on the road. This was the solution to
So what do I believe? That I was born to wander and I
was born to sit. To love home with a sometimes almost
unbearable affection, but to be lured out into the world
to see how it is doing, as my beloved larger home and
I am not going to tell you about what she has written. I
know you will love it when you get your turn to read it. I
just want to sing in celebration that the world can hold
such a wonderful woman.
by Pauline Small.