Early Days: Dust Tracks on the Road
"Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks," Hurston writes, "I have memories within that came out of the material that went to make me. Time and place have had their say." Born in Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was the daughter of a preacher, though she never could see eye-to-eye with her father.
Even as a child, she was too filled with passion and imagination. Her father once said that she'd be hung for sure. Hurston writes, "Grown people know that they do not always know the why of things, and even if they think they know, they do not know where and how they got the proof." As a child, Zora constantly asked more questions. When she couldn't decipher the answers, she imagined new realities, new ways of being and knowing. She animated the world.
Her vivid imagination saved her. "I was driven inward," she writes. I lived an exciting life unseen. And, then she learned her fate. Hurston learned her fate with a few flashes, but she believed her visions to be true. Suddenly, "I had knowledge before its time. I knew my fate. I knew that I would be an orphan and homeless." This strange, new self-knowledge alienated her. She wrote, "Nothing is so desolate as a place where life has been and gone. I stood on a soundless island in a tideless sea."
Hurston found herself alone. She writes, "A cosmic loneliness was my shadow. Nothing and nobody around me really touched me. It is one of the blessings of this world that few people see visions and dream dreams." The lives of those visionaries and dreamers have to go on. Those lives are sometimes meant for greatness, as they speak and write and act, but they might just as easily sink into anonymity.
Dreams aren't easy to put aside though, as the world is vivified with color, sound and motion. She writes, "This was my world, I said to myself, and I shall be in it, and surrounded by it, if it is the last thing I do on God's green dirt-ball."
All romanticism aside, Hurston dreamed because she couldn't help but see what others couldn't see. She saw visions because they came to her. She wrote stories because the words built up inside her until they just burst forth. Then, she looked back, thinking that the stories could have been told in a different way. But, as she says, "one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning." Growing from time and place and being, the words change. Hopefully, they grow a little too!
Hurston explains: "Anyway, the force from somewhere in Space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you."
Without revealing her secrets, she tells her tale by showing what it is to make tracks by following the path of life where it leads. Even when the dust threatens to build up and overwhelm, there's still the steady pace.