Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dessa Reed Tells of Her Personal Journey to Inauguration, Throws in Benefits of PEN

When I saw this essay, I though how important a description of a writer's life and how associations with other writers nurture our careers and personal lives. I debated whether to post this on my or this one, decided on this one because so much of my writing is informed by the subject of acceptance. Thank you to Palm Springs poet Dessa Reed for being willing to share her story--we are storytellers, right?--with my Sharing with Writers readers.

By Dessa ReedBarack Obama's "Journey to the White House," as the press liked to call it, was also my journey.

Being on the poetic trip of a lifetime, I had to see the Inauguration Day’s last stanza for myself. As an author / poet, I am a member of the National League of American Pen Women, who happens to have their national headquarters in Washington, DC just blocks from the White House. It is a historic 1886 mansion with rooms available for visiting branch members. The day after Obama was nominated in July, I reserved a room for the week of January 20, 2009. When he won the election, I made my plane reservations the next day and the woman I talked to at American Airlines said she and her family were driving to DC from Texas "so my children can experience history." What a beginning!

Having the affliction of talking to anyone within two feet of where ever I happen to be, I talked non-stop from Palm Springs to Dallas with a grandmother and her granddaughter ~ the only two African Americans on the plane going to the inauguration.

Changing planes at the Dallas airport, I chatted with another woman from the desert with the same destination who was as excited as I was about Inauguration Day. Through a series of amazing flukes, she and I were bumped up to first class sitting next to each other where we continued to talk about the “poetry” of politics.

Entering the historic house known as Pen Arts is like going back over a century in time. Much the same as when it was built, the charm and elegance remain ~ from its carved wood stairs to its claw-footed bathtubs ~ delightful old world digs! There were twelve talented people in residence so at times I had flashbacks of my college dorm.

Although it was 79 degrees when I left Palm Springs and 30 degrees in Washington on Inauguration Day, I barely noticed. Bundled like a child in its snowsuit, I was able to stay warm and still walk ~ and walk and walk. Having made no attempt to get special tickets I followed the masses ~ one million eight hundred thousand of us snuggled together toasting each other. I ended up behind the Washington Monument watching the events on an enormous TV screen, yet feeling totally part of the vast scene. Everyone around me was laughing, crying, singing, and clapping. What an American moment!

In the midst of this important Happening, a little lost boy of 8 or 9 stepped beside me and tearfully said he was looking for his mother. As soon as those around me knew the situation, at least a dozen people stopped watching the swearing-in to help. We finally found a cell phone that was able to get a signal to text message his mother's phone. She gave her location (near the latrines) and a woman who knew the area walked him through the crowds to her. A grateful mother immediately text messaged her thanks for his safe return. We cheered! This experience was a perfect metaphor for what President Obama’s election exemplified ~ race was a non-issue. The little boy was black. All the people helping were white.

The whole trip was one big Love Fest. There was an upbeat energy encompassing the city that was almost tangible. I talked to dozens of strangers from all over the country and because they had come with the same enthusiasm I had, we seemed like family. Each had a story to tell and I was there to listen and record.

Dessa Reed © 2009
(Dessa Reed is an inspirational speaker and author of two books, "The Butterfly Touch / Recovery Through Poetry" and "Seven Bridges / Turning Adversity into Victory." For five years Dessa was a columnist and Poetry Editor for The Desert Woman magazine published monthly in Palm Spring, CA. She can be contacted on her website:

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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