It was the end of a long day of speakers at the Mazza Museum. All spectacular in their own way. Everyone was tired, but happy to end the day with one last voice, an elderly man in his 90’s, an illustrator, artist, legend: Ashley Bryan. He took the stage slowly, then smiled, raised his arms, and the magic began.
Poetry, passion, purpose. We all sat up a little straighter. We smiled back at him. We raised our voices as he led us in call and response. The auditorium became a holy place. Later, Ashley’s tremendous energy and spirit blessed each one of us as we stood waiting for a private audience, a moment in his presence as he autographed books.
That day, last November, my friend and writing buddy, Michelle Houts, mentioned to Ashley that our little group of writer friends goes to Maine each year in June, and he said, “Come visit me!” Through the magic of snail mail, email, and mail boats, we did just that on June 19, 2015.
The crowded mail boat took us to Big Cranberry Island, then Little Cranberry Island, where we departed at the Islesford dock. We walked the path to Ashley’s house, past lobster traps and blooming lupine, then entered his door. He greeted us with hugs of welcome wanting to know each name and where we were from. His house, his life, his art, were opened to us fully. We ate at his table, shared a blissful afternoon full of philosophy, stories, and whimsy. He called us family, and we believed him.
“So many children in your family,” Ashley said.
Yes, we are a family. A family of women writers. A family of people who care about children. A family that believes in carrying forward all that Ashley preaches:
We are all family.
Find beauty in what is discarded.
Let the world see what you care about.
Sometimes art can save you.
Everything is a miracle.
Sometimes spirit glows. Ashley Bryan radiates pure love.