The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek celebrates courage.
This new year’s day, I can think of no better way to spend quiet hours than imagining grandmother mountains, 1930s Kentucky hill people, slow hard life, and mule rides on Appalachian trails. There is wind and light and mud and water here. There are more bobcats than books. There is a lone Pack Horse librarian, her book-delivery route, and her blue skin. I appreciate every word in this book.
This novel has a loathsome villain: Ignorance.
One character who embodies ignorance in this book is Vester Frazier. He stalks, threatens, and tries to harm the protagonist, because her skin is blue. When I encounter a fictional character as ignorant as he is, I wonder: What would it take to transform the consciousness of this mean preacher? What would it take to heal every subtle and long-last injury caused by such Ignorance in our shared reality?
When any gentle reader encounters Ignorance in the form of a character like Vester Frazier, who is cruel, violent, and stupid, a reader observes his awful behavior, and we can regard him as the novel’s villain. We can sit at a safe distance from him and observe, as readers, from outside the story. As entertained readers, we cheer when he meets his fateful end. We feel a sense of good riddance, and let’s move on.
But what kind of imprint and energy does his character and situation stir in readers’ subconscious minds?
Let’s play. Let’s observe this character with a yogic oneness consciousness; let’s awaken to a sense of wonder over how to discover and destroy the Vester Frazier that may be lurking somewhere inside our own subconscious minds. As hard as it is to admit, everyone carries Vester Frazier inside him, her, them. Sure we do not all behave violently. But there are subtle ways we hurt each other all the time. We build institutions, clubs, and inner circles; we favor some beings and reject others; we include and exclude according to strange, unconscious whims. Our behaviors hurt one another … subconsciously. This is ignorance. To read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson as a yogi means to courageously confront and destroy the ignoramus within.
The protagonist of this novel is a traveling librarian named Cussy Mary Carter, and she has blue skin. Friend, have you heard of the gentle blue people of eastern Kentucky, descendants of Martin Frugate and Elizabeth Smith, who both carried a recessive gene for methemoglobinemia (a condition that turns the skin blue)? If you have not, as I had not until this book, they were real American folks who lived in the mountains of Kentucky during the 20th Century. Richardson’s novel is well-researched and blends her knowledge of the Blue community with her knowledge of President Roosevelt’s WPA Pack Horse Library program of the 1930s.
In this novel, the library patrons live in out-of-the-way mountain places. They are deeply grateful to receive book deliveries from the blue-skinned book woman. Though her father wants to see her wed, Cussy Mary doesn’t want to marry because she would lose her book delivery job. Also, in the hurt of her soul, she thinks who would marry a Blue?
Vester Frazier’s brother ends up marrying her, but he dies while raping her.
Consequently, Vester taunts her and threatens her, insisting she needs to attend his Christ’s Truth mountain church, a place she is really not welcome because she is blue.
What’s more, Vester is the type who insists folks don’t need books. He equates reading with devil worship. Most readers will identify with Cussy and the common folk as they cling to books to bring refreshment and imagination to the mind.
In many parts of the story, books are given equal importance to food as providing vital sustenance for the human soul.
Here another conflict arises, the dimension of ignorance in the way some religious folks fear books and book learning. This kind of fear of books reminds me of book burnings by Nazis and the cruel persecution of the Intelligentsia during China’s cultural revolution. My experience of books has made me grow extremely sensitive and careful regarding the fear of book learning; and I have even noticed where that same suspicion of books still exists among some popular yoga teachers today! No! It’s not good. Books relieve us of our ignorance and should be treated with proper dignity and honor. It is possible to be a realized yogi and at the same time love books. I’ve written this before, and I will write this again: books are not the problem; the problem is when people act superior over others or have overcome The Unknown just because they are book-learned; meanwhile too many beings suffer unfairly from all forms of illiteracy. It’s a situation that is just as urgent to heal as the need to balance the injustice between those who have food to eat while others go hungry.
What to do about ignorance and injustice?
Would ignorance of Verster Frazier be lessened by contemplating the blue skin phenomenon from a yogic perspective? In the yoga tradition, the highest sages and gods feel at home (depicted) in blue skin. The Lord of Yoga, Shiva, is portrayed as having blue skin. Others who are painted blue in iconography include, Krishna, Rama, and Baba Siri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak. These beings are represented with blue because blue is the color of vastness. All that which is vast beyond normal human perception radiates blue. For instance, when we look upon the ocean or sky with normal vision, we cannot behold the entire ocean or the entire sky. Thus to our normal perception, the ocean and sky appear blue. From this perspective, blue skin is not an ailment, a genetic disorder, or due to inbreeding, as conveyed by Wikipedia’s myopic explanation of the Kentucky Blue People. When viewed from a yogic perspective, blue-skinned mountain people radiate vastness of the beyond, embody the Great Mystery. Makes sense. They live in the mountains, and the mountain landscapes connect Earth to Ether. Their blue skin is an expression of the marriage of Earth and Ethers.
Of course, due to his circumstances, a character or hill man of Vester Frazier’s time and mentality would never have had the exposure to the yogic perspective. Even if he had known the possibility of contemplating Cussy Mary’s skin as holding the energy of cosmic consciousness, would he have dared to change his attitude? Makes me wonder, what kinds of phenomenon are out there today that we, in our collective ignorance, are not understanding fully in their potential due to our limits of time, space, mentality, and imagination? How about ways to fathom the human relationship to Earth and Cosmos in ways we are not considering?
Beyond simply reading this novel for entertainment or for an emotional experience, I want to confront its themes and heal the wounds it exposes in our collective subconscious.
This is a powerful and challenging meditation that uses the magic mantra (Ek Ong Kaar Sat Gur Prasaad Sat Gur Prasaad Ek Ong Kaar ) to reverse negative energy.
I set my intention like this: may all beings be free from ignorance and filled with the energy of the sage.
My reading enjoyment (about 31 minutes per day) and meditation practice (11 minutes per day) stretched over eleven days. If there are any real versions of Vester Frazier still out there, or if that energy lingers anywhere in the universe, as I know it does, please let that be destroyed in favor of more sagacious energy streaming through the human collective subconscious. This is my humble prayer.
This book helps me revitalize my lifelong appreciation for libraries, librarians, simple life of reading and loving books. For all the things that books give us, I simply bow my forehead to the Earth and give thanks and pray.
Beloved Creator of All That Is and Is Yet To Be, forgive all of humankind our deepest ignorance. May we begin to realize how backward and clumsy we are when it comes to observing Mother Nature. May we gain more clarity about the ways of Cosmic Consciousness. May we embrace true love for our Mother Earth. May divine wisdom pour in through the crown of our heads a luminous nectar of insight. May we bathe in this nectar of sensing the Undying Truth that lives deep within every living being!
In the English language, when someone is brokenhearted and feeling down, they describe this state of low energy and sadness as “being blue.” But the color blue to yogi is associated with occult powers, the Vishuddha Chakra, or the energy of the throat and voice. It is an energy that makes a yogi very contained within herself so that no matter what the circumstances are happening around her, within herself she is still absorbed in Divine Serenity, Cosmic Consciousness, Awareness of the Nectar in Repeating the Naam. While I write this post, it is a holiday season. So, for all those who are feeling blue over these holy days, may your lips turn up in smile to realize that being blue is actually a high spiritual attainment. So, go ahead and sulk. Be Blue! Praise Blue! Sing Wahe Guru!
Infinite gratitude to Kim Michele Richardson for writing an amazing story about a Blue-skinned librarian! I know readers in the Silent Book Club who thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. May that same feeling of joy that readers obtain through being absorbed in a good book be an Infinite Joy that expands and penetrates deep into the hearts of all beings everywhere. And if there are any yogis out there who feel restless in meditation and are having a hard time getting absorbed into their meditative state, may the sense of absorption that novel readers know expand into the yogi consciousness and give them any needed uplift. Peace to All! Cosmic Christ Guru Buddha God Consciousness is an all-inclusive, shared space. Let us meet there and be merry!