Monday, November 13, 2017

The Day I Saw The Hummingbird - Presented by Paulette Mahurin

As the coolness started to disappear from the morning air, we knew it was time to get ready for work. I felt for Mama; she had had no sleep for two nights. When she lit a candle and began making breakfast, I could see her wrinkled face and bloodshot eyes. Everything about her was tired-looking. She appeared much older than her young thirty years. Oh, how I wished she could stay back in the cabin and rest. But no, she had no time for that. No time for anything other than grabbing a quick meal, feeding me, changing out of her putrid dress, and dragging her exhausted body to work. 
It was an especially warm mid-May day. The hummingbirds had already arrived earlier that year. They usually welcomed in a new year, migrating to Louisiana around the end of January. Mama and I were working near the edge of the sugarcane crop close to some flowers when I saw a tiny bird dipping its long, slender bill into an orange bell-shaped flower. It was a rare treat when I spotted a hummingbird with its vibrant colors. Something about those birds made me feel more alive. I once tried to count the times one flapped its wings. I couldn’t do it; it’s near impossible to see the space between the movements. And oh, how that little beauty invigorated me. I thought the day had started off on a good foot, seeing that beautiful creature covered in the brightest turquoise blue I ever did see. The pretty little thing had splashes of orange on it, too—just like the color of the flower it fed on. I could surely fly off and spend the rest of my life living among such grand appeal. Mama was right when she would say, “It God’s work in nature. You wanna find peace, my boy, God done filled the whole world with it. Just gotta look past all the folk who fuss and fume. God’s creations, they is simple and fine.” She’d smile and shake her head in amazement. “Proves to me,” she’d sing, “there surely be a Lord creating all this.”
But what went wrong when that same Lord who created such magnificence also created men with bitter hatred in their hearts? I never got my answer to that question. And if ever there was a time I needed one, it would be the day I saw the hummingbird...

The Day I Saw
  The Hummingbird

By Paulette Mahurin

Slavery is the next thing to hell.  
--Harriet Tubman

He had been born into slavery and as soon as he was old enough would also be called upon to work the fields, cutting the cane or carrying...his Mama would be teaching him how to do it, for she had carried him, screamed in her birthing and then took him into the fields as she was forced to go back to work... There was no other option. They were bought and paid for, becoming the property of the plantation owner.

But the one they all hated most was the overseer, who carried a whip or used anything else to hurt them, including coming into their shanties late at night...He had been there the night he came to Mama. She had scooted him out to go sleep with his friend... Even then he was old enough to know what happened to the women when he came...With his father gone, there was no way to protect his Mama... 

And the hate and anger within him grew deeper and deeper, cutting his heart and soul until he could not contain his outbursts...

I couldn’t shake the distrust that lived in my body. 
All the kindness and compassion I’d experienced
from those who helped to free me
never replaced the sour taste left from the torture
and injustice at the hands of the mean foreman
that defined my childhood. 
Lower your head Oscar, I could still hear my Mama
scream. Don’t be looking where your eyes don’t belong.
Later at night when away from the sugarcane field,
my mama, Catherine Mercer,
her big brown eyes wide as the moon and
her nostrils flaring, would whisper in my ear. 
Your curiosity is gonna get us killed.
Sometimes they had half-days off on Sunday. Oscar and his friend would spend time at the creek throwing rocks to count the times it would jump...Simple fun that took them away from all that was wrong with their world...

Oscar is the main character of Paulette Mahurin's latest novel. I met her with her debut book, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap  and The Seven Year Dress. Mahurin has a real gift in creating books that are historically significant, but, even more importantly, readers become so involved in her books that we begin to feel as if we were right there within the book, maybe even as one of the characters....

While the story is built around Harriet Tubman's work with The Underground Railroad, she personally is only mentioned in this book as the person who started it...

Oscar was not even ten when, on his mother's death bed, she indicated that it was now time for him to go for freedom. There had been a small group who talked about and planned for an escape, but, in the end, it was only Oscar and his best friend, Sammy who, at the age of 10, sat with Oscar while she went back to work... She had no choice now, they had already killed her husband and she had to ensure her boy was safe...

Now, Sammy and Oscar had to leave on their own, never to see anybody again who was left behind. They had learned the routes to follow and had been given a small map but neither had ever been anywhere outside of the plantation... Fear alone walked with them...

Oscar was an intelligent young boy and had some basic learning of the alphabet and reading, even though it was forbidden for them to learn how to read. His mother had taught him much about God and life, about nature's beauty and how to survive. 
But two other women he met along the way continued to teach Oscar... It is in the sacrifices of those who provided support to those who escaped that we learn not only more about Oscar, but also about how those who provided shelter felt as if they were compelled to help!

Be prepared for the danger and death as Oscar ran, first losing Sammy and then meeting others who took him under their wings to provide for him. Months and years went by and Oscar celebrated his 10th birthday while he was still running... What was in the future and would he ever be free from running. Did freedom even exist?

For during his trip, the Civil War had begun and soldiers were fighting, sometimes forcing them to take a different trail. And as the Railroad became better known, their masters began to put rewards on their heads to bring them back...

A possibly well known story to many...and yet, so startlingly different. Seeing everything through Oscar's eyes as he, first, grew up enslaved and afraid, only to be forced to leave his Mama's grave and his few friends and run into the unknown...

Readers are faced with the tension, that ongoing fear, the hatred faced by drunken men who delighted in hurting he and others for no reason...and, worse, to see those he loved die horrible 

It's time to remember. It's time to consider how Blacks did not immigrate like, perhaps, you and I came to America through our ancestors. Blacks came as prisoners, chained and sold to the highest bidder... You might even think about the recent activity of the KKK and other hate groups and come to see that we still, today, need to ensure that individuals who hate are not permitted to once again require protection from those haters...

My recommendation for this latest book, by Paulette Mahurin, is to consider it a must-read...It's an important contribution to Mahurin's own library and I encourage you to consider this as well as her other troubling, powerfully-written stories...


Paulette Mahurin lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science. While in college, she won awards and was published for her short-story writing. One of these stories, Something Wonderful, was based on the couple presented in His Name Was Ben, which she expanded into a fictionalized novel in 2014. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction of the year 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the top ten best seller lists on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K., and Amazon Australia. Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters. 

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