Bosque del Apache is one of my favorite places in the world. My friend Roberta has captured its essence.
“Something will turn up”
Wilkins Micawber, a character in
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
In this strange not quite post-Pandemic time, it seems that I have spent an extraordinary amount of time waiting. Waiting for my son to get unstuck, waiting for publication news, waiting for the world to get better. But happily and at long last, finally something did turn up.
On the homefront, a paradigm shift has taken place. My oldest son had to live at home for two years. He moved back from living in South America, and all of his domestic job prospects were dashed because of Covid-related deaths. Last month, to his (and my) relief, he landed a teaching job in a nearby town and moved out. As the saying goes, he’s flown the coop. Though I miss him, it’s a far better situation than sharing a house. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Even more rewarding: I have new books scheduled for an early 2022 release. Pocol Press plans to launch Hand of Ganesh in February and Pajarito Press will re-issue From Calcutta with Love: the World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard in the spring.
From Calcutta with Love comprises my late adoptive father’s daily letters to my adoptive mother interspersed with her missives back to him. Before they adopted me, Richard and Reva were separated by 6,000 miles and 18 months. The entire letter collection resides at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The best of the letters are in the book.
Hand of Ganesh is a work of fiction inspired by a trip I took to southern India in 2013: An adventure story starring two women – Clara Jordan and Arundati (Dottie) Benet. Here’s a sneak preview:
The story begins in the 1600s with Jonathan Dinegar Goldingham’s visit to the Shore Temple at Mahabalipurim in Tamil Nadu, India. Goldingham strolls along the beach and finds himself confronting a small Indian boy who is selling relics. He buys a stone that was part of the elephant god, Ganesh.
Generations pass and the hand of Ganesh ends up in the dusty attic of Miriam Benet, a wealthy Philadelphia dowager. Arundhati Benet, the woman who inherits the house from Aunt Miriam is the adopted daughter of Richard and Reva Benet. Richard Benet received the stone hand, plus a small fortune, from Professor Dinegar, the grandson of Goldingham and Benet’s former college professor.
When Dottie and her friend Clara are clearing out the attic as part of an estate settling, they find and keep the hand of Ganesh. The artifact will eventually lead them to take a trip to Southern India.Both are adoptees and both are passionately interested in learning more about their ancestry. It is also a story involving Hinduism and the deity Ganesh.
To learn more, tune in to a recent public radio interview by Carly Newfeld of Santa Fe Public RadioStation KSFR: The Last Word
I’d nearly forgotten that November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Instead, I’ve paid too much attention to the news. Are we out of the Covid Era? Will we ever be? Is our limbo state, when it comes to what’s safe and what isn’t, a permanent condition? All we have, really is this day. Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” describes my emotions perfectly. If only I can be welcoming to all feelings, I will have accomplished a lot. After all, the adoptee’s journey is about being at home in ones own skin.
Although he wrote seven centuries ago, the Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic Rumi provided insights that serve us well today. The “guests” are emotions and thoughts to which one awakens each morning. Rumi advises welcoming them all rather than disdaining some as unwelcome pests and others as “right” and correct. It is true that we enjoy those guests that empower, buoy us up, and make us feel successful, capable, happy. But as I’ve traveled the adoptee’s road to discovering who I really am, I’ve found that we need to accept all the feelings and learn to live with them.
The emotions that appear in our personal guest houses can, after all, serve as guides from beyond.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.– Jelaluddin Rumi
Over the past season, I’ve seen this fawn grow into a doe. Her name is Emma, I decided. Her concerns stay within the confines of each day. A worthy goal.
A Lesson from the Trees
Nature is an amazing teacher: After devastation and loss, rebirth and regeneration. In my life, this has proved true.
I live in a forested part of Northern New Mexico, an area where ongoing drought and thick forests make for extreme forest fire danger. My home in Santa Fe is near piñon forests and Rocky Mountain foothills. We’ve had dry times, periods when we had to have getaway bags packed in case of fire. Thankfully, so far the preparations have not been needed. But as the Southwest grows drier and hotter, we never know what the next season will bring.
Our neighboring town to the north, Los Alamos, has not been so lucky. Twenty-one years ago, the Cerro Grande forest fire destroyed over 40,000 acres, mostly in the Jemez Mountains. Four hundred homes burned to the ground. No lives were lost but damage was estimated at over a billion dollars. At the time, my late husband and I worked at Los Alamos National Lab and lived in both Santa Fe and Los Alamos. Bob’s house was spared, but I had friends who lost everything. One of them, a fellow bicyclist named Faye, lived at my Santa Fe home for six months while she got her life back together. Before the fire, Faye and I had been bike training. Despite the fire, we shared a bicycle adventure, doing RAGBAI, (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). The New Mexico fires eventually quit burning, leaving charred hills and blackened tree trunks in their wake. Faye moved away to start a new life living near her sister.
The Jemez mountains were denuded, their contours charred and brown, like a giant Earth Person who’d been scalped. The lush piñon and ponderosa forests were gone. A scene of ashy devastation remained. Recently, a friend and I drove north to hike in the Valles Caldera area above Los Alamos. We spent the day exploring several trails. The tree remains stood like black toothpicks against the sky. In the years that had passed, new trees had self-planted. New Aspen trees were filling in.
Four Autumns ago, I suffered a hiking injury that could have been the end. Instead it was the beginning. After a year of recovering from a spinal fracture, I got serious about finishing my novel-in-progress, Hand of Ganesh. I realized that I’d been spared from an untimely demise, and that it was time to “knuckle down.” Thanks to a temporary inability to do anything at all, I gained a new appreciation for simply being alive. Hand of Ganesh has been accepted by Pocol Press and will be published in 2022. New growth!
Sometimes we grow so busy, we forget to enjoy the changing of seasons. Yesterday, as I walked the arroyo near my house, I received a wakeup call. Crisp air, trees nearly bare, dazzling blue sky. On the arroyo floor, a previous hiker had left a message in the sand. It spoke directly to me, a reminder to cherish Autumn.
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are invited. November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and submissions are being taken for guest blogs on all aspects of adoption. Length no more than 500 words, photos accepted, short bio needed. Send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
In many ways, this is my favorite time of year. As in seasons past, I’ve been walking and hiking in the surrounding Rocky Mountain foothills, observing deer that roam through the backyard, harvesting apples. I am thinking about promotion for Hand of Ganesh, my newest novel. All good things, for which I’m thankful.
But as I write this, on 9/11, I’m reminded of the tragedy of two decades ago. This morning, the Santa Fe New Mexican published a dozen first hand accounts of New Mexican first-hand witnesses who were near the Twin Towers.
Santa Fean Noranik Zadeyan, then a graduate student at New York University, was walking to a dental appointment. Her downtown apartment was five blocks away from the twins towers. She recalls, “As soon as I stepped out, I felt panic all around me – people running, screaming, frantic. I looked around and thought there was a shooter or something, but then I saw peoples’ gazes were lifted to the sky. I followed the direction and saw the first tower was on fire. Then I heard a plane and saw it go directly into the second tower, and I felt in my being that what had just happened was not an accident.
I stood there in shock for a few moments, thinking about all the people in the towers, in the planes and down below. I saw all the papers flying from the office windows and I saw the poor, desperate man who jumped out of the building. I knew I had to get out of there because I felt like things were going to get worse.” Noranik made it to her dental appointment, but, she relates, “they checked me in, sat me in the chair and put on a bib and I finally snapped out of my trance and realized, what am I thinking, I can’t get my teeth cleaned right now.” She phoned a close friend who was living in Brooklyn and went to her house “for sanctuary and a “safe retreat from all the devastation.”
Barbara Gerber, also of Santa Fe, remembers that, as a friend was perishing in the north tower of the World Trade Center, she was emptying her dishwasher. A journalist, she was supposed to be writing a story on factory farming. She missed her deadline. She tells her story, relates watching Hurricane Ida tear through New York and then comments, “Perhaps it’s the way September feels brittle and expectant. Whatever it is, 9/11 memories have a life of their own.”
Hard to believe that twenty years have passed between then and now. I can’t say that I feel the world is safer. However, I can affirm that personally, I am enjoying a life filled with many blessings. My goal: stay within the confines of each day.
Note from Elaine: Join me for monthly posts. If you have a 9/11 story you’d like to share, I will, after reviewing it, publish it as a blog post.
You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are. – Joss Whedon
It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is just having written.
I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of reading novels, and for the past decade, I’ve devoted my energy to writing them. A shift of focus, closer to my heart. Previously, my writing life had been devoted to nonfiction. As a young child, I recorded the events of each day in a diary (a habit that I’ve continued to this day!) For a decade, I made my living as a technical writer in the Information Services division of Los Alamos Laboratory. In the early 1980s, my love of hiking, running and bicycling resulted in the guidebook Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different. The fourth edition was published last year by Ocean Tree Books.
In 1991, another nonfiction book followed: The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle, an account of my 1,000-mile bicycle journey from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. Fifteen of us cycled from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. We biked from dawn until afternoon, camping every night. My book began as newspaper articles. After each day of bicycling, I’d handwrite an account and fax it to The Albuquerque Journal. The quest for a fax machine took me to some unusual places. I’d bike around whatever town we’d camped near looking for a business that had a fax machine I could pay to use. The most offbeat fax machine location was an undertaker’s showroom, the friendliest was a bookstore.
Other nonfiction books came, one after another. From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard; The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. My true love, from adolescence forward, was fiction. At long last, I’m realizing that dream.
I began the journey into the world of fiction-writing with a WWII suspense novel Beast of Bengal. It was inspired by a comment my brother John made about our father Richard. After Daddy died, I asked John to send me all the letters from WWII that my parents exchanged. “He didn’t DO anything,” John grumpily replied. “Nobody will be interested in these letters.” My brother was dead wrong. People were very interested in the archived letters, and From Calcutta with Love sold out. Texas Tech University Press, the publisher, returned full rights to me, and the book is currently being considered for re-publication by Pajarito Press.
In 2017,Pocol Press published my second novel All the Wrong Places, a page-turner set in a fictitious Native American school. Teacher Clara Jordan has to run for her life when her duplicitous lover Henry DiMarco realizes she is aware of his criminal activities. Moreover, she must draw upon inner strength to help her students survive the ragged remains of the school year.
One book just leads to another. Clara Jordan, my heroine, has more to tell. In All the Wrong Places, she lost her best friend, broke up with a bad boyfriend, and learned that the birthmother she’d been seeking died in an accident.
In Hand of Ganesh, my girl moves from Red Mesa, New Mexico to Santa Fe. She meets Arundhati “Dottie” Bennett, a fellow adoptee, and they become close friends. Clara decides to help Dottie search for her origins. To do the necessary sleuthing, the two women must travel to Southern India. A daunting challenge, but as I left Clara and Dot, they were plotting and scheming for a way. What happens next? Though I have a general idea, I’m waiting for my characters to guide me. Throughout the day, I write down ideas that pop up while I’m in the dentist’s chair, in the middle of a hike, in the shower – or sometimes when I’m officially “writing.” My job is to collect the ideas and show up at the computer every day. This showing up feels like what I should be doing. Writing fiction is what I’ve been working toward for decades. In answer to the question posed by poet Mary Oliver
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
My answer is to listen to my characters and do their bidding.
Join adoptee Elaine Pinkerton on monthly Mondays for reflections on adoption and the writing life. Please email email@example.com if you’d like to propose a guest blog. Comments are welcome!
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.”
Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are welcome!
Where the Road ends and the Trail begins…
Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
— Corita Kent
After a year of experiencing everything digitally, most of us can’t wait to return to the real world. Face to face with people: Count me in! This past weekend provided an occasion for time in nature and time with folks. My friend Christine was having a birthday, and her partner Dick wanted to take her someplace special. Los Pinos Guest Ranch in Cowles, New Mexico turned out to be the perfect destination. As Christine’s friend and a longtime fan of Los Pinos Guest Ranch, I was invited along.
Located in northern New Mexico’s high country, Alice and Bill McSweeney’s guest ranch dates back to 1912. Surrounded by towering pines, lovely meadows and mountains, the place is magical. It’s a state-certified historical site. There’s the hundred-year-old main lodge and five cabins for guests. All built of logs. The cabins have wonderful names such as Poco Tiempo, Manana, and La Jolla. Each has a sitting porch and a wood-burning stove. Christine and Dick chose Poco Tempo. La Jolla would be my home away from home. Though simple and rustic, the cabins are luxuriously comfortable.
We relaxed on sofas in the expansive screened-in porch. More guests arrived: a trio of women from Albuquerque. As the day waned, the temperature dropped. We retrieved sweaters and jackets. Jerry, a neighbor, came to the lodge to tell us about the “musical box,” a relic from the 1890s. Precursor to the record player, this musical box was brought to New Mexico years ago by the McSweeney family. Jerry, now a Pecos high country resident, was formerly a structural engineer working for Sandia Laboratory. With amazing patience and expertise, he spent a year coaxing this relic into operating. To an audience of six ranch guests, he explained the musical box’s history: originally created in Europe (Switzerland and Germany), it was the rage when it caught on in America. Jerry ended his talk and began the short concert.After installing a large metal disc, he turned the crank and– voila! — the Blue Danube waltz was playing. The sound was beautiful, a melody that conjured up the ambience of an earlier, simpler time.
Alice served an elegant candle-lit dinner, and we retired to our cabins. The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast elegantly served by Alice, Christine and I took an hour’s hike on the Panchuela Trail. We “rusticated” on the porch with Dick and other ranch guests, then left for the second hike of the day, this time with the three of us. After a short drive to La Panchuela campground, we found the last available parking spot and began the upper trail toward the Panchuela caves.
Los Pinos Ranch’s plan includes sack lunches for the day. Whether guests go hiking, birding, fishing or just want to sit outdoors and read, they will never go hungry. Because it was growing warm, so we saved the caves for another day. Instead, we sat by the creek for a picnic.
That evening after another luscious dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Christine and cheered as she blew out the candles. We would leave the next morning to drive back to Santa Fe, knowing that we would return to Los Pinos Guest Ranch. If there’s a getaway in your future and you like being in nature, I recommend Los Pinos. (Learn more at http://www.lospinosranch.com)
D-Day is a time for remembering, and today’s post is a tribute to my adoptive Dad. Note: When I was five, my foster child status changed. I’ve been incredibly fortunate for someone who began life as an orphan. I was adopted by a college professor and his wife, literally going from rags to riches. One of the best legacies my Dad left me was a treasure trove of letters. Below, one of my favorites.
During the later years of WWII, my adoptive dad served in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations as clinical psychologist at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, India. Just when I think that the “Forgotten Front” has faded from public awareness, I meet someone who not only knows about WWII’s CBI arena but who is still honoring the memory of those who served in what General Vinegar Joe Stillwell called “a theater of uncommon misery.”
Yesterday I was making my way up a snowy slope to buy my lift ticket and enjoy a day of skiing. Leaving the ski area was an attractive couple in their 50s or so. They were not dressed to ski but seemed to be sightseeing. This was not so unusual, as many visitors to my hometown of Santa Fe like to come up to the ski basin just for a look around.
What was unusual was the CBI insignia on the man’s leather bomber jacket and the emblem on his armband. How often does one see honoring of the CBI, and of all places at the ski hill? I admired his jacket and
we talked briefly about “the forgotten front” and those who’d served there. He also had a relative, now deceased, who’d been stationed in that remote corner of the world. Thus the inspiration for today’s post, which is all about love across time and miles. Once again, I’m posting a letter from Lt. Richard Beard to his wife Reva written early in what would turn out to be an 18-month separation.
1944 At Sea
This is written in commemoration of our 7th wedding anniversary, Reva, and will inadequately express my sincere happiness and good fortune in being married to you. I should prefer to look into your eyes for a moment and then kiss you to express those feelings; since that is impossible, will you accept this letter?
I was too moved to write on July 3rd, instead I sat for hours watching the waves slip past the stern of our ship. I ran over our wonderful experiences: I thought of our hard times and the troubles we have encountered; and then I reflected upon the almost perfect peace and comfort which is ours when we are together. How our eyes light, and how solicitous we are of one another’s welfare.
It is necessary, darling Reva, to refer to last summer and our second honeymoon. Perhaps six years of living with you had to fade into history before my love matured sufficiently to leave no vestige of doubt. You are my fate, dear, and I am content.
This war is but a passing shadow, Reva, in our lives. If it should prove more, and I am not to see you again, then if there is any eternity, forever you are engraved on my soul’s substance. But optimistically, I plan for the future, and I want you to do likewise. I hope that you will have a baby boy or girl waiting for me when I come home. If not then, together we shall secure the blessing of children in a family.
I love you, my girl wife, and each passing day confirms how engulfing my love is. Even now I look into your lovely face, and with blurred eyes, pledge to you again my everlasting devotion.
Your husband, Dick
Mom and Dad have been gone many Decembers below, but lately I’ve been thinking about them a lot. I’m convinced that they adopted my brother and me mainly because of their deep love and devotion to one another. A powerful reminder. Whether they are formed in the traditional manner or forged from adoption, families make us who we are.
It’s really all about love.