I Should have Stayed Home

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Readers who’ve been following The Goodbye Baby blog know that I’ve adopted hiking as an essential part of life. But for now, it’s all I can do to walk a mile. I’ve been a prisoner of my house, slowly recovering from the worst hiking injury in 50 years of roaming around in the mountains. Here’s THE SHORT VERSION…

Nambe Lake was our destination on that fateful September 22nd

The first day of Autumn, as I was hiking uphill to Nambe Lake (11,374 feet), I
Tripped
Slipped
Flipped
Dipped

and ending up feeling much like Kafka’s unfortunate narrator Gregor Samsa who awoke one morning to find himself transformed…into a gigantic insect. -(Metamorphis)

THE LONG VERSION…
During the jolting, I must have closed my eyes. No one witnessed my fall. As I try to piece things together, this, it seems to me, is what happened: While climbing along the creek bank , I slipped on something (I’ll never know whether it was a root or boulder), twisted myself into a downhill orientation, contorted, and ended face-up, IN THE CREEK. On rocks and logs, thankfully cushioned by my backpack and it’s water-filled Camelbak.

Last year’s Nambe Lake experience, after taking “the easy way.”

There were abundant reasons NOT to be taking this particular hike. The next day, my son and I were scheduled to hike the 13,000 foot Santa Fe Baldy. I could have, should have rested up for the next day’s long, challenging adventure. But oh no, I did not want to miss out on the viewing the splendors of my favorite Alpine lake.

There were five of us that day. Unwisely, I didn’t ascertain that we would be taking the dry land route to Nambe Lake (as opposed to the slippery riverbank route).
A less challenging way, a route which I’ve often hiked, parallels the Nambe River and becomes a bit tricky only at the very end. Once we were at the meadow with one trail going up the “safe” way and the other going to the riverbank, a vote was not taken. The lead hikers took off for the riverbank way and we all followed. (Why did I ignore the mental alarm bells?)

Only when we were clawing our way up the muddy sides of the little river did I realize, with a chill, that I had no business being here. Uneasiness grew into fear, as I saw that we were very scattered and I wasn’t sure I knew the way. I looked above me and saw our lead hiker’s booted feet forging ahead and upward. Next thing I knew, I was lying, my back throbbing with pain, in shallow, rock-filled water, feet heading not up but down. (How had I managed to trip and twist myself into this awkward position?)

Never underestimate the treacherous power of roots!

My hiking friends came quickly in answer to my screams, walked me three painful miles out of the forest, took me to Urgent Care. No broken bones: a good thing. But there was soft tissue battering and bruising. Needless to say, there would be no hike up Santa Fe Baldy with my son, maybe not until next hiking season. Instead, I began days of an acutely sore back and midriff. Out of commission. Down for the count. Miserable.
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THREE WEEKS LATER
I’m going to be OK, thanks to friends doing many acts of kindness, the mailman bringing mail to the door, and treatments including arnica, epsom salts baths, a wonder product called “Boswellia,”physical therapy and acupuncture (www.pinoncommunityacupuncture.com). Walking still wears me out, but I’m able to go for a mile, adding a bit more distance each day. For the next weeks or months, it will be “life in the slow lane.” It could have been worse, and after all, the entire episode has made me aware of how much I have for which to be grateful. Lessons that would not have been learned if I’d stayed home.

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Join author Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments invited!

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Adopting a Cause~Fighting Hunger in our Midst

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People need to become more connected to where they live…It’s good to make a difference locally. -Poet, memoirist, and fellow blogger Luanne Castle

Luanne is absolutely right. I’m trying to make a difference locally with an upcoming Santa Fe, New Mexico event. In the works for a year, a concert for charity is happening on Sunday October 8th. Austin-based singer-songwriter John Henry MacDonald is coming to town to raise money for Feeding Santa Fe, an all-volunteer organization that, once a week on Thursdays, gives a bag of groceries to anyone who shows up at the drive-through dock.
Hunger, or, as it’s often called,“food insecurity,” is serious problem. Of course, this is true in many other places, but Santa Fe is where I live and where I can strive to make a difference. Fortunately this is a city with a big heart. Feeding Santa Fe, is one several agencies striving to alleviate hunger. Think of it as a free food pantry. The totally-volunteer organization rallies their workers every Thursday beginning at 6 a.m. Bags of groceries are distributed to those who drive through the loading dock in the rear of the Feeding Santa Fe building. No forms to fill out, no questions asked. I volunteered and was touched, moved and inspired by the great work this organization is doing. And so it was that I decided to create a benefit for Feeding Santa Fe.
John Henry MacDonald is a friend I met on the hiking trail last summer. During treks in the mountains around Santa Fe, I learned a lot about this remarkable man’s journey, his musical and storytelling expertise, and his passion to help people. When he and his wife Louise came to Santa Fe again this summer, we talked more. Another friend, Susan Odiseos, heads up Feeding Santa Fe, and we’d talked about how her organization can raise money for an industrial refrigerator and other needs. I put John and Susan together and the concert idea was born. John Henry, an endlessly creative Renaissance man with a gift for storytelling, has created a show titled “A Guru Named Frank,” and he’ll be presenting it at Holy Faith Episcopal Church. The generosity has already started, with Los Alamos National Bank donating money for printing promo cards and posters. Dozens of Santa Fe’s finest restaurants have given lunch and dinner certificates for the ongoing “Food for Food” raffle.
What does all this have to do with my being an adoptee? Plenty! Before I was adopted at age five, I faced food insecurity. My brother and I were shuffled about in a series of temporary arrangements, and we often lacked enough to eat. After age five, in the home of my adoptive parents, I never went hungry again. In today’s turbulent world, one wonders how to help make things better. Feeding people is a step in the right direction. (To learn more about Feeding Santa Fe, go to http://www.feedingsantafe.org).

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Please comment, especially if there’s something you’re doing in YOUR community to make a positive difference. We’d love to hear about it!

Join Elaine for reflections on Adoption and Life

Adopting Moon Mountain

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In every walk with nature one receives far more than (s)he seeks. -John Muir

Do you have a favorite walk or hike? Mine is climbing up and down Sun Mountain (“Monte Sol” to use the Spanish name). A short hike but a great workout, a little under a mile, an 800-foot gain in elevation. It starts out mildly, spiraling upward on a piñon-studded slope, then becomes rocky and steep. The curves segue into sharp zig-zags, better known as switchbacks. After half an hour or so, one reaches the summit for a rewarding, panoramic view of Santa Fe below, the Sandia, Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance. Closer in, one views Atalaya Mountain, Picacho Peak and even closer up, Moon Mountain.

Mountains ~Moon to the left, Sun to the right

I’ve hiked Sun Mountain hundreds of times, too many to count, but I had never tackled its sister peak, Moon Mountain. Even though Moon is only 100 feet taller than Sun, it’s a far more challenging hike. Not much in the way of an actual trail, rough, scraggly, slippery terrain and more boulders to scale. Two weeks ago, I decided to take it on. My neighbor Joalie (https://tinyurl.com/mcsll7x) and I set out on a fine Saturday morning, prepared for exploration, adventure, and challenge.
That day, we were to experience all three!
8 a.m. Starting from Santa Fe Trail, where there’s an official trailhead, we hiked up the user-friendly route. Lots of people out today. Sometimes solo, but often with a dog or a child in tow. The view from the top is magnificent. Not only the three mountain vistas described in my first paragraph, but also Santa Fe’s south side stretched out below. We didn’t linger. Rather, we started down the south side of Monte Sol, never finding a path but instead zig-zagging across underbrush and rocks, aiming toward the valley between Sun and Moon.
We’re the only hikers around. At last we reach a sort of neutral zone, a scrubby area between the two peaks, and that’s were the adventure begins. We climb up through a piñon forest hoping to find a Moon Mountain trail that Joalie has heard about. Does it even exist? Slow, steady slogging; hard work: this makes Sun Mountain seem easy.
Unexpectedly, Joalie spots a trail snaking across the incline just ahead. Though there is no sign, we realize that it can only be a trail leading to the top of Moon. Great! We are happy to be following a route rather than haphazardly guessing where to go next. All is well until the trail seems to end in a huge outcropping of boulders. Joalie starts right up but I am incredulous. Isn’t there a way around? Maybe we could find another route? No, it’s up or nothing.
Telescoping my trekking poles into foot-long packable size and putting them in my knapsack, I move myself up one big rock after another. Joalie, the younger and nimbler of us, is up above, having switched to the spider mode. No sooner have we climbed one batch of rocks than another looms above. Will they never end?
I feel over-terrained, unable to continue. “Really?” I say aloud, not expecting an answer. Joalie, from above, calls out “Just take your time. Only 100 feet more to go.” The reason she knows that is because Moon Mountain is exactly 100 feet taller than Sun and before we started the boulder climb, we looked across the valley to the top of Sun. OK, I tell myself, I can’t go back down, I can’t stay here clinging to a rock, the only choice is to keep going up.

View from the top of Moon

A saying comes to mind: “Hard by the mile, a cinch by the inch.” Does that apply to today’s hike? It’s not what I’d call a cinch. Rock by rock…at last, we reach the top. The panoramic view is exhilarating. We walk around a bit at the top of Moon, then enjoy an al fresco lunch. Joalie shares her homemade nori rolls, I offer cheese and homegrown pears. The day is getting on, so we decide to head back down a “back way.” Rather than climbing down the boulders, which would be more precipitous than either of us want to undertake, we will go down Moon to an arroyo which we think will lead us back to Santa Fe Trail. Instead, we meander for another hour. At last we end up at St. John’s College and walk along the road to our Sun Mountain Trailhead, where, five hours ago, the adventure began.

It’s been a beautiful outing, and I’m reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous saying “Not all who wander are lost.”

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Your feedback is invited!

How to Achieve a Happiness Breakthrough

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There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world. -Robert Louis Stevensonimages

Throughout three years of blogging I’ve touted the benefits of working through post-adoption hangups. OK, so adoptees have deep-seated challenges to deal with, issues that will never completely vanish but need to be tamed, subdued and controlled. Enough already! Having grown weary of these “issues,” I’ve set a new goal for the rest of 2017: ADOPTING HAPPINESS.

I’ve been greatly helped in this quest by Claire Cook’s new book, Shine On~How to contentGrow Awesome Instead of Old. This volume appeared in my life at the perfect time. As I embark upon this last part of the year, I’m armed with inspiration and optimism, thanks to Shine On. Unlike so many “self-help” books I’ve read and long forgotten, this charming volume will stay with me. Far more than a book, it offers a concept—a refreshing new “flip the script” approach. Claire Cook took me on her journey, sharing ups and downs, challenges I related to. The brevity of the chapters, the delightful surprises (recipes, lists to be made, beauty tips), good advice, and a friendly, confidential tone all made the reading sheer delight. Shine On was like a visit with a dear friend who had only my best interests at heart!

Google “happiness” articles and you’ll find a tsunami of lists, formulas, and “foolproof” methods for achieving happiness. These suggestions invariably include such advice as practicing gratitude, expressing emotions, and giving up on perfection. Fine, sensible ideas, and do-able. Claire Cook’s book is unique in that it helps the reader craft a personal list of top five happiness breakthrough resolutions.

Here are my five:
Write every day (this is important, as I’ve just started a new novel).
Have some fun.
Refresh wardrobe – not with buying new stuff but using the old with more flair. Eliminate the duds.
Take time daily to read. This relates to #2 on the list, as one of my most fun activities is escaping into a good book.
Return to playing bridge. I grew up with this card game but have grown rusty. Established a foursome; we plan to play weekly.

YOUR TURN: What are your top five?

________    ________    _________    __________    _______

Read Claire Cook’s book to learn specifics about the list of five. But until you do, just go for it, make your own manifesto.

As Sarah Ban Breathnach puts it in Simple Abundance, “Be courageous. Ask yourself: what is it I need to make me happy? The deeply personal answers to this vital question will be different for each of us. Trust the loving wisdom of your heart.”

Join Elaine for reflections on Adoption and Life

Join Elaine every other Monday ~ for reflections on Adoption and Life

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The Words of my Father

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Note to my readers: I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and this post was inspired by memories of my late adoptive Dad, a professor at the University of Virginia. Like many others, I’m shocked and saddened by recent events in Charlottesville, and I re-publish this reflection in a spirit of compassion.

 

Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Today I’d like to share my memory of the last lucid conversation I had with my adoptive Dad. Richard Leonard Beard was a World War II clinical psychologist for the

Elaine Pinkerton has kept a diary all her life.

I’ve kept a journal all my life. It’s enlightening to read voices from the past…

army air force, college professor, and most of all—my hero and role model. I lost him years ago, in the nineties, but lately he has been vividly in my imagination. When going through some of my old diaries, I found this entry:

 My father and I were walking around the gentle hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’d left Virginia for New Mexico, embarking on my own life, but I visited at least once or twice a year. He and my mother had moved to a senior community named “Stonehenge.” I found the title amusing, thinking it conjured up the wisdom of the ages. On this particular evening, I was out walking with the wisest man I knew.
    The sun was setting and mist arose from the earth. Instead of a blazing sunset like those I experienced in New Mexico, this “sky-scape” was layered in subtle pastels…pink, peach and gray.
    Though I don’t recall my exact words, I told my father that when I was 70, his age at the time, I wouldn’t mind dying. I would, I told him, be ready to leave the earth.
    “You’ll feel differently when you’re there,” he retorted. “You’ll want more years ahead of you. Many more years.” I wanted to disagree, but I knew that argument was futile. Daddy was strong minded.
    Life happened. Marriage, children, divorce, grandchildren. Suddenly I was the age

Ahead of his time, my college professor Dad spearheaded a book TV program in the1950s.

Ahead of his time, my college professor Dad spearheaded a book TV program in the1950s

my father was when he made his pronouncement.
    He’d left years earlier, but I felt that at some mysterious psychic level, he could hear and understand me. “You were right,” I longed to tell him.

 

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Adopting Canyon Road

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Santa Fe, New Mexico is my home town. Born in Massachusetts and raised in Virginia and North Carolina, I’ve spent most of my life in “The City Different.” I’ve adopted Santa Fe, and especially Canyon Road, the “Arts and Crafts” road of old Santa Fe.

I’m fascinated by Canyon Road’s history…
Turn back the clock to the 1920s, when Canyon Road was one of Santa Fe’s main thoroughfares. Los Cincos Pintores (The Five Painters) moved here from the east and banded together in this neighborhood to paint and promote their work. Every since, the road has maintained its artistic character.
There’s a lot to take in on Canyon Road: art galleries, antique shops, framers, restaurants, sculpture gardens, and stores specializing in opals, gold and silver jewelry, leather, and a variety of crafts. There, you’ll find Project Tibet, an organization that helps Tibetan refugees. Set back from the road, it includes a fascinating collection of wind sculptures and water installations.
My history with Canyon Road goes back to working in the early 1980s as administrative assistant for The Historic Santa Fe Foundation. The Foundation is located in El Zaguan (a zaguan is a long covered passageway or corridor). The building dates to the 1700s. Before its present life as the Foundation headquarters (and small rental apartments), the rambling former hacienda served as a home, a general store, and a private girls’ school. Along the street side of this remarkable adobe building is a lime green picket fence. Inside are gardens planted by pioneer archaeologist Adolph Bandolier. For the Foundation, I served as secretary, newsletter editor, and landlady.
Fast forward to the mid-1980s. when I decided that Santa Fe needed a walking guide. Canyon Road was one of the first parts of the city for on-foot research.

Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different first came out in 1986 and has gone through five editions. In retrospect, I realize that walking Canyon Road inspired its creation.
These days, along with my good friend Kay, I walk Canyon Road every Thursday morning. We admire the latest paintings and sculptures, viewed through gallery windows. We breathe in the fresh morning air and marvel at the light at this early hour. Some of Santa Fe’s largest trees and loveliest gardens are behind the adobe walls, the Sangre de Cristo mountains loom against the eastern horizon, lights and shadows play along this historic street.
One of my favorite Canyon Road locales is Catenary Gallery. It’s tucked away in a little side street on this historic road. In addition to the work of Rumi Vesselinova, the gallery displays the paintings of Scott Swezy. His painting, “Black Mist” was chosen as the cover for my book All the Wrong Places, a suspense novel set just outside Santa Fe at a fictitious Native American academy. (Pocol Press, 2017). Both Scott and I will be at the gallery this Friday, for a combination art exhibit (new works by Swezy) and book signing. You are invited!

 

Artist’s Reception & Book Signing
Celebrating a new book by Elaine Pinkerton Coleman
All the Wrong Places

Please join us Friday, August 11, 2017 | 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Catenary Art Gallery | 616 1/2 Canyon Road | Santa Fe, NM 87501

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Join Elaine every other Monday for insights on adoption and life.

Adopting a “Home Away from Home”

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My town, Santa Fe, New Mexico, has a great Farmers Market, and, because of Maxine Davenport, retired attorney-turned-mystery writer, other local authors and I are now part of it. We comprise HOMEGROWN AUTHORS. The New Mexico Book Association sponsors us. Interested authors (who must be part of the New Mexico Book Association) apply two weeks ahead of time to be at the tables. HOMEGROWN AUTHORS is at the market Tuesday mornings from 7 a.m. till 1 p.m. and Wednesday afternoon from 3 till 7 p.m.. We greet locals and visitors, the latter hailing from all over the world. On a good day, we sell lots of our books.

Maxine, in her website http://www.davenportstories.com, tells how “Homegrown Authors” got started…
This will be the fifth year that Homegrown Authors has appeared at Farmers Market. In 2012, Rosemary Zibart and I were discussing the need for outlets where local authors could sell their books. Some bookstores had ceased selling self-published books, particularly if they were connected to Amazon. Rosemary suggested that we investigate the possibility of selling at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Actually, she suggested that I do that research, and the result, after a meeting with the Farmers Market Board, was that we were allowed to set up a table. We tried the Saturday venue and discovered that Saturday buyers knew exactly what they had come for and were less interested in shopping for books. The noise made it impossible to converse with visitors. On Tuesdays there are many tourists, and local shoppers are more interested in stopping by for a chat.

While we remain independent, the New Mexico Book Association agreed to act as sponsor. We have seen an increase in book sales despite a decrease in member participation. Some authors find that they aren’t cut out to be booksellers and others love it. We’ve never had trouble filling our chairs.

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Last Wednesday brought exotic music and a talented troupe of dancers.

The Wednesday market often features entertainment. Last week, we were entertained by a belly dancing troupe, the week before that, by “Wise Fools” and a children’s play. Speaking of children, they love playing in the market’s indoor area. Plenty of room for them to race about without being in anyone’s way. Homegrown Authors has a resident children’s author, Sandi Wright, whose book Santa Fe Sam delights children of all ages.

If you’re in Santa Fe, be sure to come visit us at the Market. We feature discounts, write inscriptions to order and are always happy to talk about the craft of writing. The beauty of the venue? In addition to being surrounded by a cornucopia of locally grown fruit and vegetables, the wonderful opportunity to meet our readers.

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Join Elaine on Mondays for blog posts on adoption, hiking, travel, and the writing life. It’s all grist for the mill! If you have an adoption-related post in mind, send me a message: I welcome guest bloggers.

 

Redwoods Everlasting ~ Haiku Monday

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Note from Elaine: Guest Poet Roberta Fine is back by popular demand. A friend for decades, she’s always been an inspiration to me. She reads more books and writes more poetry than anyone I know. Teacher, writer, artist, mother and grandmother, Roberta enriches every life she touches. After a recent trip to California, she produced a lovely bouquet of Haiku.

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In every lifetime there is a golden bubble, a time and place preserved in its own magic gel in ones memory. Sometimes you wonder if you made it up, if you revisited the place, would the reality be crushing? One of my daughters continues to call me on such memories, finally buying a plane ticket to deposit us in that spot (after a long twisty drive) to either debunk or validate the stories or perhaps just to participate in that golden time.
Such a place is a hidden pocket in the northern California coast redwood country called Arcata. Between the sea and the Sequoia sempervirens, its inhabitants have been influenced by and dependent upon both. Fifty years ago there were cone shaped lumber slash-burners and fishing boats dotting the bay, feeding an industry. The burners are gone, but some fishing boats ply the ocean and Humboldt University is still thriving, attracting ecologists, foresters, wildlife managers, fisheries experts and anyone who seeks to preserve or make a living from the abundant natural resources that intersect with the Pacific Ocean.
What’s not to love about such a conglomeration of tree-huggers and sea and stream rovers? In our forest rambling, ocean watching, meandering steep neighborhoods, savoring seafood in locally owned cafes (chain restaurants prohibited), we were impressed by women without makeup, low meal prices and high property costs (not much building room left). Of course, two-thousand-year-old trees still stand, the ancient ocean laps the rocks and the inhabitants cherish them. Arcata wasn’t a fantasy.

Arcata, California

Embracing redwoods,
Sea air wrapping giant trees.
Wave-rocked fishing boats.

Granted permission
To live with archaic trees,
Town clutching steep slopes.

Forest meeting sea,
Stern grey waves washing rocky shore.
Great redwoods looming.

Tender light in woods,
Redwood branches filtering.
Massive, incised trunks.

Speck on forest floor
Canopy a mile above.
Treading cushioned earth.

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Roberta Fine adopted Haiku as her medium of expression.

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Blue Monday or Serenity in San Diego

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The road going nowhere in particular

The road going nowhere in particular

 

 

“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you” goes the saying. After arriving for a short vacation in one of my favorite cities, San Diego, I was therefore not surprised that “Edgar” had brought himself along for the ride. He, or “it” if you prefer, had packed himself in the depths of my ginormous suitcase, amongst the slacks, tops, electronics, books, walking shoes and books. Egad, can’t I go anywhere to escape from that demon?
To understand Edgar, you need to know that I am a “recovering” adoptee. My original mother relinquished me when I was five. Even though I grew up with wonderful adoptive parents, I’ve struggled for years to come to terms with being adopted. I wish I could announce in a loud voice that I’ve succeeded in getting over my adoption issues. The best I can offer, however, is to say confidently that I am making progress.
This change of scene, however, has been more beneficial than weeks of therapy. San Diego’s magic begins to take effect the moment I arrive. The adjectives that come to mind: salubrious, sensational, scenic. Add to that another ingredient: simplicity. There is something quite wonderful about running away from home. Life can be pared down to an easier pace.
My host family goes to work or school every weekday at 7 a.m., so on this slightly overcast Spring morning, I leave for a two-hour walk to and from a nearby coffee shop. I’ve been visiting this San Diego neighborhood for the better part of the last decade and traveling the same route, to the java cafe. First it was “It’s a Grind,” which went out of business. Then it became “Sweetest Buzz.” But this time, there is no coffee shop. Where the “Buzz” should have been loomed a completely empty retail space. A “For Lease” sign was taped on the window. A sad, empty storefront occupied the place I’d spent memorable hours composing on my laptop and sipping lattes.
Had the expedition fallen flat, or was there something else awaiting me? Instead of going home right away, I decide to check out the park near my host family’s house. Walking a couple miles back to the neighborhood, I sit and enjoy a serenade of songbirds, the ambiance of healthy young trees, a verdant carpet of green grass.
The park itself is a marvel. When I first saw it years ago, it looked unpromising, even hopeless. Today, the community outdoor space is filled with children swinging, sliding, digging in the sandbox. Parents visit with one another. Laughter from a toss ball game sounds across the field. An elderly man is marching along the sidewalk, stopping at each circuit workout to do pushups or pullups or a balance beam.
The day isn’t complete, however, until I take a hike on the nearby former dairy road. It’s a road I’ve walked before. One of the city’s many walking paths, it branches off from a busy thoroughfare and loops back into a small canyon. Thistle, purple flowers, and feathery plumed bushes brighten a brown and sage terrain. Ahead of me, a large bird, strutting in a quail-like fashion, walks across my path. Other than it, I am alone. The sun intensifies, but just in time a gentle breeze picks up.
Of course, being a grandmother/writer and retired from a regular career means that life should be simpler anyway. That’s not how it works, however. When I’m at home, a million projects shout out: “clean me,” “organize me,” “declutter me.” Right here, in sunny, wonderful San Diego, the only thing I have to declutter is my mind. Accepting victory, I acknowledge that I’ve once again I dueled the evil Edgar. On this gloriously sunny Monday, mine is the victory.

The author is reminded that "all who wander are not lost"

The author is reminded that “Not all who wander are lost”

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In Pursuit of Roots

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Dear Readers: It happens every summer: I’m taking a “Blog-cation to work on The Hand of Ganesha, a sequel to All the Wrong Places. The protagonist of both novels is an adoptee, Clara Jordan. Enjoy this re-posting of thoughts originally published in 2012. The lack of “roots,” though I’ve come to grips with it, continues to be a challenge. If you’re an adoptee and have ever felt the need for a family tree, please send your feedback. Like other adoptees I’ve met, I’m still searching for the answers!

Last night I watched a program on public television that reminded me of being an adoptee. The emptiness and longing for a tribe of my own, a feeling I wrongly assumed I had put to rest, was back with a vengeance.

“Finding your Roots,” which featured three celebrities exploring their family trees, was all about searching to find a place where you belong, piecing together the past, and learning where and how your ancestors lived. The show was well presented and dramatized the interviewees’ journeys to discover their their true heritage.

imagesMy outsider status syndrome immediately kicked in. How fortunate, I thought, to even possess a genealogy that you could call your own. Growing up as an adoptee, I longed for years to claim a so-called “family tree.” I’d been to Italy with my birthfather Giovanni Cecchini. After our reunion, we travelled to Abruzzi, where he was born. I met my non-English-speaking cousins, aunts and uncles. Following the journey to Italy, my birthfather’s second wife (not my birthmother) helped me secure a detailed listing of paternal relatives.

With my adoptive mom’s help, I’d was able to chart out a family tree for my ancestry record, going back just a couple centuries. Those two charts were intellectual exercises, but I couldn’t relate to them.

Two family trees, but neither really fit who I was. Though I had the DNA of the biological parentage, I was shaped and molded by my adoptive parents. Rather than give in to an emotional meltdown, however, I thought long and hard about why the “Finding your Roots” program tried to break my heart. Tried but failed.

When I was young, I made up a myth about being adopted.The underlying theme was “Oh, poor me.” That was a way of reacting to everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

Juniper Tree

Juniper Tree. Everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

 

I decided to emulate the indomitable juniper tree. It will send roots down 25 feet in order to survive. Here’s a description from the National Park Service’s website:

“Junipers grow in some of the most inhospitable landscapes imaginable, thriving in an environment of baking heat, bone-chilling cold, intense sunlight, little water and fierce winds. Often they appear to grow straight out of solid rock.”

This is the kind of family tree that will serve me well.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Your feedback is invited!

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