September ~ Such a beautiful month!

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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.

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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.

My Writing Life ~ From Fact to Fiction

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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.
Robert Hass

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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.

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Join adoptee Elaine Pinkerton on monthly Mondays for reflections on adoption and the writing life. Please email elaine.coleman2013@gmail.com if you’d like to propose a guest blog. Comments are welcome!

Author, Elaine Pinkerton, traveled to India to research her latest novel Hand of Ganesh

Poetry Monday

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“MYSTERIES, YES

by Mary Oliver

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.”

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Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are welcome!

Los Pinos Guest Ranch

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Where the Road ends and the Trail begins…

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Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

— Corita Kent

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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)

Love Across the Ocean

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Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

Memorial 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

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the "Flying Tigers"

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the “Flying Tigers”

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
    Dearest Wife,
             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

My father inspired me to travel to and write about India, one of the many gifts he gave me.

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.

Shakespeare-Mania!

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April was National Poetry Month. Not only that, it was the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. The Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turned 457! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please  read Sonnet 18 aloud to someone you love.

William Shakespeare

 

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The contest ends May 1, after which my novels will be sent to the top contributor. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

Join Elaine each month for musings on adoption and life.

The Angels of April

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NOTE: Taking a brief blog-cation, as I’m immersed in novel-writing and ongoing downsizing of stuff. (See The Great Photo Purge, published last Monday. I’m happy to report that CLARA AND THE HAND OF GANESH is moving forward. Enjoy one of my favorite posts from the past, and have a beautiful April, a month with very special gifts.

“April is the cruelest month.” T. S. Eliot

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

“April, the Angel of Months.” -Vita Sackville-West

April is full of surprises: one day sunny and mild, the next day snowy.
Here in northern New Mexico, April is luminously beautiful. Fruit trees blossom, our deciduous trees turn that electrifying shade known to painters as “sap green.”  Darkness diminishes as our own special Season of Light increases in strength.

Like many in the adoption world, I’ve learned to “flip the script.” On the one hand, I will never know what it is like to have blood-related family. My biological parents were a fact essential to my being in the world.  In the final analysis, however, they were distant figures who I ostensibly got to know, but actually merely encountered. On the other hand, I was fortunate to end up with wonderful adoptive parents.

It’s been said that every problem is also an opportunity. April has proved this to me. When I recently pulled a back muscle during a yoga class, the pain was excruciating. I went to Urgent Care, then to my regular medical doctor…nothing helped. It was hard to walk. All I could think about was how much my back and leg hurt. This led to a most fortunate discovery: a community acupuncture clinic. After five consecutive treatments, the pain had nearly vanished. What’s more, the clinic’s doctor (of Oriental Medicine) prescribed various supplements and minerals.  The alternative measures, in addition to relief from the injury, cured leg cramps and dietary imbalances. I was given a regimen of back-strengthening exercises. What might have been a disaster turned out to be a blessing.

Easter brought the best gift of all. My granddaughter, age 12, chose to visit me during her spring break. She is not a granddaughter I get to see very often, as her mother and father, my son, are divorced.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

During the week this lively pre-teen spent with me, we went to see “Cinderella,” lunched at favorite restaurants, read together, toured the local botanical garden, visited art galleries and museums.  The paints and drawing supplies I’d put in her room were put to good use. I gave her my favorite Walter Farley Black Stallion books. She had such a good time, she wants to come back this summer for another visit.

Since the publication of The Goodbye Baby, I’ve heard from hundreds in the online adoption community—adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, men and women who are still searching for reunions with their original parents. This response has deepened my understanding of why people are seldom happy that they were adopted. Even though adoption may have been “for the best,” it leaves one with  the feeling of a shaky foundation. Despite all that, it is possible to create happiness.

Is April cruel or is it, as Sackville-West maintains, the angel of months? I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, the angels are there. Even for adoptees!

Join Elaine every other Monday for a look at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Join Elaine every other Monday for a look at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

5 Ways to be your Own Best Friend

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Some days it’s hard to realize you are gaining on it.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face us with the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.
-Henry Nouwen, Dutch-born priest and writer

For the most part, I enjoy a sense of progress in my adoptee’s journey toward wholeness. Some days, however, I feel like Sysiphys, the character in Greek mythology who pushes a massive boulder uphill, reaching the top by sundown but the very next morning being forced to start again at the bottom and push uphill all over again.

As I talk with friends about challenges they are facing, I realize that I am not alone. One does not have to be a “recovering adoptee” to find life full of problems to be overcome, tasks to be accomplished and conundrums that seem to have no end. And while I am blessed to have wonderful and compassionate friends who are never to busy to listen to my latest thorny scenario, one solution I’ve found is to be my own best friend.

Having said that, I’m offering five ways to nurture and appreciate yourself:

1. Let the past be the past. Do not hold grudges against yourself.
2. Remember, when troubles seem to be ganging up against you, that “Mama said there’d be days like this.”
3. Be true to YOU. As far as your self-definition is concerned, be an island. Quit comparing yourself unfavorably with others. Jealously isn’t called the “green-eyed monster” for nothing.
4. Work on fine-tuning your sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself.
5. Remember that YOU are not your thoughts.

Life is like a river. We can either enjoy the journey, rowing gently down the stream, or we can let our emotions control our thoughts, feeling a vague dissatisfaction and lack of contentment. One very powerful way to row gently down the stream is to treat yourself as you would a dear, cherished friend.

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Join Elaine for blog posts, published monthly on Mondays. Wide-ranging topics, from travel, hiking, nature, daily living, to personal development. If you are involved in the adoption triangle (adoptee, adopted parent or birthparent) and would like to contribute a guest post, please contact her. We’d love to hear from you!

March Meandering

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On March 17th, 2020, I first learned about the Pandemic. A day I’ll never forget.

I’d been to the nursery to buy veggie starts for the garden. When I returned, my son grimly announced that it was no longer safe to leave home. Time to shelter in place. The lockdown had begun. Now, 12 months later, as people here in New Mexico and around the country are getting vaccinated, it is safer to go places. But– fewer places are available. Who knows, for example, when we’ll again be going in person to the movies?

Horses prance at a gallery entrance

February flew: It seemed to be over just as it started. I focussed on revisions for The Hand of Ganesh. The weeks bloglessly slipped by. After a four-week Blog-cation, it’s great to return…. I’m immersed in reading James Joyce’s Ulysses for the third time, reading plays aloud with other Shakespeare buffs, playing bridge on Bridge Base Online. While all that is fine and good, I’ve missed the connecting with you, dear readers. So here is an update.

Out and about in the city: Canyon Road, aptly dubbed “the heart and soul of Santa Fe,” is one of the most delightful places to walk if you’re visiting New Mexico’s capital city. My friend Ann and I walked Canyon Road on a late Sunday afternoon. The weather was fine and we enjoyed not only the outdoor sculptures but a cavalcade of people out walking a variety of dogs.

And importantly, there was a birthday to celebrate. My gal pal Kathy and I met in the tent outside Claroutis, a popular French. Though the restaurant offered indoor dining at 25 per cent capacity, It felt safer eating outdoors. Kathy ordered buckwheat crepes, and I had French toast with fruit. Totally delectable! Kathy and I have celebrated our birthdays together for more than three decades.

I’ve decided to accept “the new normal,” to live each day for itself. Travel may still be a ways off; I’ll probably focus instead on writing, making home improvements and hikes. My motto: “Stay within the confines of the day.” With so many people in dire situations — illness, homelessness, hunger, joblessness — I’m incredibly grateful for good fortune. Now, more than ever, it’s time to adopt An Attitude of Gratitude.

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Join Elaine for monthly blog posts on the writing life, hiking, reading, gardening, urban adventures Your comments are invited.

Looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

 

Digging into Dickens

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China tea, the scent of hyacinths, wood fires and bowls of violets—that is my mental picture of an agreeable February afternoon. — Constance Spry

Here we are at the beginning of a new month. In January I survived yet another birthday. A lady doesn’t reveal her age, so I won’t, but in the meantime, I’ve decided that the best gift I can give myself is gratitude.

Charles Dickens would have been 209 years old on February 7th



New Mexico has a governor who is applying strict measures for stopping the pandemic’s toll. She’s working hard to insure that those who want the Covid-19 vaccine can get it. I was lucky enough to receive my first injection; in six days I’ll receive the second. This non-opening of businesses is hard. It means no eating out (except for frigid picnics), no going to movies or musical events, and missing all the festivals, markets and celebrations that make Santa Fe  the unique town that it is. To celebrate my birthday, friends and I went not to lunch but to the forest for snowshoeing.

In addition to being grateful for daily doses of outdoors, I’m thankful for books. The new order of things has allowed us bibliophiles more time to read. I belong to an excellent book club.The members are adventurous in their literary choices, and it’s been fun reading books that, on my own, I might never have discovered. I’m a lifetime fan of Victorian literature, especially Charles Dickens. When it was my turn to select, I proposed A Tale of Two Cities. To my relief, everyone seemed to love reading (or in most cases re-reading) the dramatic story of Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette and her father the doctor, Jerry Cruncher, Miss Pross and Jarvis Lorry.. The backdrop of the French Revolution and scheming Madame Defarge, the storming of the Bastille, and Sydney Carton’s heroic sacrifice…all of it was reviewed in our two-hour online get-together. The discussion was lively, rewarding and affable. Several of us, in addition to the next book club selection, are going to be reading more Dickens on our own.
These are troubling times, but there is much for which to be thankful. That said, I’ve adopted a new role: curator of my own contentment.

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Tune in to Elaine’s blog posts on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption, the outdoors and the writing life. Her third novel, The Hand of Ganesh is headed toward publication in late 2021.

Snowshoeing is a great way to celebrate Winter.