Nature Nearby

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For New Mexico, the month of May is anything but merry. Nature “red in tooth and claw”as the saying goes. Last month, four wildfires merged into a giant blaze. The monster conflagration has consumed over 260,000 acres, including forest, wildlife, and homes. As fire information officer Ryan Berlin said last week, “We need help from Mother Nature to shut the wind down and a little rain.” Sadly, the wind rages on, and there is little rain in sight. Nature is on a rampage, reminding us that we must move away from fossil fuels. In the microcosm, however, there is much to cherish.

I’m re-reading books in my personal library, one of which is The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson. As enchanting as the first time I discovered her! She captures beauty in the small things. Dickinson, who became a recluse, is one of the most original and passionate poets in American literature. Her profound insights into nature and life have fascinated readers for over a century.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) guarded her poems against publication during her lifetime.

A Bird, came down the Walk
by Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
*******
Join author Elaine Pinkerton for Monday Blogs on adoption, hiking and the writing life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@TheGoodbyeBaby)  Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Discover  adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet as they quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. If you are in Santa Fe, you are invited to attend my official book launch on Friday, June 10, 5 p.m. at St. John’s College/ Jr. Common Room. Or, you can order The Hand of Ganesh from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. Thanks for reading!

Too Many Books, Too Little Time

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It started with a call from Readers Magnet, inviting me to participate in their booth at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. The event, postponed for two years but finally able to happen, was April 23-24. I added a few days to take in a few museums. My goal was showcasing The Hand of Ganesh, and that I accomplished. But the getaway was far more.

Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California

My friend Karla, part-time Santa Monica resident, hosted me and joined in the whirlwind of events. After two days spent exploring beaches, Venice seaside, the Getty Villa Museum and the Getty Center Museum, we embarked on our literary adventure.

Saturday morning arrived fresh and sunny. Hundreds were already gathered when we arrived at the USC campus. Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman delivered a stirring talk, highlighted by fresh new poetry. Writers Mary Laura Philpott, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Sandra Tsing Loo, introduced by Samantha Dunn, hosted a panel titled “The Next Chapter.” The essence of their messages: Drill down to the core of what you’re doing. Another captivating panel was “Imagining the Future,” which featured Latina and African American panelists Blair Imani and Dereca Purcell. Imani talked about the importance of Now and the fact that we were all “chosen” to survive the pandemic. Arce called on people not to compare their pandemic sufferings and instead to work on building more racial harmony in the future.

A discussion title “The Gilded Age” featured scholarly authors Jonathan Kirsch, Michael Hilzik and Zachary Karabel. Their focus was on robber barons and how the railroad changed U.S. history. Railroad “kings” became “aristocracy.” Edward Harriman, related Michael Hilzik, expanded his holding from railroads to steamships. Harriman, it seems, “despite his great wealth,” was very public spirited. These panelists gave the impression that in the past the gospel of wealth included giving back to society. Edith Wharton, they agreed, was the best literary critic of the Gilded Age.

Speaking of books, not only did I sell copies of mine, I supported other authors by buying theirs. These autographed copies have joined my stack by the bedside. Book immersion is great for the brain.

Join Elaine on Monday for a view of life through adoption colored glasses. She reflects on gardening, walking, outdoors and the writing life. To buy Beast of Bengal, All the Wrong Places, or her newest book The Hand of Ganesh, click on book titles. You’ll be able to order directly from Pocol Press. Your comments are invited.

Shakespeare-Mania!

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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s 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. In a week, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 457! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations to elaine.coleman2013@gmail.com, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Also, tweet them, using my twitter name @TheGoodbyeBaby. Quotation competition takes place during the remainder of April. The prize, my two suspense novels (Beast of Bengal and All the Wrong Places, will be sent to the top contributor via snail mail. Past winners include poet/memoirist Luanne Castle (@writersitetweet). To honor Shakespeare and celebrate poetry month, 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.

New Kid on the Block

The Hand of Ganesh is out! Even though much of the plot takes place in India, the book reintroduces a few home-grown characters. Let’s just say, the novels are connected. There’s a thread running though them. Before I explain, a word of thanks to Pocol Press, an excellent independent publisher located in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania.

All my life, I’d dreamed of writing fiction. After years of working as a technical writer and freelancing for magazines (Runners World, Family Circle, New Mexico Magazine).I wrote several nonfiction books: The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle, Santa Fe On Foot, The Goodbye Baby, From Calcutta with Love. The fiction dream simmered.

Then, in 2005, I wrote a novel based on my father’s experience in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of World War II. Beast of Bengal takes place in a military hospital in Calcutta. It involves opium smuggling and the Indian “goondas.” Richard Benet, my hero, has to take command when the dysfunctional hospital commander, Mac McDermott becomes an “empty uniform.” What sustains him in a harrowing fight for not only the hospital but his life, is his love for his wife Rita. The two had been planning to adopt a child but the war interrupted. They write to one another every day and plan to start their family when the war ends.

Clara Jordan runs from trouble and goes forward to meeting a best friend, Arundati Benet. Together the two adoptees will travel to India.


In 2017, I wrote All the Wrong Places, a novel inspired by my years of teaching at Santa Fe Indian School. Protagonist Clara Jordan, an adoptee, moves to New Mexico in search of her Native American birthmother. She takes a job as English teacher at the American Indian Academy, located near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her birthmother, she learns, has died. When Henry DiMarco, the school’s IT director, sweeps her off her feet, she overlooks his strange behavior. He’s secretly a pottery smuggler and when he realizes that Clara knows, her life is in danger. She literally has to run to save her life.

Clara survives and lives on to join Arundhati Benet, the adopted daughter of Richard and Rita Benet. All these characters play important roles in The Hand of Ganesh (Pocol Press, 2022). To learn more about that novel, click on a recent radio interview by Carly Newfeld, “The Last Word,” KSFR 101.f.m. >https://thelastword.libsyn.com/march-31-2022-with-elaine-pinkerton


Elaine Pinkerton Coleman is a New Mexico author. In monthly blog posts, she opines about adoption, hiking, nature, and the writing life. To follow her blog, click the FOLLOW button her webpage. She’d love to hear from you. Feedback and suggestions welcome.

One Spring Day…

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ONE SPRING DAY…

led to starry, starry nights.

Along with friends. I recently visited the amazing, immersive Vincent Van Gogh exhibit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’d admired VanGogh’s painting ever since an art history course taken in college. “Beyond VanGogh” did not disappoint. It was one of the most inspiring and beautiful art events any of us had ever seen.

The painter Van Gogh, who lived from 1853 till 1890, was considered the greatest post-impressionist after Rembrandt van Rijn. (Van Gogh, we learned from Carly, is properly pronounced not to rhyme with “go” but rather closer to rhyme with “cough”). In just over a decade VanGogh created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits. Their bold colors and dramatic brushwork were illuminated in the big room.

Entering the dark, cavernous space, we were transported into a sound and light show of the artist’s life and paintings. The exhibit began with interlocking corridors of quotes taken from VanGogh’s correspondence with his brother Theo. 

 

Following the corridor narrative, the path led to a huge room with ever-changing VanGogh images projected above and below, on all four sides. It was truly magical. We three friends, after 45 minutes of Van Gogh immersion, stepped into the early afternoon sunshine. Our souls had been satisfied; now it was time for lunch.

 

 

 

The Words of Mother and Dad

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Layout 1Memory 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

Note to readers: Before Richard and Reva Beard adopted me, the bond between them intensified. With each year of courtship, marriage and — most of all — through their World War II separation, they imagined the family they would build. The war made that dream even stronger. Though separated by 6,000 miles and 18 months, they corresponded every day. The letters were relegated to a file case in my parents retirement home. After Dad passed away, I asked my brother to send me the entire collection. Daddy had meant to write a book about his India experiences, but life got in the way. I inherited the thousands of handwritten epistles, quit my day job to read every one, and turned the best of them them into a book: From Calcutta with Love- The World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. (Texas Tech University Press, 2002) The original missives were archived at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. In 2002, the Texas publisher gave me back the rights. Last year Pajarito Press in Los Alamos, New Mexico acquired them. I’m happy to announce that, eighty years after they were first written by mom and dad, the letters are again being presented to the world.

Richard and Reva, I’d like to believe, would be proud to share their words with the world.

If I could speak to Richard today,  I’d remind him of a certain conversation. 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 agemy 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.

Join Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on the life through adoption colored glasses, hiking, reading books, and writing. The Hand of Ganesh, slated for mid-April publication, can be pre-ordered from Pocol Press. (Pull down the Books tab at the top of this page). Stay tuned for a publication date for From Calcutta with Love. Thanks so much for reading; Your comments and questions are  invited.

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Memories of my Ukraine Visit…

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 13 glimmering domes are visible from all over the city.

This post was originally published in May 1918, under the title “Adoptee Feels at Home in Ukraine.” It brings to mind the hospitality and beauty of the country now under seige. I re-publish it with nostalgia, compassion and hope for an end to the war.

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I’ve just returned from an unforgettable journey: 11 days sailing up the Dneiper River in the mid-section of Ukraine. The largest European country, Ukraine is a beautiful, fertile land known as “the breadbasket of Europe.” This was a memorable trip filled with beauty and history, much of that history quite sobering. “Ukraine” means “border,” and the unique position of the eastern country of Europe has shaped its destiny. The Russian empress Catherine II annexed Ukraine in the 18th century, but, under Nikita Kruschev, in 1954, it became its own country in 1954. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the far eastern edge of Ukraine became increasingly unstable. A large part of this “edge territory” is Russian-speaking. However, it is part of Ukraine. The “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014, a statement of Ukranian pride, resulted in violent deaths in the center of Kiev, the country’s capital.

My travel buddy and I decided on Ukraine while it was still a possible destination. But this is a post about the bright side of Ukraine, not its struggles. There is much to learn, much to admire. In Viking River Cruise style, we sailed mostly at night and explored cities and countryside by day. Our first port was Odessa, built on the site of an ancient Greek colony. Many cultures settled here – Crimean Tartars, Turks, Russians and Germans. Our ship docked, and we spent several days tooling about the city, admiring its elegant Baroque buildings, elaborate facades and balconies, tree lined boulevards. The variety of huge old trees (chestnut, poplar, acacia, linden) rivaled the architecture. Roses of brilliant hues rule the city’s parks and gardens. We spent time going up and down the Potemkin steps, mostly by funicular.

One night I went to the magnificent rococo opera house for a production of “Swan Lake.” Other highlights were the Odessa catacombs and the vast Akkerman Fortress, a 13th century citadel.

We made our way north, visiting Kherson and Zaporozhye. The Island of Khortitsa, former stronghold of the Cossacks, was another highlight, including modern-day Cossacks performing acrobatic feats on horseback. Their athleticism and commanding style was thrilling to observe.
After more village and city visits, we ended up in Kiev, capital of Ukraine. St. Sophia Cathedral was a highlight of this magnificent city. Hard to say whether it is more impressive on the outside, with its thirteen gold domes, or the inside with towering gilded and mosaic rotunda ceilings. The final tour was through Jewish Kiev and included “Babi Yar,” the site of WWII massacres. We also went to Podyl, one of the oldest synogogues in the city. The journey ended on an upbeat note, as Podyl included a school. Children preparing for summer camp were playing outdoors, a fitting symbol of hope for the future.

******

Join adoptee/author Elaine Pinkerton every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are invited. If you’d like to contribute a guest post related to the adoption theme, please contact her through this website.

My roads led to India…

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My latest novel, published by Pocol Press, debuts next month. The Hand of Ganesh will be available through the publisher, ordering from your favorite bookstore, and on Amazon. It seems that elephant god Ganesh helped me overcome obstacles as I sought to tell this story, one of adoption, travel, and women’s friendship. Turn back the clock: As I was growing up, my father filled my imagination with visions of India. Richard Beard was a veteran of WWII who’d been stationed in Calcutta as a clinical psychologist for the Army Airforce. After he passed away, I compiled his wartime letters into a book titled From Calcutta with Love – The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. (Texas Tech University Press, 2002). All my life, I’d wanted to write fiction, and with the publication of Beast of Bengal (Pocol Press, 2005), that dream became a reality. Beast of Bengal is a suspenseful tale set in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII. After visiting Southern India in 2013, I had another story to tell. I recruited Clara Jordan, the somewhat autobiographical heroine of All the Wrong Places (Pocol Press, 2017) to join a new character, Arundati Benet, and took both women to Tamil Nadu and Mahabalipuram, an ancient temple complex. My newest novel spans generations and tells of friendship and bonding. It also presents a rich tapestry of India, as seen through American eyes.

Ganesh is the said to swallow the sorrows of the Universe and protect the world.

Here’s a summary of The Hand of Ganesh:

A young girl, barely alive, washes up on a beach near the Indian ruins of Mahabalipuram. Thus begins a journey of discovery for Richard and Rita Benet accompanied by an artifact of the elephant God Ganesh. Equal parts self-actualization, travelogue, and mystery/adventure story, The Hand of Ganesh dives deep into several American protagonists’ curiosities about India. As the multi-generational story progresses, two young women remain obsessed with finding their birthmothers; one from Santa Fe, New Mexico and the other born in India itself. The pair are compelled to travel to the Subcontinent. Amidst the backdrop of the world’s largest gathering of humanity, the Kumbha Mela, Clara and Arundati embrace their moment and decide together how to process their respective beginnings.

As publication draws nearer, stay tuned for updates. The Hand of Ganesh can be pre-ordered by going to http://www.pocolpress.com.

Poetry Monday in the Snow

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Winter at Last! Here in the parched Southwest, we welcome any moisture that falls. After a dry January, Nature rewarded us with a snowstorm: two feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Last Saturday, three friends and I went snowshoeing in the Santa Fe National Forest. In puffy billows, fresh-fallen powder surrounded us. Tall pines, festooned in white, towered overhead. The morning sky was a deep, dazzling blue. The sun shone brilliantly, the light and shadows dappling the terrain. We made our way up and down hills from the Winsor to the Rio En Medio trails, talking intermittently but also listening to the silence. No one else around. Suddenly I remembered the following poem and recalled meeting the poet. I recited Robert Frost’ masterpiece from memory, inspiring others to quote from poems from their pasts. It was a magical morning.


The Winsor Trail is one of the most popular in the Santa Fe area, but on this day we had it to ourselves!

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

BY ROBERT FROST

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.


Join Elaine for weekly blogs about the writing life, hiking and seeing the world through adoption-colored glasses. Her newest novel, The Hand of Ganesh, a tale of two women traveling through India, focuses on adoption and adventure. It will be available in March — through Amazon, Pocol Press or your local bookstore. Questions and comments welcome!

A Creative Life

Today’s guest blog by my friend Fiona Simon – author, entrepreneur, mother, Spanish teacher, and world traveler.

Fiona Simon loves to create recipes, learn something new every day, and spend as much time in nature as possible.

I was ten years old when my paternal grandmother told me I’d be a writer.  She saw something that I was yet to discover.  By the time I got to high school, not even remembering what she had told me, my dream was to be a writer for National Geographic.  I also dreamed of becoming an anthropologist.  While the latter two didn’t happen, I did become a writer and an editor.  For the first ten years after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, I was a travel writer, newspaper editor and writer, marketing writer, and website copywriter.  I also wrote and edited Spanish language publications, as I had gotten my Master’s in Spanish along the way.  After a brief stint teaching Spanish, I returned to writing. 

One day, the entrepreneurial bug set in.  I had been working as Communications Director for the Boulder (Colorado) Chamber of Commerce, interviewing entrepreneurs and writing their business profiles.  Long story short, I quit my job to start a granola company, not knowing what might be before me.  I was fortunate; the granola company met with great success and I was able to grow my company for the next decade and then sell it.  During those years, the writing continued: website, newsletters, marketing pieces.  After taking some time off, I decided to heed many customers’ suggestions that I write a book to tell of my granola adventures.  I was a single mom when I started the company and for most of the years I owned it.  That was a story in itself.  I think the main reason I heeded those suggestions was the lack of creativity in my life after selling my company.  Writing is a creative process.  Creating recipes and starting a company is a creative process.  Growing a business is a creative process.  Raising a child is a creative process.  Facing challenges of any sort is a creative process.  My daughter was in high school when I sold my company and didn’t need much supervision or parenting at that point.  The creative modes that had sustained me since college were no longer part of my life.  And I was feeling the void.

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was my salvation.  My morning pages reignited the creative process.  I faithfully wrote my three pages each day, took myself on artist dates, and completed the projects.  Once again, I was in flow with creativity, and that’s when the book writing started.  For me, and so many others, creativity is a vital force in experiencing wellbeing and purpose.  Life can easily go on remote control without some sort of creative process to break up the daily routine.  Using our minds for a regenerative and meaningful purpose is a key to finding happiness.  Creativity means mystery: what will unfold?  What paths will we discover?  How might we develop as a result of our creative endeavors?  Who might we meet?  What will we create next?  How will the creative process transform other aspects of our lives?  These questions and others are worth considering. 

Fiona’s Memoir

Lately, my creative process is focused on decluttering.  As I organize and clear the spaces around me, I feel lighter and enjoy an expanded sense of wellbeing.  I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff, and it feels great!  Quite unexpectedly, the decluttering has turned out to be very creative.  Seeing empty space makes me feel more relaxed and my brain less cluttered.  This project shall continue.  I’m sure that with free spaces around me and inside me, new creative projects will unfold.  May it be so.

Check out Fiona’s recent book talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xey28tO4PDA