I was born in California and lived in a small farming community in the San Joaquin Valley until age nine. We had many Mexican school chums, neighbors, workers, and friends. My sister, brother, and I still occasionally recall the kind Mamacita of one classmate, who welcomed us after school to her table. My love of all things Mexican was born consuming bowls of pintos and plenty of tortillas.
In 1955, my father began a three-year odyssey of moving the family around in Washington and Oregon.My love of travel was born on the side of the old Hwy 99, as my mother prepared food on a Coleman stove.
In 1977, while living in Canada as a controller for a large company—sent there to hire and train accountants—I met and married the interior landscape designer, the “Plant Guy.” I decided to publish his plant knowledge, and found a book at the library, called simply, Bookmaking. We bought a used typesetting machine, made some proof copies, and did a test market. We moved to California, where we eventually wrote, published, and marketed 20 books, which are still the standard of the industry. With the recession of 1988, our market had been saturated, I was pursuing my spiritual awakening, and the husband fled back to Canada.
I moved to Pacific Grove, California, where I had family, and enrolled in the University of California at Santa Cruz to complete my degree in philosophy and religious studies. During my final year I took advantage of their study abroad program at the University of Lancashire in the north of England. I visited three family manor homes from the 1500s while there and wrote and published a book about my British flat mates and, Peace Consciousness in Findhorn and Belfast, to satisfy the President’s Fellowship I had received.
I loved Europe and wanted to stay. On spring break I took a plane to Spain to find a job teaching English as a second language. The information booth at the Alicante airport directed me to Elche, known for its language schools. After I found a pensión that would take me (single women traveling alone were suspect), and with my bi-lingual curriculm vitae in hand, I walked the streets and knocked on several doors before securing a position. Elche has the largest palm forests in Europe (grown for Palm Sunday) and I loved to sit among them, converse with people strolling by, and enjoy the nightlife, which usually lasts into the wee hours of the morning. I began my study of Reiki in Spain, from a traveling German teacher, which led to certification as Reiki Master and Teacher in 2009. In 2010 I began practicing Transcendental Meditation and became enamored of Byron Katie and her mantra, “Suffering is optional.”
I returned to the U.S. in 1996, and started Park Place Publications in Pacific Grove, writing and publishing my own travel guides, and helping others self-publish their books, too. Travel, reading, writing, and bookmaking have been a constant theme in my life since high school.
Donna Love invited me to Álamos after I had published her book, To Make the House Complete, which included renovating two homes in Álamos. I saw her photos that were of, to my mind, the quintessential Mexican village I had envisioned since those first grade frijoles. Upon arrival in Álamos in February 2010, I was elated. My friend Sally had traveled with me and we were both enchanted and delighted by the church and plaza, the street vendors, las tiangas, the friendly expats and natives, and of course the exotic plants and animals. We rented a roomy casita from Diana Roslee. After a couple of weeks, I relaxed into the slower pace and really began to soak in the ambiance: the soft breezes, swaying palms, chatter on the streets. I bought dog food and gave it by handfuls to the street dogs. The Swickards hosted a book publishing talk for me, the room was packed—and everyone was so friendly and welcoming! While in Álamos I published two books: short stories for Diana Roslee’s grandchildren, and Good Deeds by Elizabeth Dale, stories by Americans about Mexican’s helping them.
I took Spanish lessons from Jose Trinidad Rangel. Stephanie Meyer invited me to go into the Reserve with her and for two days I enjoyed the backcountry hospitality, flora, and fauna. A lizard hibernating on the wall near my bed; a scorpion on the wall behind a pillow cushion I sat on, and I was living ‘dangerously’—cool! I determined to return.
On my 2011 trip I stayed with Diane Carpenter and every morning sat in reverence on her patio as I sipped coffee overlooking the plaza, town, and surrounding mountains as the sun rose. I fed carrots and apples to a small black horse on daily walks. He was suffering in the hot sun and with the help of Rigo, who works for Diane, secured and erected a tarp for his shade. Bengta Wolsing, who was providing hay to the little pony, later found a home in the country for him. One evening at Beatrice Sak’s I saw one of those red centipedes and the next day met a woman in the plaza who showed me the zipper scar she still had from its painful stings. My friend Alex Kerekes visited again and we took the McKay’s boat trip down the river where we saw luffahs growing on trees and ancient petroglyphs. I helped Lynda Borondes with a fundraiser to spay and neuter cats and dogs. I smashed eggs with locals in the plaza during the Cascarones festival and the Mexican family I met invited me to their home the next day for a barbecue. We met in town and shopped together for the ingredients. So welcoming! So loving!
On my last day in Álamos, March 30, 2011, I was having lunch at Teri’s with Donna Love, Joan Gould Winderman, Bernadette Mertens-McAllister, and Betsy Maier. Donna and Bernadette had a vision of a collection of ex-pat art and biography, which morphed into this book of women’s stories about our lives in Álamos. Joan has been relentless in rounding up stories and Donna has been religious in editing them for posting on the womenofÁlamosmexico.com blog. I have been posting them and now designing the interior and book cover. I think Betsy fell in love some where along the line! It’s satisfying to read these stories and I’m grateful to be included. I am also very thankful to Donna for inviting me and to all her friends who have welcomed me, and all the others I’ve met and love. I am looking forward to our book launch, February 13, 2013, and many more years of enjoying all things Álamos.