Thursday, October 10, 2013

Journey's End?

At Bookworks in Albuquerque. Photo by Jocelyn Fafard, UNM.

Hard to believe that just 7 days ago I returned to L.A. after making a 2000 mile round trip to New Mexico for signing and reading of The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood. I look happy, don't I?

That's because I made it from Taos to Albuquerque in record time and the seats were filled with family–my brother and his partner, my cousins and their family, strangers who crept out of the aisles and lingered, and an online comadre, Dawn Wink (her book, Meadowlark is just out), who drove down from Santa Fe with her family. Hail to book lovers!

Jocelyn Fafard is a UNM student who arrived with her mom to interview me for her journalism class. The two stared off in opposite directions when I read a scene ripe with sexual awakening and intrigue but the stage was set and I forged ahead. Shoppers edged closer to hear and I looked at my brother who beamed with pride for his big sister and repentant childhood tormentor.

Dawn Wink wrote a review of The Sandoval Sisters for StoryCircle.

 "Was there an autobiographical aspect to the book?"

A bit. The book is set circa 1841-1848 in Santa Fe. I'm old, but not that ancient. Yet, I have passed through distinct stages in my life: maiden, mother and yeah, crone. Each of the Sandoval Sisters' is unique and distinct from the other, but family loyalty is important to them. They've been gifted with a certain joy I experienced in a moment of time. Some of Alma's experiences in Texas are reminiscent of my mother's sojourn there when she married my dad. And la gente's superstitions are the ones that vibrated throughout my family and surrounding community in Santa Fe.

My brother and Dawn had to head back to Santa Fe, but my cousins took me out to Sadie's, a popular Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque.         

Julia Flowers, my cousin's granddaughter, appeared in Bless Me, Ultima (my review).  
 She didn't eat all that by herself!

The next day it was time for Joey and me to hit the road.  This time I took it easy, with frequent stops for photos.  New Mexico segued into Arizona.

Same backdrop but now with a colorful toy train crossing. I so wanted to hear the train whistle.

 These shacks near a reservation. I pulled over to give Joey water and a walk and ended up buying a shell necklace from a vendor also named Sandra.

This journey brought me back in time–to memories of my mom, my childhood, the bullies who made my girlhood fraught with sorrow, to the resilience, and yes, even the creativity I learned to counteract them and pass the lonely winter nights when my mom worked, my brother slept and the wind howled outside.

The 2000 mile round trip also brought me forward in time to the present I've created for myself. It was an opportunity for me to connect on a deeper level with my brother and to continue to try to understand my deceased mother.  I spoke at Santa Fe High and hope that what I revealed to the students might give a few of them hope that there is life beyond high school and out of Santa Fe. 

Santa Fe was at once more horrible (with such an Anglicized reverence for all things ethnic that the heart of Native American and Mexican and Hispanic lost its relevance for me; there are diamond vendors cropping up around the plaza, reputedly money laundering vehicles) and greater than my youthful experience and rejection of it, but NM, and especially Taos warmed my heart.  

NM mountains and vast, blue sky over the rear of my truck at the dog park, my favorite place in Santa Fe. I met the nicest people there; they were all smiling and so were their dogs.

Imagined my husband and I watching the sunset there, holding hands, really looking at each other.

"Sometimes you get to meet yourself in the midst of running away."

Oratoria, the eldest sister:  "Which are the more true, the memories then or those simmered over time?"

Sandra Ramos O'Briant:  "There's a dissonance to memories. Like heat rising off the desert and creating a mirage, the art is in taking the distortion and helping the reader to see."

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