Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing Through Portals of Time

My life has taken some amazing and wonderful turns this year. I have been writing history for more than 2 decades, and it is mostly solitary work: hours spent alone at the computer, visits to museums to search archives and pull together random information, and sometimes, trips to interview people who have knowledge about my research subject. I have also been fortunate to have had my work published, and occasionally have met people who have read the books--and enjoyed them. Yahoo!

Those random compliments kept me going, although I definitely would have kept on writing because the stories seemed to be forcing their way to the surface, pushing up to be put on paper and shared. Stories have always come to me, and over the years there were such amazing incidents, that I have come to believe that some of the people I have written about are just standing behind my shoulder watching as their words were being recorded. There was the time when I was writing the story of a New Mexico archaeologist, and looked at a photograph of Hattie Cosgrove's 15-year-old son standing at the entrance to Greenwood Ceremonial Cave in the Gila Wilderness. It seemed that I had seen the same image more recently, and when I pulled out some photos of a trip that I had made to the same site, there was a photograph of my 15-year-old son standing in the same spot, in the same pose, 75 years later. In that moment I felt Hattie leaning over my shoulder as we compared the images of our sons.

Perhaps 75 is a significant number for me. On a trip to Boston, I chanced upon a local village newspaper with vintage Hopi Indian photographs. I looked up the owner of the pictures and ultimately, using the photos and letters shared by the Massachusetts family, wrote Hopi Summer, the story of a friendship between a Hopi potter and an eastern professor's wife. The photographs had been taken in 1927, and I saw them in the Massachusetts newspaper--75 years later.

This book has now been chosen as One Book Arizona for 2011. An incredible honor, and it will be a joy to share Ethel and Maud's story with so many people in the coming year. It is an amazing gift to receive this credit, but as I wrote earlier, I would still be driven to keep on writing, the People from the Past keep urging me on.

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