My own story for the first 18 years organizes itself in my mind in short chunks of two or three years apiece, each one connected to a different place where our air force family, which eventually included five kids, touched down: Arizona. Washington State. The Eastern Shore of Virginia to be near grandparents while Dad was in Korea. Misawa Air Force Base, Japan. Louisiana. Virginia again. Northern Ontario. South Carolina.
Then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va. during a brief and wonderful window of academic openness when freshman composition was the sole required course. Those four years handed me the world in a candy box, and I plucked out tantalizing courses like astronomy, Asian studies, literature, philosophy, acting, art history, and studio art. Almost every subject involved writing, and the college library became my good friend.
My junior year saw me in Paris, riding the métro daily and walking for miles through the city; living in a rented room in a modest apartment with other students from around the world; speaking, studying, thinking, and dreaming in French. Back at Randolph-Macon I graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in French literature. Naturally, that led to such edifying lines of work as waiting tables and clerical jobs. But the heart of my world for the first five years following college was a hundred-year-old, square-hewn chestnut log cabin in a hollow in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, with an apple orchard climbing the hill behind us, a huge vegetable garden, tangles of wild blackberry and raspberry bushes and a paw-paw tree beside the creek, and national forest almost surrounding us. As the constant sound of the mountain stream seeped into every aspect of life there, I had a sense that I would find my right place in the world.
My meandering route toward that place slowly taught me that my right place was that route, with its lessons at each serendipitous step preparing me for the next step. Among these, over the past few decades:
* working as a team with Dearing, selling residential solar heating systems in Santa Fe and around northern New Mexico—introducing me to the people, cultures, art, and history of the state that would be our home for 25+ years
* working alongside Dearing as a forest service fire tower lookout for several summers in the mountains of south-central New Mexico
* starting my writing career as a reporter with a small-town weekly newspaper in the cow town of Magdalena, NM, where I first began creating profiles of interesting local characters
* writing for Santa Fe’s daily newspaper, then its weekly arts publication, then magazines, galleries, museums and individual artists for the past 20+ years
The most recent move was to a small community in southern Colorado where the road dead-ends at 14,000-foot peaks and the valley floor itself is at 8,000 feet, expansive, very lightly populated, and blessed with spectacular beauty and deep quiet; where there is no skiing but instead are mountain trails and where many visitors are drawn to retreat centers in the lineages of more than two-dozen wisdom traditions from across the spiritual spectrum and around the world; where I’ve been enveloped by this community, invaluable friendships, the near-wildness of this place, and by gratitude for all aspects of life.