Lines in the Sand

I am on vacation, although my life, since leaving the university, has felt like one long, 3.5 year vacation.  I commit to a minimum of two fiction reads and at least one non-fiction while vactioning/living in our home away from home apartment in Puerto Rico where my mother once lived.  I picked up one of Jaime Manrique’s novels, “Our Lives are the Rivers” for $3.00 at the community library section of my favorite vegan restaurant, “Cocobana.”  Maybe a decade earlier, at writer and friend Esmeralda Santiago’s invitation, I wrote Jaime, Colombian writer who teaches, not kidding, at Columbia University.  My mother, Cecilia Salazar, is a Manrique from Bogota who migrated to NYC as a teen with her mother, Julia, and her 4 younger siblings after her father, Francisco, was poisoned by his business partner.  Esmeralda is certain we are related.  As a ‘retired’/resigned professor myself, I understand teacher responsibilities; privileging reading, grading and publishing over responding to a “cold” email inquiry from a potential long lost relative.  Nonetheless, I had never read anything but reviews about Jaime’s books and suddenly, on day 2 appeared “Our Lives...", hardback and affordable.  

For my non-fiction reads, I brought with me two.  Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton is required reading for my second yoga teacher training.  I have to write a book report about it, so when I read, I need a pen and a little notebook, moreover I need to concentrate, a challenging feat for me these days since I walked out of the classroom.  For my second book, I wanted an Audible, something I could take with me as I walked to and from early morning yoga classes or strolled the length of the beach.  Last January, Elizabeth Gilbert’s 700+ page new book, “The Signature of All Things” took me on 3 weeks worth of walking and listening.  I had less than a few hours to organize my reading so that when her new book,  “Big Magic” popped up on my Audible recommended reading list and, in my words, looked like it’s about creating, being creativeful, and creation itself,  I didn’t hesitate.  For two weeks worth of walking to and from Ashtanga Yoga in Ocean Park up and down McLeary Street, I’ve been reading/listening to pep talks, revelations and stories about her and other writers’ creative experiences.  But I don’t write, anymore, one voice said.  It continued, "You stopped your Tumblr blog once you realized, too late, that it was more a social media site, and you failed at figuring out how to import Tumblr to Wordpress. You pay for a URL, well, actually many URLs, and this one, you own site, has blogging options and you’ve never explored.  Actually, you just don’t have time, and, if I may say, you don’t have much to say that is relevant to anyone.”  I thought about what the voice was telling me and suddenly found myself thinking about some once-upon-a-time ideas, like turning my 300+ doctoral dissertation about gender and development in rural, indigenous communities in Andean Bolivia into a fictional narrative.  One of my interview subjects, a young Quechua woman named Virginia who babysat her younger siblings while her mother participated in a UNIFEM project some ten years earlier, and whose smile I recognized from an educational video documenting the project, would be the main character.  Her father, a very sweet man when I met him in 2000, had promised to sell her for some sheep. As a result of what she was absorbing from this development project about the role of girls and the power of education to change entrenched gender roles, she ran away from her village with another 13 year old and returned to school for a secondary degree.  When,  I interviewed her, had just entered college.  As an unintended outcome of this development project, that is, I found that it was the young girls, not their mothers, the target audience of the project, that mostly benefitted.  Following Virginia’s escape from bondage, turns out she instigated an exodus of young girls to receive an education higher than the third grade.  But, how can a tribal community be sustainable if its most vital members leave?  But, I diverge.

Gilbert debunks the notion of passion as what drives a writer and proposes curiosity as impetus for writing.  So, while on my morning walk on the beach with head down looking in the sand, I found myself curious about all the jewelry I have lost in my life…in sand.  Did anyone ever find the countless rings I’ve lost?  Would I ever find the rings they lost?  This curiousity became my line in the sand, the day after so many dry years, I returned to writing.  

 MELINDA SALAZAR, Ph. D.   ~    MESALA9@GMAIL.COM    ~    603.682.4525