I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. I wrote my first book in the 3rd grade. Yet I’m also an adventurer with a head full of ideas and impulses and wonder. It took me a while to figure out how to lasso the stories and wrangle them into a digestible form.
I was born in the 1960s and grew up in the country, mostly in rural New York State with a few years in Indiana. My sister and I were free to ramble in the woods and sheep pastures, first with our dog, and later on our horses. We spent whole summer days out exploring nature and, in the end, ourselves.
When it was time for college, though, I ran away from my small town to a big university in the big city of Boston. I couldn't wait to be anonymous. I then spent ten years living in New York City, working in the film industry, writing a stack of screenplays that never got produced--my exhibit in the Museum of Failures.
Seeking a change, I went to work for the National Park Service, putting my writing to work in a different arena. I've worked at parks in southern Utah, the California desert, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, and even one in Romania--as a Peace Corps volunteer. In 2012 I visited Big Bend National Park in Texas. I thought I was traveling to the end of the earth, but it turned out to be the center of my universe. Today this high desert landscape of far west Texas is my home.
In addition to the work of writing, I was also developing a sense of responsibility for my place in the world. Call it activism or civic engagement or a pathway to service. My interest in social justice was honed in my five years working at Manzanar National Historic Site in California, where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. Getting to know so many people who lived that experience was remarkable: the power of being able to tell one's story, the difference that recognition makes, the humanity of so many who were wronged.
Today I volunteer to lead a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of a segregated school house that served the Mexican American children of my community. We are turning the Blackwell School into a museum. Everywhere, the power of stories is making a difference in people's lives. Never underestimate a person's need to be able to claim their experience and have it listened to and respected.
And yes, I've been known to walk down a highway carrying a peace sign. To paraphrase the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, I prefer the absurdity of walking for peace to the absurdity of not walking for peace.
Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez.