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I was born in mid-century Los Angeles to everyday storytellers living in a storied land. By the time I was nine years old our family moved to Santa Barbara County, California, only 100 miles north but a world away. Here, my love of the landscape, local characters, and true historic tales bordering on myth, were fashioned into the home of my heart.
Whether in class, reading at home by the fireplace, or looking out the window from the backseat of our Ford, I felt the imprint of history just beneath the present. I could almost see the Chumash, Santa Barbara County’s First People, paddling their tomol through the treacherous Santa Barbara Channel. I imagined the Spanish padres and their somber militia stalking the coastline. I heard the ghostly echoes of Mexican rodeos in the valleys. I could see, in my imagination, a stagecoach rumble beneath oak trees, or the Chinese at work on a railroad tunnel. I imagined Portuguese farmers plowing their fields with little more than a horse, a strength of will, and a deep-seated faith. I could almost see the lampara boats used by the Italians who plied the sea for anchovy and sardines. I wondered at the lives of Japanese truck farmers, the residents of local Chinatowns, and Black families whose churches still stand after 100 years.
My imagination flares in the presence of old houses and barns that list, hollow and abandoned, at the base of green hills. I feel the presence of botanists, horticulturists, and home gardeners who planted towns with trees and shrubs that that have grown, now regal with age, and continue to bloom and cool and beautify. I gather power from the wide flat fields in narrow coastal valleys that seem to go on forever, where mustard flower and sugar beets and beans were grown in profusion, and in the prolific orchards of lemon, and avocado that continue to grace our county, tended by families – armies of them – who labor hard and love the land.
Along with stories, I gather small artifacts, found at swap meets, thrift stores, estate sales. I haunt museums and libraries. I treasure messages written on the backs of old postcards and photos, or in handwritten notes secreted between the pages of a book. I love old cookbooks and garden manuals, and see love’s hand in the small, sweet stitches knitted into baby clothes. I feel it in the smooth handle of an old garden hoe, the still-sharp antique saw, an old hammer or plane. Faded paintings, pretty cups and dishes, and all the tools and toys of a life glow of connection and confirm our lasting and common threads through time.
I covet stories shared by my own family, the mechanics and librarians and shop owners, the maintenance workers, bookkeepers, and secretaries. In each I find meaning, purpose, and connection so rich and edifying I keep them close, calling on them often.
While encountering my own lessons in the here-and-now, I learn from those who came before.
After my son grew up, I worked as an executive assistant at a large non-profit agency. Nights and weekends, I wrote on a borrowed a laptop. I took a free writing class through adult education and joined a critique group. I learned to use free Apache Open Office software. I received a camera as a gift, and took up photography using Gimp, GNU, the free online Image Manipulation Program, to edit my photos. I became a devotee of Robert McKee, author of Story.
In 2008, I started a blog about Santa Barbara County, California. Through Cartas…Letters from Home, I shared source material and the results of historical research about Santa Barbara County and its past. Much of what I found is in the public domain. I was gifted with a history of my community, my state, my country, left behind by people who lived in an earlier time. There was portent in film clips, old newspaper and magazine articles, in books written and long forgotten, or those obsoleted and discarded.
From the tumble of stories collected over a lifetime, my love of writing and research, a historical mystery began to take shape, one set in Santa Barbara of the 1920s.
I have completed my novel, Reckoned by the Light of Stars, and am seeking representation in hopes of publication. I have started a new blog on this website, focused on historical Santa Barbara County, and the larger world of the 1920s, one that in many ways mirrors our own time.
Today, as never before, truth is in the hands of the people, where it has always belonged.
Today, almost anyone can travel through time, finding that themes of the past continue to reverberate and influence our own time, as well.