Birth Of A Book

A newborn book is a touchable, lovable miracle.

Coming in March from Iguana Books

Conception
Quick and wiggly, the sperm of an idea lodges itself in the moist, fertile ground of a writer’s self, often when she least expects it. It then takes over her life. She might try to deny it, plunging into floor scrubbing, cupboard reorganizing, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting and emailing. But deep inside her storywords are multiplying, taking shape, beginning to move.

Cally’s Way, my new historical self-discovery novel, was conceived one morning in the kitchen of the apartment my daughter and I had rented for six weeks on the south coast of Crete.

I had been rising early every day, meditating and then writing random notes on what I was reading, seeing, thinking, feeling. In the afternoons we would drive up terrifying, guardrail-free mountain roads to visit villages where brave people, some of them teenagers like my daughter, had found ingenious ways to resist the Nazis’ brutal occupation of this ancient island during World War II. Then we would come back to Plakias beach. Behind the headland at the end of the bay archeologists have found 100,000-year old human tools.

Plakias Bay

Sun, rock, olive oil and wine, stories of glory and horror, all of these streams of consciousness coalesced that morning in the kitchen into a force that, holding me in its grip for the next twelve years, would become Cally’s Way.

Gestation
Words, like cells, grow according to some kind of pattern — a novel has to have characters and a story — but what characters? Which story? So many choices, of narrative and scene, style, setting and timing, of tone and pace and nuance, implication, resonance, discord, lie waiting in the place just beyond knowing. Storytelling guru Robert McKee says never be satisfied with your first idea. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes wrong. No one can tell a writer how to work.

Gestation of a novel is not seamless. Structures often sprout extraneous arms or legs and lopping them off, when characters are now as close as friends, is painful. Sometimes the heart of the story is so faint all you can hear is your memory of it.

So you get help. You also feed and nurture your creative energy and the emerging life and gradually, as construction continues, glimmers of the book’s soul appear.

My bulletin board while I wrote Cally’s Way

Labour
Oh boy. Who needs the endless hours of metaphorical gut-clenching, back wrenching contractions, pushing, pushing the baby book out into a world that has no reason to care whether it lives or dies?

At least now, in the birth of both babies and books, we have some choices: doctor or midwife? Hospital or home? Rather than exposing our innermost sensitivities to agents and publishers whose choices are dictated by marketing algorithms, many writers are now opting for new publishers who are literary gatekeepers, but also offer the author some control over this critical part of the birth.

Iguana Books

Delivery
Iguana Books will publish Cally’s Way in March. It is my third novel and thanks to the high quality of editing, production design and marketing expertise I have received, all this baby’s fingers and toes are intact. According to advance reviews, there is also lots of colour in its cheeks and for this, like all creators at the moment of birth, I am eternally grateful.

Birth Notices
“Jane’s love for Crete, its people and customs shines through and draws the reader in. Her extensive knowledge about the history of the island adds breadth and depth to the passion and romance that we find in Cally’s Way. The questions posed by Cally’s journey of self discovery are ones that any reader will be able to connect with. This book is highly recommended not only for those who are already familiar with the island of Crete but for those who have yet to visit.”
Kate Brusten, Editor, Rethymnon Bugle

“I loved Cally’s Way, not just the fascinating history and stunning island backdrop, but also the well-drawn, endearing characters of Cally, the beautiful but troubled Oliver and Wrecks, his dog. An engaging and compelling read.”
Hilary Boyd, bestselling U.K. author of Thursdays In the Park

“Author Jane Bow gives readers an engaging and deeply poignant picture of the Greek and Cretan resistance under Nazi occupation, but she also gives her readers an equally engaging story of a young woman’s transformation through hard-won knowledge and love.  Cally’s Way resonates deeply…”
Robert J. Begiebing, award-winning novelist and Professor of
English Emeritus, Southern New Hampshire University

Decisions Are Rocks

Once we make major life decisions, they become solid, like the ground, or a mountain, creating the contours, peaks and valleys of our lives. When I chose the man with whom I am spending my life, I gave my future a unique and distinct shape.  A different choice would have made a different life.

I’m thinking about decisions and rock because my new novel, Cally’s Way, is about how both shaped so many lives seventy years ago in Crete, during World War II. The Cretan people had a harsh choice to make: to use courage, strength and guile to resist the German occupation, or to collaborate. Click here to sample their landscape in the Kourtaliotis Gorge.

Monument to Cretan Resistance.

  
Meanwhile we have just returned to Canada from Crete, driving from Toronto’s airport to Peterborough, Ontario on a concrete highway, eight lanes congested with cars and trucks, the air tinged pink by smog.

“I know,” a bright light in the highway department must once have decided, “let’s buy prime farmland along Lake Ontario, chop down the woods, reroute streams, and cover it all with concrete.”

A highway department decision-maker

Concrete high rises, some new, others shabby with age, line the route.

Decisions like these are the bedrock of seedy, soul destroying landscapes all across America. But, wanting to move more and more stuff, to endlessly grow our economies, we keep on making them. Here in Peterborough (a place that has not grown since we came here in 1979,) City Council has just decided to build a bridge right through one of Canada’s most beautiful city parks, in the name of hoped-for progress. 

Rights to rip open the ground for mines, to destroy virgin forests for wood, to pollute whole watersheds and  ecosystems to get oil out of Alberta’s tar sands and move it to markets are being granted all across Canada. Decisions that render us uglier, sicker and poorer. Different choices would make a different future.

Once made, changing big decisions leaves scars. Divorcees hurt, their children suffer. Landscapes cry. Look at Detroit, riddled with crumbling freeways, boarded up houses, decaying high rises full of broken windows.

And yet. In Detroit homies cruise outside a corner liquor store while inside the proprietor is full of humor, toughness, generosity. Down at the bus station, outside the locked gate in the wee hours, the old boys at the taxi stand are trading jokes, the air full of laughter. Hurt people are resilient, capable of new decisions, strong growth. Nature can recover.

Bird of Paradise in Myrthios, Crete


Could it be then that hope can only come from the decisions we individuals make, moment to moment? 

Take the hours I spend on Facebook, Twitter and other electronic devices. These disconnect me from the life flowing around me, while making me so intense! And disconnected, distracted or fractured attention spans are easily manipulated. 

I can, however, also make choices during my day to restore balance, create harmony and connection. All I need is to do it. Because in the end my father, who fought in World War II to preserve our rights to freedom of choice in thought, expression and action, had it right:

“Make your own decisions,” he said, “because if you don’t, life will make them for you.” 

Sometimes, like Cally in my novel, we need history to slap us into wakefulness, snap us out of the complacency that can lose us everything, before it’s too late.

Available in print & ebook at Iguana Books, Amazon, Chapters & all other retailers

Mothers And Daughters

Mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, is there a bond more powerful? More influential? Full of hitches and glitches, joy, pain and confusion, a mother’s love gives shape to her child’s life. Protecting, nourishing, nurturing a new little human, is there a greater challenge, or gift? 

Every mother is her mother’s child, however, and Mother Mary is the only saint I know of who had a kid. Action and reaction, the messy, muddled motherhood continuum goes on and on, creating through its tapestry of trial and error the flawed, unique beauty that is every living soul. 

New life in the Cretan countryside

Cally’s Way, my new novel set in Crete, is all about the mother-daughter bond, and the fact that, through it, historical horrors create our identities whether we know about them or not. When the novel opens, 25-year old Cally knows very little about her mother, who has just died. Here is her first encounter with the enduring power of motherhood:

“Apparently no one in Crete wore motorcycle helmets. She hugged Oliver’s back, watching over his shoulder as he gunned the engine up the mountain road, twisting around hairpin bends, the bike’s headlight cutting a swath through the darkness, higher and higher… the sea now thousands of feet below… They crested a steep hillock on the edge of the village of Sellia. There was a church at the top.


A great palm tree stood guard over a wrought iron gate. Inside, waist-high marble tombs decorated with crosses, angels, doves were lit by oil lamps in glassed-in shrines at their heads: rows and rows of tiny lights flickering under the moon and stars. Cypress trees at the top of each row, sculpted nearly horizontal by the mountain winds, looked like Japanese ink drawings against the sky. She had never seen anything like it.


“Cretans like to build their graveyards as close as possible to God,” said Oliver.


Beside the oil lamps inside the shrines, people had placed a few flowers, some fresh, others plastic, and a crucifix or a prized medal or a candlestick or a toy. Always a photograph, several in ornate silver frames… 

Something squeaked in the darkness above her… There it was again, a single squeak in the trees. A bat? Strangely, she felt no fear. Death, all around her, was beautiful in this nighttime world of flickering souls and answering stars. Removed from light, bright day life, the departed connected with eternity, and were free to come alive. To be with you.”
 

A Cretan grave


On Mothers’ Day this Sunday I would like to celebrate every mother because, no matter who or where she is, she is doing the best she can with what she’s got in every moment. 

Also, this year please help me send loving energy to the 234 mothers and daughters caught up in Nigeria’s latest kidnapping horror. 

A summary & reviews are here; you can buy it here or here.  


Cally’s Way Honoured by Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus‘ editors have chosen to feature the Cally’s Way review in April’s Kirkus Review!  

Buy it by clicking on Amazon, Chapters or Iguana Books  
Set in Crete, Cally’s Way is a self-discovery adventure about sex and love and loss, mothers and daughters, and the way historical horrors shape our identities whether we know about them or not. Kirkus’ review calls the novel “accomplished and lyrical,” and “romantic,” but also “tough-minded” and “harrowing,” addressing “important questions like whether it’s possible to avoid being implicated in the modern world’s sins.”

Cally’s Way interweaves the 2002 story of Cally, a 25-year old business graduate, with the World War II story of Callisto, her grandmother, who was a runner in the Cretan Resistance.  

Cally’s mother was born on Crete but has always refused to talk about it. Now she has died, leaving one instruction: that before she starts her first job, Cally should visit her mother’s homeland. 

On Crete’s south coast she meets Oliver, a reticent, very attractive U.S. Army deserter, and a night of love awakens feelings Cally has never known. Then, waiting for her plane in Athens airport, she learns from a television that the company she is about to work for is killing people with water pollution. These two events demolish Cally’s fragile equilibrium, setting her on a new, uncharted path, back in Crete, that strips her of even her clothes. It also takes her deep into the mountains on a motorcycle, and into the history of Crete’s brutal Nazi occupation, before leading to deep love, a horrific family discovery, and a future she never would have imagined.

Preveli Valley ruin where escaping Allied soldiers hid

Cally’s Way is also about the ancient beauty of Crete, where “Aphrodite, ruthless as ebony, old as art, danced a whole sequence of choices above the morning waves.” 

Bestselling British author Hilary Boyd, who reviewed Cally’s Way, likes “the scent of wild thyme on the Cretan hills, the taste of a freshly picked orange, the sweetness of golden honey. Cally, like us, is seduced by it all… but at the same time… we are held in suspense by the island’s cruel past.”

Early oleander buds near Cally’s cave
“One of the most striking aspects of Cally’s Way is how the horrors of war have been contextualized within the framework of  day-to-day existence,” writes Rethymnon Bugle editor Kate Brusten. “The questions posed by Cally’s journey of self-discovery are ones any reader will be able to connect with. This book is highly recommended.”
“Cally’s Way resonates deeply, with surprising connections among the violent and tragic occupations of the Second World War, post-war Communist paranoia and our current occupations and insurgencies,” writes Robert Begiebing, award-winning novelist, Norman Mailer Center mentor and Professor of English Emeritus of Southern New Hampshire University, who also reviewed the novel.A satisfying and revelatory read.”
 

The Dragon’s Head in Plakias Bay

You can read the first chapter here
To see the full reviews, click here

You’ll find Cally’s Way at any online retailer (see links above, under cover photo.) Chapters in Peterborough, Ontario, has the book in stock.

If you enjoy Cally’s Way, why not help spread the word by posting a sentence or two about it on Amazon or Goodreads, or right here? 
Thanks for your visit,

Jane
 


Dead & Living

by Jane Bow

(see purchase details below)

Dead and AliveDead And Living is a novel based on the true story of a man who did not know, for 25 years, whether he was a murderer. Finally he went to court to find out. A psychological ‘whodunit,’ Dead And Living is also an adventure story about the creative power of the human spirit, about memory, passion and duty, and about the dance between truth and justice in Canada.

Shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award in 1994, Dead And Living was selected for a Carleton University literature and law course reading list in 2002.

Published in 1993 by Mercury Press, Toronto, ON, Canada
ISBN 1-55128-007-8

Reviews

“Bow can write.” Toronto Globe and Mail

“Dead And Living’s excellent pacing and intriguing characters kept this reviewer turning the pages.” Thunder Bay Post

“A gripping novel and a fascinating story, an intriguing portrait of  guilt and love.”
Scene Magazine

“The real strength of Jane Bow’s book is what distinguishes it from the bulk of such novels, its refusal to yield the simple solution, to equate a mere trial verdict with something so elusive as the truth.” Halifax Daily News

Available for Purchase at the Following Location

Purchase Paperback

Amazon.ca

Watch Out, Oak Island Treasure Hunters!

Beware, Marty and Rick Lagina, Oak Island treasure hunting brothers from Michigan! Brigit has just escaped from The Oak Island Affair and she’s sailing towards you. 

Brigit: Hi guys. Remember your first starry-eyed,     wet-behind-the-ears summer on Oak Island? I was there. Me and Vanessa sailed right into Joudrey’s Cove. Not that you noticed, being tied up in meetings, deciding when and where to sink yet another fortune into this tiny Nova Scotia island.

Oak Island. White structure is major dig site, Borehole 10X

Brigit:  We walked the beach–

Me: Shsh, Brigit!
 

Brigit: No! Damn it Jane, six people have already died on Oak Island, and you know what happened to Vanessa down that sinkhole. What nearly happened to me. Do you think the Michigan brothers’ new History Channel series is going to talk about that? 

One of many shafts leading deep into the island’s heart.
Me: What happened to you was your own fault, Brigit. And why should the Lagina brothers care? You know the Oak Island history, how team after team of men, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, have been pouring millions into the search for gold ever since 1795, because clearly something lies hidden–

Brigit: Beyond the reach of greed! If they would just talk to Vanessa–! 
 

Me: Talk to a character in a book? Yeah, right.
 

Brigit: Why not? Fiction is all about the real truths, isn’t it? And obviously they talk to their dreams. So what’s the difference? 

Me: Hmmm. 😀

New print or ebook here or here.

 Want to talk to Brigit while she’s here? Send her a comment, and thanks for visiting!
Jane

Social Media Savvy

Have none. Need some,
says my publisher. 

(iguanabooks.com)

Facebook Goodreads LinkedIn Tweets,
pages linked by clicks that eat

our time, our focus, our minds made ghosts 
that cease to host
attention even for those we love.
Or so I thought, 

watching drivers texting, 
parents neglecting 
toddlers attached to the end of their hands.

I like nature, the woods, where life is connected,   
plants, animals and trees, birds, beetles and bees 
thriving and dying together.

And people. I like watching faces sag and lift, 
shifting, sifting
expressions ephemeral as the passing breeze.
Disability, forcing me to measure each walking step,
has taught me to see 

cracks in the pavement and the tiny flowers growing there.
Resting, I read the strut and slouch of passersby,
admire youth’s fluid grace, feel the arthritic’s aching gait.
But my working world, books, is online now.
I must go there.

So I screw up my courage and hire a twenty-year old.
He looks at my Facebook LinkedIn Goodreads profiles,
my one Twitter follower, and laughs.
“You have some work to do.”

An hour later I understand:

  • how to make a page interesting to someone who has no reason to care,
  • how to link my pages, and why,
  • how to Tweet usefully,
  • how social media take you into the heart of your field, adding colour and depth and breadth to what you know.

The next day my national newspaper reports that here in North America more people than ever suffer from loneliness. Just about everybody has access to a computer, but even as we ‘tweet’ and ‘like’ and ‘friend,’ an unprecedented percentage of us is sinking into a trough of disconnected despond. I live in a city suburb but do I ever see my neighbours? 

Feeding, growing, killing, dying doesn’t only happen in the woods, but do I know how the kids across the street are doing, or who is sick, who has something to celebrate? No. Comfortably cocooned, isolated, we never lack for clean water or a soft bed, but we barely know each others’ names. 

Our planet is a mess, yes, 

here and everywhere, 
but now I see that the social media are nature in action.
Nonsense and laughter, rants and support,
sometimes horror,
Twitter and Facebook and the others are 
human consciousness unfolding
ideas, theories and knowledge growing across the world,
each social media presence dancing to its own rhythms, 
full of possibilities,
every bit as connected as the inhabitants of the wild woods.

So I log in. I can do this.
I want to do this, want to reach
across national, racial, religious, political, economic divides.

Want to help show and tell and build and sell
whatever comes next in the mystery that is Earth.
For one designated hour a day.
Then I hope I’ll log out, 
bundle myself into my overcoat, mitts and boots
and take a walk 

Dante & The Chinese Backpacks

Many of my readers are in China. This blog’s for you.

A huge black and grey snake with green lines running down its sides is coiled around a ceiling on the second floor of Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario. The snake is made of Chinese children’s backpacks, each one representing the life of one of the 5,000 children who died when their shoddily built schools collapsed in an earthquake. China’s government doesn’t like to talk about this tragedy. It also doesn’t like Ai Weiwei, the artist who made the snake, who has been jailed for speaking out, and is now being kept from attending openings of his art shows in Europe and Canada. 

To see this extraordinary snake go to: http://www.ago.net/ai-weiweis-snake-ceiling

I saw the snake on my way into an exhibition of 14th Century Florentine Art. A hand-illustrated edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy stopped me in my tracks. Made a few years after his death in 1321, this copy of his world famous poem has been carefully preserved for nearly 700 years. When he created it he was in exile.
 

Written in Italian, the language of the street, The Divine Comedy takes its readers down, with Dante and the Roman poet Virgil, into The Inferno’s seven circles of hell, where some of the public figures of Dante’s day are among those gruesomely tortured by sins, such as greed and avarice, that consume them. Dante and Virgil then travel up, through cold, grey Purgatorio — a new concept in Dante’s day, where less serious sinners must suffer until they can achieve redemption —  into heavenly, love-filled Paradiso. 

Dante was no more popular with his government than Weiwei is with his, but his poem was copied again and again. Anyone could read it and they did, until it became one of the great foundations of western literature.

To see a beautifully illustrated, 14th Century copy of dissident Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, right after marvelling at 21st Century dissident Ai Weiwei’s sensational snake, gave me hope in the unstoppable power of art.

Once, thirty years ago, Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence was battling soul-destroying censorship of her brilliant novel, The Diviners, in her hometown. For the second time.

“Why does this keep happening?” I whined. The Diviners was a Canadian literary classic. “Can’t we do something to make it stop?”

“No,” she told me, “all we can do is keep on standing at the barricades (of repression.)”

She’s right. Political and religious ideologies everywhere keep trying to smother inconvenient truths and points of view. I give thanks for the freedom I have to tap out these words today. It’s more than Canadian government scientists, or Chinese artists, or writers in many countries enjoy. 

Snakes shed their skins and grow, however, and governments have no choice but to coil through Dante’s journey. While blessed art, in all its forms, goes on refusing to be silenced.

Alan’s Garden

Cretan roses are tough. Blooming yellow, pink, crimson and fiery orange here in Alan’s garden, they do not lose a single petal when the meltemi wind howls in from the north. While I am here a Saharan sirocco whips their heads, a thunderstorm pelts them with hailstones and still, when I come out on the patio to drink my tea the next day, there are the roses, nodding in the morning.  

Alan’s roses

 They remind me of this island’s language. Bending, whipping, caressing, Cretan Greek is flexible, intense, and  full of colour. A single word’s meaning changes according to the pitch, tone and inflection with which it is delivered. Carol Poppinga, a trilingual jewellery artist who has training in both archeology and Greek, sits with me in her Myrthios workshop explaining a concept foreign to English.

An example is the word ‘tora.’ Spoken in a normal voice, it means ‘now.’ “Tora!” with force behind it means ‘immediately.’ “Tora?” as a question translates as “Are you sure?”or “couldn’t it wait?”  “To-o-o-ora,” the elongated ‘o’ sound half sung, pitch descending, sounds like the wind. Spoken with one hand raised and waving cylindrically, it means “too late.”

Carol outside her Myrthios workshop 
(https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carols-Workshop/165498226881343?ref=ts&fref=ts)

Beyond the roses in Alan’s garden, herbs grow around the spiky spines of a yucca tree. Here, and all over mountainsides that hum with bees in spring, you can smell sage, lavender, oregano and spicy savory.

Words too, in Cretan Greek, carry a punch that changes with the way they are are pronounced. The word ‘geros,’ if pronounced GEros, means old man. GerOS means strong. Then there is the word ‘malaka.’ MaLAka means asshole. MalaKA means soft. Imagine the fun you can have playing with this kind of language.

Down at the other end of his garden, Alan’s blooming geraniums, interspersed with a variety of flowers, each with its own distinct personality are a riot of colour against the mountains, sea and sky. 


Carefully planned and beautifully cultivated, the garden does, however, have wild elements. Birds and the winds bring and sew surprises that cannot be denied. Stubborn papyrus, from which the Egyptians just across the sea made paper 4,000 years ago, has seeded itself in a concrete crack on the garden steps. Beside it a pretty snapdragon has taken root in the middle of the stairs.

Papyrus on the stairs

 The soil in Alan’s garden is predominantly clay, the same clay the Minoans used more than 3,000 years ago to make models of heads wearing all kinds of different expressions. (See them in the Heraklion Archeological Museum.)  They also used clay to archive the world’s first linear script on clay covered stones, at their Phaestos palace.

Stone and clay archives at Phaestos

  A peaceful, stunningly creative society, the Minoans traded with the Egyptians to the south and with the ancient Mesopotamians (Greek word) to the east until volcanoes and earthquakes twice destroyed everything they had built here. After that came the invasions, one after another after another, many of them followed by brutal occupations. 

Mountain villages on this part of the south coast nestle under rock cliffs and outcroppings, the stone dwellings built one against the next hundreds of years ago. If invaders came into the bays below, the inhabitants could escape unseen, through the network of their houses into the mountains behind. 
 

Cenotaph at Karimes

 

Invaders’ legacies still exist in the Greek myths set on Crete, in the Roman baths being excavated in the mountains, in graceful  Venetian arches, in cenotaphs to Cretans who resisted the Turks and the Nazis. And in Greek words that have migrated into all the Western cultures: psychology, archeology, apology — and so many other –ologies! 

Alan’s garden: a symbol of the tough, flexible, colourful and resistant Cretan beauty from which it all began.

Mexico papers – Conclusion

Note: This is the last of a 4-part series. Scroll down to read parts 1-3.

Our little blue Datsun climbed through the mountains of central Mexico to San Miguel de Allende, and I continued to record the odyssey:

“A national monument, this beautiful little town is a perfect mesh of old and new. The people who have lived here for centuries are among the best artisans in the world, says renown Canadian artist Leonard Brooks.”

Leonard and his wife Reva, an acclaimed photographer, had built a house and studio full of wondrous collages, stone carvings, paintings. Everything was art, every plant in the garden, every stone around the pond carefully chosen, their fence a living sculpture made of cactuses.

“Gave the Brooks’ our corn cob pipes by way of thanks.”

Two days later we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, the capital of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, looking for a Canadian potter who had married a Lacandon Indian and gone to live with his isolated tribe in the rainforest near the Guatemalan border. The widow of Danish anthropologist Frans Blom, who discovered the Lacandon tribe in 1951, provided guided access to the tribe, but she wanted nothing to do with two would-be Canadian journalists.

Undaunted, we set off down a long dirt road to Ocosingo, the last town at the edge of the jungle, where we had been told a man had a plane. That night a parade of blue, red, emerald green insects crossed our hotel room floor, drawn by the overhead lightbulb. Watching, terrified to get out of bed, we noted that they did not climb. Next morning they were gone.

The pilot’s little Cessna sat at on a grass runway at the edge of town. We were in luck. He was taking a load of palm leaves somewhere and was willing to drop us off near the Lacandon village of Na’Ha. We would only have a couple of hours there as clouds were closing in. I watched him use a wooden ruler, the kind I used in grade school, to check the level in his plane’s fuel tank but was too excited to be afraid.

The Lacandon Indians lived in the traditions their people, the Mayans, had espoused for thousands of years. Gorge, who heard the plane and came running to the landing strip cut out of the jungle, wore only a canvas shift. His shoulder-length hair was bushy and black and he had the most extraordinary feet. Larger than a basketball player’s they gripped the mud, bounced off sharp stones, sprang up the path. Behind him, in our hiking boots, we struggled to keep up.

Na’Ha was a collection of thatched huts, but the Canadian potter was not home. Having gone to Canada for a visit, she had been barred by the Mexican government from returning.

Chan K’in, her husband and the kind, charismatic son of the chief, spoke Spanish however, and we spent our precious hours learning about this gentle tribe that eschewed modern civilization, preferring to use farming techniques that go back thousands of years to eke out a natural living in the rainforest. Kneeling with him, we watched one of the women pound out tortillas and then cook them over the fire for us. The only sign of the potter was an Inuit calendar hanging beside the pots on the wall of her and Chan K’in’s hut — a strange and beautiful cultural connection.

The rains held off long enough for us to fly back to Ocosingo but then the skies opened. Torrential rain pounded the roof of our little blue Datsun, and turned the road back to civilization to mud. Then the windshield wipers stopped working.

Picture jungle on both sides, no sign of human habitation anywhere, driving blind behind a curtain of water. Hiking boots have shoe laces however. We tied one to each wiper, then brought the other end of our laces in through our side windows. Yelling “Pull!” every few seconds, operating the wipers on manual, we made it to the highway.

It was time to go home. By the time we reached northern Mexico, we had one traveller’s cheque left. If we cashed it in Mexico we would lose money twice on the exchanges. But if we didn’t, where would we sleep? Not at a Mexican police station!

The answer appeared on the edge of the town we were in: a small hospital. Surely murderers and rapists would not hang out in its parking lot? The front door was locked but there were lights on inside. I knocked. No answer. I knocked again. Again. The door opened a crack. Inside was a tiny man, the night watchman. Clearly very frightened, waving a revolver, he asked what I wanted.

I told him we were two Canadian girls who needed his protection. Could we sleep in his parking lot? His chest expanded. Growing taller, he waggled the gun at the ceiling.

“Don’t worry,” he smiled, “I will keep you safe.” And he did.

The Lacandon story and several others were bought by Chatelaine. The Leonard Brooks story sold to The Toronto Star and Montreal Gazette.

Forty years later, I have published articles, plays, stories, books, and sitting here writing this, perhaps it is time Les and I thanked him and all the other beautiful souls we had the good fortune to know and record in The Mexico Papers.

If you would like to visit me in my study, go to http://studiosnapshotsblog.com/
where Judy Douglas hosts a fascinating blog about artists’ work spaces.
Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading,
Jane