Most writers remember exactly when their interest in not only writing but storytelling began. For me, it was second grade. We’d been given a thin mimeographed book of writing prompts, one of which began “I stood on the shore and stared at the island and thought…” Or something of that nature. It involved water and island, and suddenly in my mind, possibility! I’d just completed swimming lessons the previous summer and imagined myself swimming to that island! Perhaps the crawl, or the backstroke. It would be a long way, a mile! The water would probably be brutally cold, the kind of cold that raised goosebumps on my arms just thinking about it. Could I swim a mile? Would it leave me breathless, my arms and legs weak? What would I do if I felt myself beginning to fall below the water’s surface?
Like most second graders, that was probably the story; getting there, the struggle, the possibility. I have no recollection of what happened once, or even if, I stood on the island’s shore. But I can’t imagine not surviving. Now, decades later, I still see that scene so clearly in my mind, dark blue water, ripples that weren’t white-capped, but effectively hid the world beneath its surface. The sky was a light blue, filled with sunlight and empty of clouds. And the island sat so very far away, humped, a palm tree swaying in a breeze. And the thought, what if I tried swimming to an island a mile away?
Since that time I’ve written personally and professionally.
In the 1970s I wrote two books of poetry, giving one to my mom for Christmas when I was in 8th grade, and the other, also a Christmas gift, when I was in 11th. In 2013, the year before she passed away, she handed me the green hanging file folder in which she saved those poems, their pages now yellowed and brittle with the passage of years. I read them from a different perspective, not of living, but of a life lived. Through these words I saw myself as an enthusiastic but not very good softball player, as young woman aware of her insignificance facing an ocean storm, as a woman who came of age at the same time she became aware of what it means to be in-between two cultures, white and American Indian. With what will they bury me? I ask at the end of one of the most significant writings, flower or song?
Since then I’ve written dozens of general interest articles that explore a wide range of topics including entrepreneurs, history, culture and travel. I’ve been an author on two scholarly articles dealing with American Indian youth and substance use, created a bibliography of American Indian transracial adoption (Adoption & Culture: The Interdisciplinary Journal of the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture, Volume 4, pp. 122-126), and written a scholarly book about American Indian transracial adoption (Mixing Cultural Identities Through Transracial Adoption: Outcomes of the Indian Adoption Project (1958-1967)). I’m a blogger, a contributor (http://transracialeyes.com/) (http://gazillionvoices.com/) , and a lecturer.
I’ve recently completed a memoir about the American Indian transracial adoption experience (In-Between: A Memoir of Transracial Adoption) and am working on a second memoir about events that not only changed my life, but my perspective on so many things I thought I knew, currently untitled.
Therefore, I believe, writing is not just about communicating; it’s about exploring my world, our society, ourselves. It’s about examining how we exist and move within those circles and why our existence matters. What perspective do we bring to the table of life and why should we care?
We care because we’re human. And it is our humanity that saves us.