While doing research for my second novel about a 2500 year old mummified and ornately tattooed Pazyryk “ice princess” and the archeological team that finds her at the borderlands straddling Mongolia, Russia, and China, I’ve come across some fascinating and timely reads.
Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World is a foray into the ancient history of nomadic steppe cultures at the crossroads of Eurasia. Making new connections between the archeological record and writings of sources like Herodotus, Mayor sheds new light on “Amazons” – the fearless, tattooed Eurasian women on horseback who rode into battle from the east alongside their menfolk (and often without them) and challenged the social order and sensibilities of classical Greece, Rome, and China.
Set several centuries later, Jack Weatherford’s The Secret History of Mongol Queens bears witness to the role of Genghis Khan’s female descendants in saving a fractured nation and reestablshing humane cultural norms. Weatherford’s descriptions of these women and their leadership makes me wish I could vote for Queen Manduhai the Wise in 2020!
These are hopeful and inspiring reads in an increasingly uncertain world of shifting international allegiances and influence. The underlying message that the survival and flourishing of a people and culture is only guaranteed when their women hold equal sway, power, responsibilities, and rights as their men is a timeless lesson of history.
A few months ago I accomplished a major “bucket-list” item: I attended a large writer’s conference in New York City. That’s me at the 2016 Writers Digest Conference holding up a glass of white wine after I successfully pitched CIRCLE OF THE SILVER BIRCH TREES, my debut 94,000 word multigenerational family saga/women’s fiction novel to six agents at the conference’s pitch slam. I’m posing with other writers (and fellow pitch slammers) – one of whom has since become a fantastic long-distance critique partner. Continue reading
Recently an article popped in to my Facebook newsfeed taking me back to a visit I had made to Ellis Island, the United States’ early 20th century massive immigration processing center. Photography restoration artists from Dynamichrome have unlocked the colorful secrets beneath the black and white photographs taken between 1906 and 1914 at Ellis Island. Continue reading
This summer marks 10 years since my sister and I went on an epic backpacking journey on the Ring Road of Iceland. We carried with us only the essentials which included camping gear, winter coats, hiking boots, bathing suits, travel journals, and the allotted 6kg of food per person as we’d been warned about astronomical prices at the grocery store. On our quintessential coming-of-age sister adventure, we also brought with us our hopes and dreams for the future.
I waited in the wings of a stage on a recent Saturday night. With my hair pulled tightly into a bun under a headscarf and silk flowers bobby-pinned behind my left ear, I paced on tip-toes in my character shoes and worked out some last minute kinks in the steps I was about to perform. I did not feel chatty, nor did the other dancers waiting with me. We mimed choreographed steps and sequences. I am certain some of us were wondering: Why can’t I remember these things the way I used to? Continue reading
One of my favorite Spring-time rituals is making Pysanky Easter eggs. When the days begin to lengthen and the nights hang on to the last bites of frost, I pull out my dyes, waxes, and kitska tools. During most of the year, my creative energy is devoted to writing. But this one time each year, I indulge in the the calming effect of the scent of melting beeswax and a steady hand. I keep my designs simple with folk symbols and colors representing luck, the cycle of life, abundance, and strength. I usually make just one or two eggs each Spring. Although I take pride in my creations, I’ve found that making Pysanky is more about the process than the outcome – as I sketch the ancient patterns of waves, spirals, triangles, flowers, suns, and spiders on an egg in wax, I slow down, reflect, and recharge. In that space, I connect to a forgotten world explained through nature and bound to the rhythms of light and dark.
On July 2, 2015, after a year of planning, I returned to the Muranska Planina region of Slovakia with several members of my extended family. On July 3 we visited our ancestral village Muranska Lehota and on July 4 we explored the Muranska Planina forest and the ruins of the Muran Castle, concluding the day with a surprise meeting of long-lost relatives. July 5 was the last day of our visit.
Sunday, July 5, 2015: Having agreed to meet up with our newly found relatives at church on Sunday morning, we returned to Muranska Lehota for early morning mass. We squeezed in the pews amongst the locals and easily followed the familiar, universally Catholic stand, kneel, sit cycle of the service. Continue reading
On July 2, 2015, after a year of planning, I returned to the Muranska Planina region of Slovakia with several members of my extended family. On July 3 we visited our ancestral village, Muranska Lehota, and had experiences beyond anything I had imagined for the trip. Our adventures the following day were no less magical.
Saturday, July 4, 2015: Our guide Samuel led us to the heavily forested back entrance to the Muran Castle park. Jergus, Samuel’s forest ranger friend, proceeded to lead our caravan into the park further than tourists are usually allowed to travel by car. We slowly crept up a dirt path barely wide enough for a single car, let alone Jergus’s Land Rover. There were few guardrails and many steep drop offs. So when we reached a clearing, a large lush meadow, I exhaled.
On July 2, 2015, after a year of planning, I returned to the Muranska Planina region of Slovakia with several members of my extended family. Seven of us traveled from Budapest; the rest met in Bratislava to embark from there. In all we were eighteen Americans representing three generations – could we pull this off? As the organizer of this family reunion adventure, I wondered and worried – would this journey live up to everyone’s expectations?
Other than setting dates, sending a few emails to book lodging and a translator/guide and making a rough itinerary, I didn’t do much homework. I went with all of the leads from my scouting trip in 2013. The rest I left up to fate and modest expectations. I would roll with whatever transpired. Having traveled to this part of Europe 11 times, I knew the deal. This was how I always travel.