Sorting papers, sorting lives

Since my mother-in-law died I have been sorting papers.  It is interesting to see the things a person saves and perhaps cherishes, things that from the outside have little meaning.  There are a few things of course that stand out, that paint a picture of who and what this woman was, what she stood for and believed.

One of the things I knew as long as I knew her was that she was an aspiring writer.  Unfortunately her productive years were spent prior to the internet, and long before the availability of online publishing.  But she wrote.  She wrote poetry. She wrote short stories, and she wrote family histories.  I thought she had written a full length novel about the Philippines, an area she knew and loved,  but if she did the manuscript isn’t here.  What I am sorting through are multiple copies of the same stories and poems, rewrite after rewrite.

She entered stories to the local writer’s guilds and won a few first places.  But she never saw her aspirations to be a published author fulfilled.  And to my genuine surprise, I find most of what she wrote less than publishable.  Much of what she wrote was interesting to me because it touched on incidents in her life, her way of thinking about things.  But a lot of it was unfinished and most of it was not something I would be interested in as a literary agent.

Perhaps if she had been able to publish as an Indie writer she may have finished more, focused more.  Perhaps.  She commented over and over again in her journals that she needed peace and quiet to pursue her writing but the demands of life constantly interfered.  Isn’t that the way of life?  Isn’t it what we do despite the noise and clamor of life that counts?  There is no escaping life, no perfect place or time.  The time is here and now.

It’s is interesting to look through the remains of a long life, contained in five cardboard boxes.  Interesting and poignant.  So many years, so many memories, so little of value in the boxes.

I guess life is lived outside the boxes.  And opportunities are where we find them.  Certainly the papers left behind do not define the person we knew.  Despite her aspirations as a writer the best things she did in life are not on paper.

I make these critiques, and I too write.  I write and I publish.  But the best things I do in life will never fit into a box.  They will be reflected in the faces of my children and grandchildren, in a system of values that survives me and my time here–outside the boxes.

I hope my writing speaks to others.  I hope you look for me on Amazon and read my book Shaman Priest on Kindle.  I hope you find and enjoy the Down the Colorado and the rest of the Kiko and Maggie Perez series.  I expect to keep writing and publishing.  When you read my books you get to know me better.  My characters express my values. But when all is said and done life is more than what is on the pages, or in the box.

Life is the noise, the interaction, the messy uncontrolled moments that we deal with well or poorly every day for as many years as we have.  And I hope we have many of them!

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About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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