My ancestors moved relentlessly west across North America, my father’s parents from Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, my mother’s predecessors from Scotland in the early 1700s. The only “roots” I experienced were several family generations in the Pacific Northwest. That changed this month when my husband and I, along with our daughter and son-in-law, visited Scotland. My daughter and I are descended from the Maclean clan. Clan history in Scotland’s Highlands 

and Islands is full of struggle. Beneath its mysterious, spectacular beauty the earth is soaked in blood shed in battle, as well as in childbirth, for centuries. Perhaps DNA calling out to DNA, whatever the explanation, throughout our visit I vibrated with powerful sensations and emotions of belonging I hadn’t expected. My dreams are filled now with silver spring-fed streams coursing down the Highland braes.

Of course, tango played a part in our trip. In a basement room beneath a pub in Glasgow we were warmly welcomed by a community of impressive dancers, at least one of whom had tangoed in Portland, too.

In Edinburgh we danced beneath crystal chandeliers and a high domed ceiling with a university-associated group. The organizer took a copy of my tango novel for the community’s library.

Home now in Bend, I’m finishing work on my new novel Nowever. I’m excited to share it with you soon. Meanwhile, From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story is available at Roundabout Books in Northwest Crossing and Dudley’s downtown, as well a through Powell’s online and all the usual digital sources. 

A reader recently asked, “Where do you write your novels?” One answer is, “Wherever I happen to be.” On these perfect Central Oregon summer days, that’s often outside, in my garden. 

Right now it’s definitely not at my desk, where all the space not occupied by my cat, Nanuq, is filled with sketches I’m working on for my new novel, NOWEVER, due out this October. I try to be as calm as the kitty is. It’s not always easy. Switching to brushes and paint –– from words to images –– means stretching parts of my brain that rest while I write. The goal is always the same, though, creating a story as beautiful and complex as life.

   

Meanwhile, my 2017 book, From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story, is available at Dudley’s and at Roundabout Books, our two wonderfully welcoming independent bookstores here in Bend, as well as Powell’s online, and those other internet sources too big to bother mentioning by name.

 

Yes! From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story is a perfect beach read, or hammock-in-the-garden read, or airplane getaway read. Reading my novella to the audience at Grassroots Books in Corvallis in May was fun, too, including the tango dancing upstairs next door afterwards. Gracious Sierra has signed copies on her Grassroots shelf for your summer reading treat.

And, you can pick up From Here to Argentina in Bend at Dudley’s downtown, or Roundabout Books in NW Crossing, or order online from Powell’s in Portland. 

When you feel inspired to learn Argentine Social Tango, and dance here on the High Desert, check out www.centraloregontango.com. You’ll be embraced on the dance floor, and you will have fun.

Big thanks to the writers, readers and tango dancers who made the trek through a late February snowstorm, some from as far away as Humboldt County, California, for our Sunday afternoon reading at wonderful Dudley’s in downtown Bend. And thanks to Tyler Haas and Emma James (seen here braving holes in the floor to dance in her stilettos) for sharing tango magic as a two-person “flash mob.” 

Poet Jana Zvibleman and I will be reading together again at 7pm on Thursday, May 24th, in Corvallis at Grassroots Books. Please join us there if you’re intrigued by love, death and tango, or any two out of three. Meanwhile, my book From Here to Argentina: a Tango Love Story is available through select independent bookstores, and online via Powell’s and Amazon. 

 

Tango, Romance, Life-or-Death Drama, and a Little Noir! 

If you missed my October reading at Roundabout Books in NW Crossing, I’d love to see you in downtown Bend at Dudley’s Bookshop and Cafe, 3:00 Sunday afternoon, February 25th. I’ll be reading excerpts from my new novella From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story, and poet Jana Zvibleman will share her sharply observed and poignant poems. You’ll laugh, maybe you’ll cry, and you’ll be hungry. Dudley’s is ready with seductive sweets, good tea, and some of the best espresso in Bend. Support the literary arts and independent bookstores, and treat yourself. It’s February, you deserve it.

Have you always (ever?) wanted to learn to dance tango? This is your year in Bend! Besides our inspiring and dynamic Wednesday evening teachers, Tyler Haas and Emma James, Tango Aficionados of Bend are welcoming internationally respected Argentine Social Tango teachers to Central Oregon.

Lucky Portlanders can find a place to dance tango every night. Now, one of Portland’s premier tango instructors, Elizabeth Wartluft, will be teaching classes here on Saturday, January 27th and Sunday, January 28th. Save yourself the long flight to Buenos Aires and join us at Sons of Norway on Bend’s West Side.

Go to centraloregontango.com and subscribe to the cotango-a group to stay informed. There’s more to come in 2018. 

Back in January 2017, still reeling from our U.S. election results, I posted my intention to visit Canada, after a long absence, for a fresh perspective. In December, I finally made it to Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island, in two short flying hops from Bend via Seattle. 

Like that friendly next-door neighbor who, despite being annoyed at your barking dog, still welcomes you in and offers coffee when you show up, Canada embraced my husband and me –– embraced us literally in an evening of tango at Cafe Casablanca (2524 Bridge Street, Victoria) with Tango Pacifico (www.tangopacifico.com). Distinguished Canadian author, David Gurr, was DJ that Friday, and a smooth lead in a community of impressive dancers. Cafe Casablanca’s weekly milonga is well-worth the trip to the spectacularly beautiful island.

Other Victoria highlights: delicious vegan dining at “Be Love” (www.beloverestaurant.ca); the superb paintings of Emily Carr, who seemed to have channeled the soul of Vancouver Island’s forests; and Munro’s Books, where Alice Munro (yes, that Alice Munro) once tended the till, and a kindly employee offered us non-sectarian prayers for our country.

Reading From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story at Roundabout Books in Bend’s NW Crossing Friday evening was a joy. I love reading to a live audience and meeting other writers and readers. 

Thanks to Cassie of Roundabout Books for all she does to enliven the Central Oregon literary scene! You can find my book at her store.

My new book, From Here to Argentina: A Tango Love Story, began with my dreaming a song I’d never heard before. It played in my memory when I forgot the dream itself.”Odd,” I thought. “Who would sing a song like that?”

Fictional characters, in my writing experience, show up fully formed, and my happy task is to explore who they are. The character, Mikhail, stepped out of my imagination into view as the song’s singer.

It occurred to me that “meeting” Mikhail was much like going to my first Argentine Social Tango classes, embracing my partners in tango’s intimacy before I knew anything else about them, certainly not the depths of their pasts, or their aspirations beyond learning the subtle and complex dance.

I set myself the challenge of throwing five equal protagonists together in a tango class in my short novel. Juniper, Dan, Esteban, and Rosalie joined Mikhail, the music began, and we were on our way.

“In dark times be the light.” I don’t know who I’m quoting, so many wise people have said this. As we pass through these dark times, let’s put the emphasis on the verb. Everything passes. We have choices in how we ride it out. My immigrant grandmother Anna was a great inspiration to me in my understanding that, at the risk of repeating myself, again, every moment is a choose-your-own-attitude opportunity. The events of this long winter have left many of us wanting to cover our heads and hide beneath the blankets. History has shown us where that leads.

My immigrant grandparents, Anna and Joseph

My immigrant grandparents, Anna and Joseph

Here are some suggestions to brighten your light:

If you need attitudinal inspiration, watch Groundhog Day again –– again. Spend time with friends and family in person, without a digital screen between you. (This suggestion courtesy of my friend Jana Zvibleman.) Besides being kind to yourself and others, besides supporting your community (however you define community), expand your vision. Visit other countries and talk to people there to learn their way of being.

I’m planning a long-postponed trip to Canada (no, not moving there, just visiting) to reacquaint myself with nearby cross-border neighbors who have a surprisingly different perspective of the world, and much to teach us. Pick your border, north or south, and explore.

Further away, Professor Huixiang Chen and Dr. Pingping Li are leading another enlightening qigong immersion China tour this April. A number of you visited my studio last year when Sandra Kunz shared her experiences on the 2016 trip. You’ll learn more about the opportunity, and qigong, at www.wisdomandpeace.com.

Let’s embrace excitement and action, not fear, in 2017. Let’s all be the light in whatever way we choose.