I never would have written my first book if it hadn’t been for Alan.
I didn’t plan on becoming a writer twelve years ago when I moved to Raton, New Mexico with my partner. I did not dabble in writing short stories or poetry or keeping a journal as a child. My muse did not inspire me. I didn’t dream of becoming a writer, and Alan didn’t plan on dying three years after we settled here.
We moved from Las Vegas, New Mexico where I retired from twenty-five years of teaching, more than half of them at West Las Vegas Middle School where I might have been considered the token ‘white person’. My good friend, Mary, nicknamed me “huera” and it stuck. But I loved the school, my fellow teachers, and especially the kids. And I loved living in the heart of Old Town, a half block from the plaza and within easy walking distance to great restaurants and shops. Everything I know about cooking red chile, green chile stew, calabacitas, tamales, quelites, biscochitos, and tortillas I learned in Las Vegas. So, what brought me here?
Alan was a classical pianist and worked at the University in Las Vegas as an adjunct professor teaching voice and piano, but he wasn’t happy. He was overworked and under-appreciated. It was a dead-end job with no hope for advancement or benefits, so he quit in frustration, and we relocated. We were both attracted to the beautiful landscape and opportunities for outdoor activities here in the mountains of Northeastern New Mexico. When we weren’t hiking or trying to fix up the old house we bought together, Alan played the piano for hours.
It was during these hikes that he taught me not to just look but to see everything from the smallest details to the amazing shapes and colors. He was like an innocent child on these hikes, excited over a newly discovered fossil, a smooth shiny stone, the first wildflowers of spring, brave pasqueflowers pushing through the snow. Alan had a zest for life that was hard to match. He found beauty in twisted branches and would bring home a backpack full of his treasures then craft them into walking sticks and small animals. Alan was an artist, and I was a sidekick but with no creative outlet of my own. So, after I showed no talent at painting, he encouraged me to take a writing class that was being offered free of charge.
It was an especially cruel twist of fate that he was afflicted with undiagnosed cancer that had settled in his spine and that one day, on a painful short walk, his legs gave out and he was paralyzed from the waist down. The cancer had already metastasized from his lungs, was stage 4, and incurable. He put up a brave front, but time ran out far too soon.
You may be asking what this has to do with my writing and why I have wandered so far off track. Well, there are many aspects of the character of Abe Freeman, my co-protagonist in the Emily Etcitty Mystery Series, that was inspired by Alan’s own character. My stories are total fiction, and all incidents are fictional, but Abe is a kind, gentle person with a love of the natural world, as was Alan. And he is someone who also loves to make beautiful music. I know Alan is continuing to make beautiful music, I can hear it when the wind rustles the trees and the pines begin to sing. I dedicate these books to you, my dear friend.