Friday, April 15, 2016

Write On

              I think you should write your book.
            “But who would read it,” you ask?
            Well, you never know.
            I have been transcribing my old journals, intending to put them on a disc and leave them around somewhere. Partly I’m doing it because I want the shelf space all those diaries are using, and partly because I’m coming up to an 80th birthday and I can’t last forever.
            I found this entry for September 17, 1965: Letter from Henry Waters. “No one in the Waters family has written a book since Grandma Scott wrote Korno Siga in 1889. This is the story of Korno Siga, a mountain chief in the hills of Assam, where Great-Grandma Scott was a missionary. It had a very limited circulation!”
            On a whim, I Googled the title. After all, how many books could there be with that name? I found a book called Korno Siga, the Mountain Chief—Or Life in Assam. The author, however, was one Mrs. Mildred Marston, not Grandma Scott. I ordered the book anyway, and when it arrived, someone had written “pseud. Anna (Kay) Scott” under Mrs. Marston’s name.
            The book, a facsimile edition put out by something called “Forgotten Books”, was 200 pages describing the life of a lady physician, a medical missionary, in the mountains of India where the Biblical St. Thomas had met his end. Dealing with cholera, snakebite, addictions to various drugs, “Mrs. Marston” had also to teach sewing and cooking at the mission school. “Mr. Marston” had to deliver her three children, using tips from a midwifery book.
            One especially gripping scene had Mr. Marston walking into a group of vicious men who wore skeleton necklaces and brandished spears. He whipped out his violin—which he just happened to be carrying into the jungle—and played a hymn. The heathens—Grandma Scott’s word—fell to their knees, believing that the missionary was a god and that the violin was alive.
            There was lots of religion in the book, as one might expect, but also some surprising information on medicine, botany, Buddhism, and politics during the British rule some 50 years before Gandhi began actively working for Indian independence.
            So almost 150 years after Grandma Scott hand-wrote her account, on the wildest coincidence, it was reproduced and read by another grandma in Montara, California.
            My Aunt Ruth, who gave me my first diary when I was eleven or twelve, was very big on communicating. “Just write letters,” she told my mother. “If you can’t think of anything to say, say what you had for dinner.”
            I think it’s important. Say that you were here on this earth, and say who you were. It’s a bit like a message in a bottle. You never know who might find it and read it.

(My latest book, Caryatids, is available in Kindle and print editions through