Dear Friends: Well, the great number of responses to my last chronicle, “Where There’s Smoke….,” fell into two categories, no three: (1) chimney fire stories, (2) chimney fire solutions, and (3) Justified. Turns out there are many fellow “guilty-pleasure” fans out there of this TV series set in Harlan County, Kentucky. One responder, who didn’t send advice or suggestions, wrote that at least we were lucky to see two episodes of Justified before the fire.
Thank you everyone. I had no idea. Workers are up on the roof right now, knocking down the chimney and throwing great chunks of concrete, wood, bricks and tiles onto the lawn. (Note that one talking on a cell phone.) There’s no such thing around here as clean-up-as-you-go construction. We’ll be dealing with this mess for weeks…or months or years, just as I’m still finding roofing nails in the garden from the original construction job, six years ago. Later this week, a “maestro” will come to tear out the inside chimney and insert a steel flue, presently been fabricated in Cuenca (someone just called asking for the measurements that were taken last week and lost). I still can’t imagine how this will work, but with such interest I will be sure to keep you informed.
In other news, I hear from University of Texas Press that “Our House in the Clouds,” is available online and will be in bookstores March 15. You can order it directly from the publisher, (for the best price at a 33% discount, though I don’t know about shipping costs) at http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/blaour.html
…or from Amazon, where you can take a peak inside the book: http://www.amazon.com/Our-House-Clouds-Building-Ecuador/dp/0292745273/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1359385891&sr=8-3&keywords=judy+blankenship
Or, best of all, support your local independent bookstore. I love Dwell magazine’s map of bookstores across America. Check it out to find the store nearest you, and If you know of one not listed, you can submit it to the site. http://www.dwell.com/map/independent-bookstores-across-america.
This is my second book about our life in Ecuador. Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador, traced our first year living full-time in Cañar, in 2000-01. The book came out in 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Oregon Book Awards. The new book tells the story of building our house, with traditional materials and local workers, and living half-permanently in the community. Both books grew out of my monthly chronicles and daily journals, and the total process, from proposal to publication, took about three years for each. I am not a fast writer, even when I have the raw material at hand, and my publisher, University of Texas Press, is not a fast publisher. Working on the academic model, a manuscript must go through a review process, sometimes twice, with outside readers. The readers make suggestions; the author rewrites, then resubmits for final approval. This first stage can take up to 18 months, and only then does one receive a contract to publish. After that, I took about six months of my Portland life to rewrite several chapters and select sixty photographs. (A few examples below…)
Last August, when I received the final proofs (a typeset copy of the book), I was given a leisurely month to read and respond with any last-minute changes. Then a copy editor took it on, and we went back and forth with final tweaks. No rushing, no drama, and that’s what I like about working with UT Press. I have time for life along the way, time to do other projects, time to travel, time to be with my mother in her last months. The book went into production in September, to press in December, “hit the warehouse” a couple of weeks ago, and is now heading to bookstores.
Now what? I wonder. Do I have another Cañar book in me? I don’t think so, though I’d love to do a photography book some day. For the moment, I’m enthused about my visual history archive project, which I hope to concentrate on fully next year. I’ve been printing the glass-plate negatives of a town photographer, Rigoberto Navas, taken from the 1930’s–1950’s, and find these images fascinating as they record the time of the hacienda, when Cañar was pretty much a feudal place and most indigenous Cañaris were chattels of the large landowners. Agrarian reform didn’t become a reality until the 1970’s! Here’s one of my favorite images that gives an idea of the social relations at the time:
Another exciting development has been contact with an ex-Peace Corps volunteer, Preston Wilson, who was here in Cañar in 1968-70, helping to organize agricultural cooperatives. He has sent scans of 150 beautiful photographs for the archive – some of them taken right around where we live. A couple of examples, in now-extinct Kodachrome, I believe:
This second photo was taken very close to our house, with the same view. To show the difference irrigation has made to this countryside, 40 years later, I attach a photo taken today from our front porch. I keep waiting for the clouds to clear so you can see the same line of the Andes, but they are not cooperating…
Stay in touch. I love hearing from you, and I’ve learned how to check my comments, and reply promptly.