Today we are proudly showcasing Suzanne Adam and her new memoir Marrying Santiago:
If you are inside a mountain, you cannot see the mountain. This Chinese adage describes the limitations of living solely in one culture. When I read this, it speaks to me. Like the migrating Baird’s sandpiper, I live a life of changing perspectives, seldom completely in one place, neither inside nor outside one mountain. Thus, I’ve often asked myself: are there meaningful reasons for my being here and not there? I can only answer by asking more questions.
Would I ever have stood completely enraptured by the scent of redwoods if I hadn’t left? Would I have turned to writing here to explore the shape my life has taken? Was my concept of beauty expanded by the bare Andes visible from my window? Over time, responses have revealed themselves to me. Yet, just when I think I’ve come to terms, another trip back to my hometown renders the answers fuzzy.
Over the years, on each journey south along the Pan-American Highway, I’ve absorbed more of this country. One recent February excursion, I decided to keep a journal. I wanted to fill in the colors, contours and details of my inner sketch of this landscape.
I was more than ready for my annual nature fix, although a two weeks’ sojourn would only satisfy temporarily my hunger for woods and streams.
Santiago and I joined the exodus out of the city. An assortment of vehicles, many of dubious mechanical condition, pushing to the limits the number of passengers for which they were designed – sundry bags, bedding, mattresses, folding chairs and bicycles tied precariously to car roofs, gypsy-fashion – surrounded us on the highway to our destination: the little house at Llifén. This would be our last stay there. The partners in the lakeside venture had subdivided the property. One chose the lot with the house. We selected a lovely piece of land, close to the lake, and talked of building a cabin there someday. But as it was still a thirteen-hour journey, I feared ours was just dream talk.
The day before we left, we’d argued about what stops to make along the way, both of us indecisive, lacking inspiration, wanting the other to decide. Santiago surprised me the next morning, suggesting we take our time, stopping to discover places we’d never seen before – no plan, no reservations, except for our usual stopover at his cousin’s cabin on Lake Villarrica.
“Look.” I pointed to the bumper of a dilapidated truck: Solo Dios sabe si vuelvo. Only God knows if I shall return. “Do you think the driver’s fatalism is due to the condition of his truck?”
“I wonder if he noticed the sign back there for ‘Hercules Towing.’ Sounds as if they could handle any job.” I managed to tease a smile onto Santiago’s serious face. My chatter was intended to help keep him awake and break up the boredom. I poured coffee from a thermos and offered handfuls of trail mix.
As the melon sun slipped behind the western hills, a road sign ahead read “Constitución 85 kilometers.”
“We’ve never been there,” Santiago said, slowing down.
I checked the map. The town was on the coast and not too far. “Fine”, I said. Soon it would be dark. Now was a good time to turn off; he was right. We descended a steep grade overlooking the town’s winking yellow lights. At the old Hostería de Constitución we were given the last available room, with lilac walls of textured stucco and a stained, brown carpet. We tried out the two beds. Santiago’s came complete with a flea. Flea dispatched, we headed to the hotel’s dining room for some local seafood: ceviche and sea bass with a shellfish sauce. Then, a familiar voice –Tony Bennett crooning “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” I looked at Santiago and we laughed.
Marrying Santiago can be purchased here.