Available from: www.amazon.com and Pearlsong Press.

UnConventional Means:  The Dream Down Under

In 1997, I took a trip to Australia where I spent time with an Aboriginal Elder, Lorraine Mafi- Williams. As we traveled around her clan lands, and at Lorraine’s request, I recorded the traditional stories she told me and eventually returned home with a stack of cassette tapes from those travels. With respect for Lorraine and her tradition, I wanted to find a way to share the stories with others, and my plan was to write an article about Lorraine with just enough information about me to tell the tale. But a friend commented that excluding myself from the big picture was editing out a lot of what interested my friend the most—my journey and why I took the trip in the first place, those parts of the story I hoped to avoid mentioning. 

In the end, I didn’t avoid it. I began the story where the story of my trip to Australia began for me, in 1963 when I was sixteen and my family was facing a devastating loss. I wrote page one and page two, and then I couldn’t write another word for more than a year.  Finally, as a last ditch effort, I began to draw, and what I couldn’t find the words for moved into and through the images. The words began to flow again, the article became an illustrated book, and serendipitously, a dream of mine was actualized, the combining of words and images to tell a story.

In 2001, shortly after the official publication of the first edition of Unconditional Means: The Dream Down Under, I arranged for a book signing at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville (TN).  I invited all my friends and family to come and was thrilled about the upcoming event—until it dawned on me that by writing Unconventional Means, I was revealing, to whomever cared to read about it, family history that everyone even remotely connected had carefully avoided talking about for nearly forty years. When the evening of the book signing arrived, I had resigned myself to the possibility that old family friends and blood relations might never speak to me again. 

To my joyous relief, the book signing was a wonderful event. Cousins, aunts, old friends and new, came to celebrate the publication of Unconventional Means; and most miraculously, a collective catharsis of memories and emotions began that night and continued to flow for months afterwards. I offer a deep bow of gratitude to those who were willing to show up and help move the story forward in a life-affirming way.

The second edition of Unconditional Means, published by Pearlsong Press in 2005, gave me the chance to add a glossary and to expand the ending in a crucial way, a way that is both an ending and a new beginning. For those opportunities, I offer another deep bow of gratitude, this time to Pearlsong Press publisher, Dr. Peggy Elam.   

And as always, I am ever thankful to Lorraine Mafi-Williams and her family for their kindness and inclusiveness.