As a teenager, I remember my dad telling me that he heard someone say, “There’s a book in all of us.” He then said, “What would your book be about, Heidi?”
My dad has been gone a long time. I don’t know if he would’ve written a book if he were still here, but I like to think so. It would be a book of collected jokes, for sure, or a children’s book about something silly and adorable. He never got to read my book, but he inspired me, nonetheless.
When I was nineteen, I took an Art History class at Green River Community College. I loved that class, and the professor was amazing. Although sadly, it’s been so long, I cannot remember his name.
Our final project was to create a piece of art. I remember agonizing for quite some time. If you know me personally, you know that while there is an artistic gene in my family, it skipped me. I really am okay with that; I acknowledged it a long time ago and have moved on.
I finally pulled myself together and approached my Art History professor. I asked him if I could write about art instead. Despite my lack of artistic ability, I am fascinated by what people have created, especially from the ancient world. I do not remember my professor’s exact words, but they were something like “Writing is a form of art, Heidi.” Duh.
Little did that professor know that he awakened the storyteller in me.
But that is what educators are all about isn’t it? Bless them all!
We had briefly looked at ancient art in that class. Of course, there are plenty of examples from Eastern cultures: pyramids and pottery and burial sites. My professor also shared examples of smaller community art from ancient times: arrow heads, tools, and cave/rock drawings. And we briefly discussed similar findings from the Pacific Northwest. There are a number of sites along the Columbia River and the ocean coast with the remains of drawings on rocks and cliff walls from ancient times.
Paintings on rocks and cliff sides and within caves are just stories that someone wanted recorded for generations to come, similar to other forms of preserved art.
I was moved by the paintings I saw, and my imagination wandered. I wondered about the people who lived in that cave and the story that they wanted to leave behind.
Thus, the story of Saigwan began playing in my head decades ago.
Saigwan’s father was the leader of their people who wandered along the ice-covered Columbia River some ten thousand years ago at the end of the last ice age and between events of what scientists now call the Missoula Floods. Saigwan’s people wanted to preserve the stories of their culture through pictures on the walls of their home. Pictures that would remind them of all they had survived and all that they had to be thankful for. Pictures they would see daily and could use to teach their children and grandchildren with.
Here’s the original story.
So that is how my books started . . . with cave drawings and an imagination and the inspiration of a community college professor.