Reading at the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte

Part of my mindset is still in the complicated crowded California world where it takes a long time to get anywhere and a long time to do anything. It’s OK with me if I NEVER fully get that I’m not there because it gives me the chance to be beautifully surprised, as I was yesterday.


The plan yesterday was to drive to South Fork where I was going to meet up with a woman who was buying three tiny paintings. There was a large art and craft show in the Rio Grande Club — a fancy country club along the Rio Grande in the semi-resort town of South Fork. “Semi” because people live in South Fork, but “resort” because there is an enormous subdivision of large and beautiful houses that are occupied mostly in summer.

I saw people I know, and they said things like, “I heard you on the radio!” I was flustered by that, hit again by the fact that we just don’t know that much about where we are a lot of the time. We live in a little tunnel of our immediate concerns, our habits and what’s right in front of our faces. It’s necessary that we live that way, and surprising when we learn that somehow WE were in someone else’s immediate concerns and right before someone else’s eyes. I knew the interviews would be broadcast, but I was chiefly concerned with showing up and doing a decent job. I didn’t think of people listening ON PURPOSE.

The craft show was lovely, and very large, filling all the banquet rooms upstairs in the country club. Lois shopped successfully for Christmas and I found my customer.

Mr. Haefeli

I had a conversation with a young guy who is the scion of one of the San Luis Valley families that has been in the bee-keeping honey making business for generations. I learned that they had come originally from the German speaking part of Switzerland and in Switzerland they also kept bees. I asked where in Switzerland they had come from, but he didn’t know. I revealed my “Schneebeli” ancestry and told him my name means “Little Snow Ball.”

Over the course of the day I met three people who’s ancestors came from the German speaking part of Switzerland and all of them had stories like that of the Schneebelis.

From there we headed back down the mountain to Del Norte for lunch and then to the museum. I wanted to get there early to help set up.


I got there and Louise great-grandson had gotten a haircut. He’d also burned his tongue testing the coffee. He told me he’d tested the coffee to be sure it wasn’t poisoned before giving it to Louise. I was charmed.

We set out a few chairs, maybe seven or eight. I didn’t expect people — just my friends and Louise and Rita who work at the museum. BUT…

People kept coming. Pretty soon there were (I think) fifteen people there. The youngest was Louise’ great-grandson who’s maybe 10; the oldest were well into their eighties. Most were retired people like me. We kept putting out chairs. Then I introduced the reading but I did a poor job. I forgot to give the title of the book OH WELL.

The reading went very very well. I could see interest and sympathy spread across the faces of the people in my audience. It was a wonderful, magical, thing to see. The reading had been publicized as being a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance, focused on the Chinese I met who spoke American English and who had worked with the American military at the end of WW II. The stories are really incredible and so unknown that they are interesting.

Afterward, I sold three books, gave out many business cards and talked to the people who’d come to listen, two of which revealed Swiss ancestry. Mennonites back in the day, just like my grandma’s family. This makes me think maybe I should give a reading about the Swiss Protestant Reformation since it’s the reason so many of us are here.

Again I realized how much fun it is to share my words with living, breathing people who are in front of me. I read a small piece from Martin of Gfenn and it so touched one of the women who came listen — a beautiful Hispanic grandma there with her sister — that she came up to tell me in passionate, elegant prose the story of Lazarus and Dives. “Can I get your books at the library?” she asked.

“In Alamosa. Monte Vista won’t stock them. I don’t know about your library here in Del Norte.”

“Why not?”

“They’re self-published.”

“What difference does that make? Your books are good, and I want to read them,” she said.

“Alamosa is serious about local authors,” I said, and shrugged. I would have handed her a copy of Martin of Gfenn right then and there if people hadn’t been around and I wasn’t generally there to give books away, but I actually LIKE giving books away so… She introduced herself to me and her name means “Star of the Mountains.”

BUT…. As wonderful as all of this was, the high point was Louise’ great-grandson looking at me and saying, “I really liked your story.”


Featured photo: Rabbit brush flats between Del Norte and Monte Vista, CO, 3:30 pm December 7, 2019, winter light. Taken by Lois Maxwell

21 thoughts on “Reading at the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte

  1. Martha–this sounds so wonderful. That little painting of Njal is beautiful, as are all the paintings–such little gems.

  2. I don’t know if they kept bees, but my family, my dad’s father’s side, also comes from the German part of Switzerland. I should find out more…

  3. I love the outcome of your reading and all the unexpected blessings that accompanied it! I hope the interactions are able to spark some additional creative endeavors…

  4. OMG Martha! What an absolute delight all the way round. Your response to the interest on faces when your story touched their hearts and souls…to the ability to share said stories to the absolute delight in finding so many interested in wanting more. I can’t tell you how delighted I am for you!

  5. So happy for you! Connecting with an audience, no matter how small, is truly magical. It makes all the behind-the-scenes effort, angst, and worry of writing and publishing worthwhile. Soak it up, you’re earned it! Your experiences with book readings are motivating me to get my next book written sooner rather than later so I can have the same fun 🙂

  6. I loved experiencing this day with you. This phrase stood out to me – ‘We live in a little tunnel of our immediate concerns, our habits and what’s right in front of our faces.’ So true – and so nice to get outside of our tunnels now and again. It always feels to me like coming up for air. I know it wasn’t meant to be, but this post was a reminder to get myself out of my tunnel before I suffocate.

  7. I’m so happy to hear that your reading went so well. I bet you’ll never forget to mention the title again 🙂 Congratulations on selling your paintings. Whether it is your writing or painting, it is nice to have your work appreciated. It can be difficult to hold the attention of a 10-year old, so double congrats!!

    One of my closest friends is from the German speaking part of Switzerland. She moved here quite a while ago. Of course, I forget what town she is from, even though she just went back last month to visit family. And I can’t believe I was so slow to make this connection.


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