I live in a log cabin on the south shore of Lake Ontario. I call it the Monastery of Artful Delights. On the rare cloudless nights when the moon is dark, I go out at 3 a.m. and take pictures of the stars.
In my mind, I’m a nerd with a master’s in Community Health, who backed accidently into management positions because I could illustrate a story with charts and diagrams. That’s what the big bosses liked. But I’ve been told by those who fell under my mantle of leadership that my best contribution was mentoring young talent. Offhand, I can say at least four of those people became CEOs, so maybe there was something to that.
Meanwhile, I divorced the husband I met in the Catskills commune and fell in with Dr. Z. After seventeen years of adventure travel together, after being detained at the Karachi airport as suspected terrorists, we got married.
In December, 1998, my midlife crisis began, silently, in a rainforest in eastern Ecuador. I came home determined to break my soul out of the prison of salaried worklife.
So, I began Mad in Pursuit, one of the early online journals. Not knowing a .gif from a .jpg, I wrote as “Maddie,” one of the thousands of malcontents secretly pouring our hearts out on the World Wide Web. I wrote and I wrote.
It took five years and reaching the age of 55 to retire from the rat race. By that time, I had figured out moviemaking and formed Cosmopolitan Productions with my friend Stella. We started making short promotional films for human service agencies.
One of my first efforts, a two-minute, lo-res animation called “The Valentine 1955” was screened at the United Nations Association Film Festival at Stanford University in 2003 and added to its traveling film festival in Monterrey CA, at Harvard School of Government, and elsewhere. The radio version got air time worldwide via PRX. The video was also used to prompt discussion in diversity training sessions at my old workplace for many years after I left.
Moviemaking with Stella transitioned into solo audio productions. During 2007, I did a series of short radio pieces for Chicago public radio’s experimental station Vocalo, now WBEW. My painful and sweet coming-of-age stories got constant replay there while they were figuring out how to reach urban youth.
I discovered indie book publishing and got out an art-world thriller.
I wrote a fishing column for the Canal Times: “Fish Tales from the Towpath”
During Act II, two other streams joined my river of activity: curating collectibles and researching family history.
Because Z was a lifelong collector with broad, eclectic tastes in books, art, ethnic artifacts, you-name-it, our a condo was looking like Citizen Kane’s Xanadu. I opened an eBay store to clean out the stuff that no longer had a story to tell. I began my research. I became enchanted. (See What Does It Mean To Be a Collector?)
Meanwhile, my aging parents passed along their research into our family history. Another opportunity to research? Another chance to turn data into stories? I was hooked. Posting family stories on Mad in Pursuit gave me a wonderful platform for meeting and sharing with cousins in the U.S., Ireland, and England. Now I host a Facebook group for one branch of the family and post new stories on the blog Old Green River.
Time brings new adventures, but also takes its toll. My dear Z began to lose his memory—the start of his slow, graceful decline. Thanks our partners for support us with attention and money
We decided to move to a place where old age comes with a view—not to a safe independent living community, but out on the raw edge of Lake Ontario. Ice-bound in winter, tempestuous in spring, riotous with wild flowers in summer, and blustery in autumn.
I discovered gardening and can name all the wild herbs (a.k.a. weeds) that make up our so-called lawn. I discovered the stars. I pushed my skills in photography, textile dyeing, surface design, and dollmaking. I published more books: a memoir weaving in stories of my foremothers; an art-world thriller based in Thailand; a memoir of our through-the-looking-glass trek through Pakistan and western China; and a non-fiction novel about my grandmother Kitty Flanagan.
Covid-19 locked us down. Z fell, broke a vertebra, and got surgically pinned back together. My solo caregiving escalated from casual to oh-my-god, as he learned to get around again.
Adventure takes place increasingly in my imagination. I’m fabricating my own metaverse and playing with AI image-making. Looking for company? Care to join me?
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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.