I’ve traveled through books since I learned how to read. As a child, I loved to pull out a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, find an exotic locale and imagine what life would be like if I lived there. I had an ongoing fantasy about living in with a caravan of Bedouin nomads, but the closest I got was a camel ride at the edge of the Sahara with a guide who claimed to be Bedouin.
In 1994-5, during an eight month trek around Indian, Sri Lanka & Nepal, my husband and I volunteered for six weeks at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta.
It was among the toughest six weeks of my life mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. The work was grueling and the heat intense, but it was the peaceful acquiescence to the pain, suffering and impending death by the vast majority of the patients that made the most impact on me.
The members of the Missionaries of Charity who dedicated their entire lives to this work were some of the most loving and humble people I’ve even met. A close second were the long-term volunteers from around the world who served the poor, sick and dying for months and even years.
It was probably as a self-preservation strategy to distract myself from the work at there that I began to imagine “what if…?” and sketched the outline of what eventually became this novel. I transplanted the setting to Varanasi because the narrow alleyways of the Old City and the ghat culture contained Micah in a way that the overwhelming sprawl of Calcutta never could.
Writing God in Drag has been a spiritual journey for me. I wrote first to make sense of the suffering I witnessed in India as well as the dramatic inner changes that that trip inspired in me. To understand the context of India and Hinduism better, I followed Eknath Easwaren’s passage meditation style, using passages from the Bhagavad Gita, as well as read and reread his Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living trilogy. That three year self-immersion in reading and meditating on the Bhagavad Gita fundamentally sifted my world view. My understanding of life and spirituality continues to unfold, amalgamating my Baptist upbringing, a year of living in a Catholic religious community, stays at Amma’s Kerela ashram and a Sri Lankan Buddhist meditation center, my three year meditation trek with the Bhagavad Gita, and the rich spiritual mosaic of Asheville, where I make my home now.
In addition to the eight month trek through India, Sri Lanka & Nepal, I was an exchange student in Australia, taught English in Japan, traveled in the days before cell phones and the Internet to China, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Western Europe, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea.
Follow your heart...It knows the way