This past January, I had the pleasure of visiting the Grand Canyon with two other 8Ladies—Kay and Jilly. If you’ve never visited the Canyon or have only visited during the high season, I highly recommend a wintertime visit. Yes, the weather can be risky in January, but the tradeoff is no traffic, parking woes, or mobs of people to elbow aside for a view. There’s also a very different vibe in winter—a quiet feeling of stepping back in time.
The structures scattered around the canyon reinforce the feeling, and while there, I assumed that Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge, Hermit’s Rest, and in particular, The Watchtower at the north end of the park were hundreds of years old, built by some ancient people and abandoned. Here’s where the story gets good. When I returned home, I began reading about the canyon structures and was surprised to find that most were conceived and designed by a singular woman of the time: Mary E.J. Colter. College educated (design school no less), Mary Colter stepped away from the expectations society held for women at the time and went to work to support her sister and mother in a field few woman had dared breech: architecture. She created five historical structures in the Grand Canyon (and numerous hotels, only two of which remain), and every one is a love story. A celebration of nature, Native American history and culture, and of western life.
A woman with such passion (and determination) had to have one hell of a backstory (I thought), but when I began looking for personal information on her, I found little. The few personal antidotes I found described her as passionate and single-minded when designing a structure (an artist in other words), but people who worked with and for her described her as “bossy” and “hard to get along with”. Mary Colter was a chain-smoking, pants-wearing, independent woman who swore like a sailor, wanted what she wanted, and generally got it through sheer force of personality. She’s also the inspiration for my next story.
I read somewhere that the best story ideas come from synergy. Two (or more) ideas combined in a way that makes one ass-kicking story. What I have right now is half the equation. A twenty-first century woman stuck in the early twentieth century. That’s a good start (IMHO) but she needs a personal life that’s equally progressive.
Any ideas for a personal life for this incredible character?