How a Novelist Became an Innkeeper

With the help of two young men from the village, Miguel and Mateo, I built a garden, with retaining walls and stone paths winding up the steep hillside. Over the years, the fruit trees we planted matured, and roses bloomed — also orchids, Thunbergia vines, figs, pomegranates, bananas.

I finished half a dozen novels in that house. Every afternoon, I carried a bowl of popcorn down to my dock for the children who came to swim there, and every morning, I greeted the fisherman who showed up in the little bay in front of my house without fail to harvest crabs just as the sun came up behind the volcano.

Having recognized early on that this was a place offering inspiration and peace, I started a writing workshop, hosting a small group of women for a week every winter. For $35 a night, they stayed at a simple hotel in the village but gathered at Casa Paloma every day to work on their manuscripts.

Much changed over those years. A hurricane hit, causing a landslide. Travelers arrived in greater numbers, along with storefronts advertising healers, yoga teachers and shamans (cranial sacral massage, sound healing, a place known as the Fungi Academy). I added on to my house, planted more flowers, built a temazcal — a Mayan sauna — and a little guesthouse where I set up my writing desk. Back in California, I fell in love with my second husband, Jim, and introduced him to the lake. The fact that we were in our 50s now didn’t stop us from climbing the volcano together.

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