“If you think of yourself as old or elderly, then that’s who you are going to be,” Susanna Starr said to me recently as we talked in her gallery, Starr Interiors, near the historic Taos Inn. “It seems silly to me that I’m turning 80 next April. I don’t feel old at all. I believe in staying actively involved in creating whatever it is that gives you pleasure in the creation. That’s the life force, and that should never leave us.”
Judging from her obvious vitality and creativity, Susanna Starr walks her walk. Her life force dazzles.
She and photographer John Lamkin, her partner of seventeen years (“We’re newlyweds,” she said to me, eyes twinkling) are travel writers and photojournalists who spend the coldest four months of the year at their home in the Yucatan and the rest of the year at their home in Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, where she’s lived for forty years. Throughout the year, Susanna and John travel to luxury resorts for their work, and she finds time to write books and blogs — all the while maintaining her one-of-a-kind gallery in Taos. It’s a schedule most people half her age would find daunting.
“Making dreams come true has never felt difficult for me,” she stresses. “I am plugged into that life force that we each have that is the cradle for all that we create.”
Susanna’s most recent creation is a beautiful book celebrating four decades of her work with weavers in Mexico who have made the rugs, tapestries and pillows she features in her gallery. The book – filled with John’s glorious photography – is Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of the Heart (Paloma Blanca Press, 2014). It is Susanna’s personal narrative, written from the heart as though it were a letter to a friend.
As Susanna writes in her Introduction: “Far from being a story of running a business of introducing and selling these weavings in the United States, this is a story of the personal interactions that have taken place between me and the Zapotec people of the village … The gallery that I’ve run during this time has simply been a vehicle to promote and distribute this particular art form. … The success I’ve enjoyed is mirrored in the success of that village and the individual weavers with whom I’ve been connected.”
Our Interwoven Lives is Susanna’s second book. Her first was Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being (Paloma Blanca Press 2003); and she tells me its sequel, Seventy and Beyond: From Doing to Being, is already written but “still in the computer.”
“My next personal mission,” she says, “is to try to get as close as possible to the being part. I like doing. I’m a doer. It’s just the way my life has evolved.”
WOW Factor interviewees often express favorite words they hold dear, like lucky charms. For Delma Barron (see August 8th post), the word was lineage. For Joyce Appleby (see August 18th post), the magic word was curiosity. For Susanna Starr the word is celebrate.
“Yes, celebrate is my favorite word,” she told me. “You wake up in the morning and that’s cause for celebration. And within celebration is acknowledgement – acknowledging that amazing sunrise, for example, or watching the tomatoes ripen in the garden. The outer landscape feeds my inner landscape. It’s the connection to life.”
(To obtain Susanna’s books, go to: www.PalomaBlancaPress.com.)