Elizabeth Sellars, Elizabeth Sellars, The Ginger on the Hill
By Leslie Johansen Nack
There are gems hidden in every city—people with amazing educations and experiences who are filled with wisdom they might be reluctant to share or even acknowledge. One of those people in the lakeside community is my landlady Elizabeth Sellars—an unassuming, sometimes nervous, thin, curly-haired woman living a quiet life of contemplation and gratitude here in Ajijic.
She fell in love with Mexico when she was eighteen years old, studying Art History and Spanish at the University of the Americas in Mexico City and Cholula. Her passionate hobby was photography, and she developed her own black and white film as she travelled all over Mexico to photograph archaeological sites from the pyramid of Cholula to the Mayan ruins in Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula. As she traveled, she practiced her Spanish, finding loving and kind people in every community she visited, whether photographing sites or in Acapulco partying with her friends.
At twenty-one years old, she won a scholarship to do a “Photographic Study of the English Cathedral,” living in a squatter’s flat in Chelsea near King’s Road. She traveled all over England taking pictures of the great cathedrals, her favorites being Canterbury, Durham, Exeter and Wells. During that month of January, 1972, she had everything she loved: freedom, art, history, photography, and of course music. At sixteen she had seen the Beatles at Dodger Stadium and was in love with Neil Young, Judy Collins, and Van Morrison, but listened to Joni Mitchell that summer in England.
Receiving her B.A. in Art History with a minor in Spanish in 1973 from Hollins College, a small prestigious women’s college in Virginia, she immediately enrolled in Columbia University to begin her master’s studies, working on a thesis using a copy of a 16th century Mexican “codex”, or painted deerskin scroll. Love was in the air when she met law student, Jim Frush. When both graduated in 1975, they were married immediately, choosing to stay in New York City where Jim practiced law and Liz found a job with fashion designer Halston and met Liz Taylor and Liza Minelli.
Eventually moving west to her birth place in the Seattle area, Liz and Jim were happy at first working and enjoying mountain sports. Her maternal great-grandfather had built a flour mill in the port of Seattle in 1911, making Fisher flour the only flour to buy in Seattle for most of the 20th century, and she was proud of her heritage as a Fisher descendant.
Living on Mercer Island and Index over the next six years, Jim rose to Assistant U.S. Attorney and Liz rose to Corporate Auditor at Rainier Bank, continuing her love of photography. The marriage fell apart in 1981 and Liz headed to the University of Virginia where she got her M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature.
Over the next eight years she taught Spanish in the USA, traveled to Europe, but ultimately returned to her beloved Mexico. She traveled extensively through Mexico including significant time in Guatemala but returned to Seattle once again after giving birth in Guadalajara in late 1989 to Sarah, a healthy baby girl. Never marrying the father, Liz raised Sarah with her family in Washington for the next two years.
In the spring of 1991, Liz moved back to Ajijic where her mother Sally bought a home at Constitucion 67 where she lived for the next ten years with Sarah, enjoying equestrian sports with her daughter and teaching English for five years at Oak Hill/Instituto Loyola and Instituto Terranova.
In 1996 she bought a plot of land above the highway in Ajijic and designed and built a house which was completed in 1998, moving into it in 2002, when her mother, Sally, moved back to the States. Sarah graduated high school and was accepted at NYU, leaving Liz alone in her beloved Mexico to study Buddhism with the Heart of Awareness Buddhist sangha in Ajijic, helping in their foundation and development, and participating in meditations and book study groups for many years.
Her work as a linguist was not done because in 2006 she worked as a translator for Jose Amador, a Mexican writer who lived in Guadalajara, and who, in 2007, published her translation of his short stories, called “Mexican Memories.” In 2011, Amador published Liz’s translation of his novel, “Twin Gates”, and in 2012, he published her translation of his second novel, “Blood Cry”.
In 2009, Elizabeth became a naturalized Mexican citizen. In 2013, she translated several children’s books by a Canadian author, M. Headley, from English to Spanish, and has done a variety of translation jobs since then.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com