Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


The gift we’re glad to see returned

Palm Canyon Trail

Painting: “Palm Canyon Trail” by Judy Hughey Wright.

I once heard someone describe how, while traveling on a bus in Africa, where many roads look like something Americans would reserve for all-terrain vehicles, he’d had an unexpected encounter with the power of encouragement.

As the driver navigated the deeply rutted road, the passengers would repeatedly, and with great enthusiasm, cry out a phrase that sounded like “ay-kushay.” As the American man watched more carefully, he realized that this was a kind of cheer they made each time the driver successfully avoided a pothole.

His story brought to mind the friends I made when I lived in China. Seldom have I seen people work as hard, or live with so little. In addition to showing a generally uncomplaining and positive attitude, they demonstrated something whose effectiveness finally makes sense to me. As they’d wave me on my way, they’d unfailingly call out, “Do your best,” “Take your time” or “Enjoy yourself!”

It wasn’t until I got back to the United States and no longer heard these things that I realized how much I’d appreciated such sources of encouragement. They had a lovely sound to my ears — and my heart. And they were empowering.


Painting: “Parched,” by Judy Hughey Wright.

To “encourage” each other, meaning literally “to give heart”, is one of the most timelessly beautiful gifts we can share. Perhaps the very scarcity of encouragement in daily life is what has so many feeling weary, fearful, and uninspired. Parched, even.

Another good reason to cultivate encouragement is that its opposite, discouragement, tends to breed complaint and criticism like weeds. Falling prey to these leads nowhere new, and feels bad.

But surprisingly, practicing encouragement instead doesn’t require much more effort, other than willingly letting go.

Then there’s that surprise bonus of choosing encouragement and offering it freely: it mysteriously begins to feel like receiving it yourself, at the same time.

I love just when divine wisdom maximizes things in that very generous way.



Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details -




The diamonds of spiritual treasure

I am grateful for a Guest Post from author Ron Tomanio, adapted from his

Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet series:


Surviving Difficult and Painful Events – Unearthing the Diamonds Within

“The Great Being saith: Regard man as mine rich in gems of inestimable value.” Baha’u’llah

We see sparkling diamonds that have been cut and polished without giving a lot of thought to the difficult mining process that produced such beauty. Unearthing spiritual diamonds can also be a difficult process, but results in fully rounded wondrous qualities that have existed in a state of potentiality within us since the moment of our creation.

If we are fortunate, we have some friends who live lives of beauty every day. Sometimes we are able to know the difficult and painful events that have shaped them, but more often we see, like the diamonds in a jewelry store, only the finished product.Untitled1

One such friend was Larry Akeley. Larry’s father was an engineer who had great expectations that his son would follow in his footsteps by pursuing an engineering degree. Larry tried, he really tried, but God did not endow him with that sort of mind. He dropped out of college and his father was furious. He told Larry, “You’re no son of mine!”

This comment crushed Larry and he spiraled downhill, falling every way an individual can fall—drugs, nervous breakdown. and finally, homelessness that led him to live in the New-Hampshire woods in an abandoned cabin. The day came when he decided to choose quick suicide over slow suicide. His plan was to walk out of the woods to the main road turn right and meet up with other drug-users living in the woods and take an overdose. He stood at the crossroads and for reasons he didn’t understand, chose to turn left and away from taking his life, at least for the moment. He had no plan beyond putting one foot in front of the other.

An elderly woman stopped and offered him a ride. He was stunned, but he accepted. She offered to take him to her home where she gave him some of her son’s clothes and allowed him to use her shower. She gave him a hot meal, and hope, and they became lifelong friends.


Photos: David Campbell / GBCTours.com

Decades went by and Larry’s father developed dementia. His mother became the primary caregiver until she passed away. Then Larry helped take care of his father like the elderly lady took care of him years earlier. Toward the end of his father’s life the nursing home insisted on strapping his father to the bed at night because he would roll out of bed and hurt himself. Seeing his father restrained in this way bothered the soft-hearted Larry. His solution was to sleep at night on the floor next to his father’s bed and let his father fall on his soft, cushy belly.

Because he was willing to let his experience help mine his inner diamonds, Larry accessed the educational aspects of his difficult experience while avoiding its potentially destructive aspects. He let it break open his heart, developing facets of the qualities of love and forgiveness that he might not otherwise have acquired.

Larry’s own life came to its end just a few years later. The brilliance of his spiritual transcendence still shines brightly for those of us who knew him here, and love him still.

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Receiving the grace – willingly


Painting: “Rivulet” by Judy Wright

Writing about people helps us to understand them, and understanding them helps us to accept them as part of ourselves. ~ Alice Walker

What we write today slipped into our soul some other day when we were alone and doing nothing. ~ Brenda Ueland‪

Rogue River Adventure

Painting: “Rogue River Adventure” by Judy Wright

The beauty of spirit will be visible in the presence and actions of souls all around me today. Focusing on and recognizing this is a choice that will be accessible to me throughout the day and help me feel happier, and more hopeful.

Today I remember that real happiness arises from a heart ready to receive – and recognize – the divine grace that’s the source of all life. It offers itself to me in every moment, but requires my willingness to meet it on its own terms.

My yearning for it underlies all my desires, yet a thousand worldly things can distract me from it.

312q7DGYsbL._SL110_~ from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details




Snow Fence Road’s kind visitors


Photo: Eric Mondschein

Women writers get used to hearing response from women readers.

It’s been a fun surprise to see how Snow Fence Road is finding friends among men, too. And even more gratifying to learn that the book’s atmosphere travels with them.

This is the kind of reader response that makes my writer’s heart grateful for the path it does its best to pursue:

“Novelists say the secret to writing is to make the reader care about characters that are drawn so true to life that the reader walks around all day having imaginary conversations with them. Set in the fictional coastal town of Knowle, Maine, this is that kind of book. It’s a great read, which I ingested in huge gulps and still have “book hangover” from (the feeling where you don’t want to start a new book because you’re still enjoying living in the one you just read).”

~ Larry Moffitt


Photo: Nelson Ashberger

“I was at once an intimate of these people who I really liked, and I truly felt comfortable ‘tucking in’ at this Maine town. The characters were so well developed, the human dynamics believably complex and real, and the writing style so beautifully crafted, that I found myself very disappointed that my visit to this place with these friends had come to an end. Thank you for bringing this town, this inn, and these people into my life.”

  ~ Stephen Keyes


A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets –

the kind only the miracle of new love can heal.

Snow Fence Road:


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Limited-time offers for the soul

dockphoto-3It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth, and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.  ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home any who have lost their way.  ~ St. Francis to the first friars

Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way. ~ Swami Vivekananda


My side of the contract


Photo: David Campbell / http://www.GBCTours.com


My days, and my mind, are awash in scenes from 75 years ago as I navigate through my current fiction-in-progress.

Once again, I’ve been pondering that curious energetic contrast between those I see everywhere talking on phones and looking at their screens, and the mood of a time when people actually left a room when someone received a call, as a sign of respect and courtesy. EB pix Germany and more 499

No one could have imagined overhearing something so private — so singular, even. Because people only used a telephone when what they needed to share was of significance. I imagine people back then would have found it hard to imagine using one to distract yourself, or to try not to be alone with your own company. 

How can I miss a time I was never actually part of? And yet, I do; my soul does.

I love to linger in its slower, gentler rhythms as I attempt to shape story out of what I encounter within history and my self. I imagine many writers of historic fiction and nonfiction must do the same.

I appreciate anew the thoughts novelist Elizabeth Gilbert shared in an interview with Karen Bouris in Original Story:


Photo: Nelson Ashberger

“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”

The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413



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Every true gift has eternity in it


United Baptist Church, Lakeport, NH

My friend, Carol, gave me a wonderful surprise at about the last place I’d have expected it — her funeral.

She received the devastating news about her cancer the same day her employer told her that she would soon be out of a job.

Things happened even faster for Carol, after that – fast especially for someone who, like most of us at this stage of life, was never looking to include life-threatening illness in her life experience. By early September, she’d been given three months to live. Her goal was to make it through all three of them, which, God willing, would be just enough time to see her first grandchild.

I made a trip to see Carol that week and brought a small CD player I’d picked up. She’d been feeling so terrible that even reading and watching TV were impossible, but she could still enjoy listening to music. However, her own CD player had broken.

CD playerThere was so much I couldn’t do for her. This, at least, seemed like one small thing I could offer. Knowing how weak she was, I searched for a little machine that was lightweight and, hopefully, something she’d be able to move herself.

The day I saw her, despite the fact that she was essentially drifting between worlds, she, as always, received my gift graciously.

But my heart was saddened by two things that were clear from the moment I watched the home-health nurse call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital: Carol was never going to use that CD player, and she wasn’t going to live to see her grandchild born.

A week later, I sat in a small Victorian church whose beautiful stained-glass windows flooded its pews with rosy light. Waiting for Carol’s funeral service to begin, I was thinking about her life, and all of the things that would never be, when I noticed that among the vases of cut flowers and the pretty candles that had been set out on a small table up front, there was something familiar.

Read the rest at BoomerCafe, kind enough to include my thoughts about Carol this week:




Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:




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