Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


Leave a comment

The widest thing in the universe

 

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE

A wee garden of Springtime ponderings:

 

Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place.

~ Zora Neale Hurston

Nature does nothing in vain. 

~ Aristotle

The widest thing in the universe is not space, it is the potential capacity of the human heart.

~ A.W. Tozer

The time of your transformation is at hand. It is always at hand. It is not a question of whether you “have what it takes,” but of whether you take what you have—and then use it.

Take the gifts you have—they are plenteous—and share them with all the world. Apply them to the challenge at hand. Use them and give them in your life as if there’s no tomorrow. Cultivate the desire to do this. If you have the desire, you will have what it takes—precisely because desire is what it takes.

~ Neale Donald Walsch

The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The secret life of an ordinary Munich girl

“They called her ‘stupid cow’, though she was smart enough to capture the man she loved when everyone—he, most of all—said he’d never marry.

Considered insignificant by those around Hitler, she was one of the Third Reich’s best-kept secrets and filmed the private lives of many notorious Nazis.

Eva Braun paid a big price for the name ‘Hitler’. And in the end, it was hers only for a day, and now, no one ever calls her ‘Eva Hitler’.

Her life with the Führer mirrors Germany’s: He first seduced, then neglected and abandoned them. Finally, he led them into the jaws of destruction.”

EvaWith these words, Anna Dahlberg begins an exploration of Hitler’s infamous mistress and her friendship with Anna’s mother in my novel, The Munich Girl.

Seventy-three years ago this month, Eva Braun’s world, and life, were coming to their end as Germany succumbed to defeat and ruin. From a bunker under Berlin, she wrote her final letters, to her younger sister, Gretl, and longtime friend Herta Ostermayr Schneider.

She writes to Herta of preparing to die, and bewilderment at how things are ending, for Germany. “Greetings to all my friends. I’m dying as I have lived. It’s not difficult for me. You know that.”

On this same day, she chose an action whose significance would only be revealed later, during the war crimes trials in Nuremberg. In testimony there, a high-ranking German officer credited her with ensuring that one of Hitler’s last desperate orders had come to him, on April 22, rather than to someone who would actually carry them out.

As a result, the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war were saved. Among them were likely two relatives of mine, and a whole lot of those who were the loved ones of tens of thousands of people.

When writing fiction that includes elements of history, accuracy must always trump creative possibilities. It’s been suggested to me several times that Eva Braun’s “character” in the story might be conveyed through letters. However, her very last letter, to her younger sister, Gretl, asked that most of her correspondence be destroyed, and the remaining small amount hidden. It has yet to surface, and those who’ve tried to track it down doubt it ever will.

So, any story true to Eva Braun’s consistently private personality must reference only the handful of pieces of her correspondence that are still in existence.

And seek, as so many stories do, to find the story of a life between the lines.

Book clubs and groups who are interested in adding The Munich Girl to their schedule are welcome to inquire about discounts on book pricing.

I also love visiting with book groups via skype or, where possible, in person.

Learn more by emailing info@phyllisring.com.

More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/


4 Comments

Time, and time again

Image: Judy Wright

It’s my pleasure to share this Guest Post — a zinging slice of flash fiction that takes an interesting temperature of these wild times we find ourselves in.

My big thanks to the writer, who’s also a wonderful sister.

 

The Blue Cupboard

by Tracey Edgerly Meloni

On my 17th birthday, while I was reveling in my Mary Quandt orange mini dress with a fifty-pound note in the pocket, Dudley disappeared into The Blue Cupboard.

Da swore years before my watch that The Blue Cupboard had transported him forward to 1967. The family in Penrith thought he was barking mad; as Uncle Willie said, “We keep mops in The Blue Cupboard, not H.G.-bloody-Wells.”

Da’s ravings about enormous protest marches, masses of hair and women burning their undergarments became ominously real in the news. I believed in him – he was all I had. Mum died having me, although I once overheard Uncle Willie stage-whisper that Da’s time-traveling lunacy was what really killed her.

Anyway, here on my 17th birthday in the real 1967, I follow Scottie Dudley into The Blue Cupboard. The door slams. All fades to black until the door opens again.

The view tells me that Da was right: just like him, I am in Washington, DC and the protest march is still going on. My outfit should fit right in.

“Dunna be so sure, Lassie.” A cartoonish, hairy Scotsman with a ridiculous brogue and awning-like eyebrows takes my arm with gloved hands, his tartan bell-bottoms and purple Edwardian coat making even me stare. Dudley?? He shrugs. “Is me tail covered?”

The Blue Cupboard took us far afield from 1967. These people must be concentration camp survivors: slashed, torn pants, ripped jackets, bald heads. Tattoos. Several have signs protesting the number of children killed in – 2018?? What the hell war is this?

Image: Judy Wright

“Groovy retro! Selfie?” says some ratty woman, throwing her arms around me and shoving a flat thing in my face. She points to a restaurant while dancing away. “Fusion – great falafel and sushi.”

Dudley and I look at each other. “Put your tongue back in your mouth,” I say. We go in. There’s a telly, telling me how spectacular sex would be if only I used the pink-and-blue gel. Then more adverts show a young woman shaving her face, an old woman flaunting her pee-pads (“Speaking of which,” says Dudley, excusing himself. . .)

Thanks to The Blue Cupboard, I’m celebrating being both 17 and 68 among strangers who’ve evidently been killing their children for half a century, while celebrating sex. I’m eating two things I hate with a Scottie dressed up like a psychedelic Dr. Who.

Da?


3 Comments

Readers are writers’ angels

The “writer” interrupted.

In a world with “too many” books in it, I wonder each week how it is that I’m attempting to write another.

The fact that its story is about how another book came to be can make the whole thing seem ten times crazier.

A recent experience with reviews for The Munich Girl reminded me once again that when our doubts arise, Life often meets them with a kinder, gentler course correction.

I heard from a reader who had just finished reading the book and wanted to share it with her book club. She had found the novel through the insightful review that writer Margaret Dubay Mikus left on Story Circle Book Reviews a year ago.

While it’s a grace to have a book reviewed at all, and for the response to be a positive one, it’s a gift of heaven when the reviewer both captures and expresses what leads a writer to create a book in the first place. This Margaret did with real power, and its echoes still had effect all this time later.

Margaret writes:

Readers like Nancy Vincent Zinke keep a writer’s spirit boosted.

“The [Munich Girl] also looks at the role of women in different cultures and periods in a way that is quite relevant right now.

“Do women choose to play the lead in their own lives or do they sacrifice themselves for others?

Ring also leads us to ask what we know of our parents’ lives. How might their experiences or traumas be passed down to us? How open are we to the changes that can come from deep healing?

“You will want to cheer for Anna as she is drawn into the discovery of her past, re-creating her present, releasing her to soar into a future of possibilities. Engrossing and engaging with surprises and plot twists. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next.”

You can find Margaret’s full review at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/munichgirl.shtml 

I’m also grateful for kind response to The Munich Girl from author and reviewer Joe Kilgore at the US Review of Books:

“Three stories beguilingly intertwine in this novel. There is the story of Anna—a mature woman beset by a crumbling marriage, physical hardship, and emotional upheaval. There is the story of Anna’s mother Peggy—a World War II survivor with secrets she may have kept too long. And there is the story of Peggy’s friend Eva Braun—a young woman captivated by a man history has forever deemed a monster.

“The plot flows like a river with the author sliding in and out of tributaries that continually add context, illumination, and depth. Anna’s tale is the current. It sweeps readers along as she discovers things about her husband she doesn’t really want to know, then uncovers information from her mother’s past she finds hard to believe and accept, and finally shines a light on a dark figure from history that few have ever understood.

“Action in Ring’s novel weaves present and past into a mosaic that focuses primarily on Anna’s exploration of her mother’s past. Peggy and Eva’s war years in some of the Third Reich’s most iconic settings unspool like flickering black and white images of life in those ruinous days. This juxtaposition of different times and locales enhances interest and adds impact as revelations stack one upon another.

“Ring is a gifted writer who employs language rich with emotional resonance. While constructing an intricate narrative that manages to personalize a huge swath of history, she also empathetically plumbs the depths of Anna, Peggy, and Eva’s immersion into friendship, love, betrayal, and sacrifice.

If you enjoy fascinating stories intimately told with compassion and grace, you should definitely make time for this book.

From:

http://www.theusreview.com/reviews/The-Munich-Girl-by


3 Comments

Jewel-like, radiant, and fleeting

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

What a heavenly potentiality God has deposited within us! What a power God has given our spirits! He has endowed us with a power to penetrate the realities of things.

~  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Fidelity to your heart’s deepest dream isn’t primarily a matter of self-discipline or productivity systems. It’s more a practice of remembering—that this life is jewel-like, radiant, and fleeting like the dew on a spider’s web.

~ Eric Klein 

Yin is the receptive, feeling, compassionate force within. It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead. For Yin, withdrawing is entering. It’s there that we gestate our dreams, refine our intuition, and have a center from which to interrelate!

~ Toko-pa

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude!

~ William Wordsworth


3 Comments

The longest, sweetest journey

Photo: David Campbell

A most subtle and most difficult transition for us to make is to move from the use of human traits by the human nature to the  employing of divine qualities by our spiritual nature.

This has been described as the longest journey — from the mind to the heart.

The human nature, using the limited vision of the rational mind, doesn’t have the capacity to perceive divinity and easily makes the mistake of believing that we, ourselves, are the source of such spiritually motivated actions as generosity, mercy and justice.

This misconception leads inevitably to arrogance, the hallmark of the ego, and we cannot approach God with what is essentially the exact opposite of the attribute that is required for this — humility.

In his book Love, Power and Justice, author William Hatcher notes that “We are the only creatures of God who have the capacity to be aware of our dependency on God.”

It is the spiritual nature that possesses the capacity to recognize that the amazing virtues of love, mercy, kindness originate with God and that we’re privileged to use these infinite attributes that God has placed within us in infinite combinations to enhance our lives. We can remember, when someone thanks us for being kind or merciful, to acknowledge in our heart the divine source of kindness or mercy. In this way we can grow in humility instead of arrogance. We can carry in our awareness the source of these qualities and thus draw closer to that source.

The animal and human nature each ask the same question in all our interactions with the world: “Do I eat it or does it eat me?” The human nature wears better clothes and couches the same question in more sophisticated language, such as, “Do I win or do you win?’”or “Who controls who in this relationship?”

The spiritual nature always asks the same question: “What do I need to do to approach the Divine?” Or perhaps more specifically: “What act of service do I need to give or receive in order to approach the Divine?”

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality? https://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I


2 Comments

The quest for breadth and depth

Photo: Liz Turner

As I dive deeper into a new writing project, I am reconnecting with the power of my relationship with my thoughts — the very narration of my days. As every one of my storyteller friends knows, narration is both a daily companion we can’t escape and a maker of meaning that we all need.

I revisited an insightful article on the topic by writer Steve Almond, which is reminding me of what’s missing in much of writing these days: an effective narrator. It reinforces for me how much I need one personally, just as my writing does.

In the cultural shifts of the last decades that turned many into viewers rather than readers, “we’ve lost our grip on the essential virtues embodied by a narrator: the capacity to make sense of the world, both around and inside us,” Almond writes.

Photo: Diane Kirkup

Narrators serve the role of portraying big things, conceptually: how individual fates collide with history. More than just awakening readers’ sympathies, they help enlarge their moral imagination as “they offer a sweeping depiction of the world that helps us clarify our role in it,” he says. The perspective that narration offers helps us make meaning of a story, and of our lives, and also find a sense of place for ourselves in the scheme of things.

In times whose only constant seems to be constant change, we need narrative more than ever, even as it’s fast disappearing. While publishing gets downright pedantic that writers “show, don’t tell,” a well-developed narrative and its vital contribution to a story, like nutrition in a diet, becomes endangered through ignorance and oversight.

Narrative is as essential in human life as purpose is. It’s the one thing that, when time is shrinking, spinning, rushing past us with ever-increasing speed, points faithfully to what is timeless. We don’t need it to spoon-feed us, naturally. But we do need its signposts.   

Almond notes that media has created increasingly passive audiences, able to absorb and react, but not to imagine. That’s a pretty low (survival-based) level of human experience. And, accordingly, the focus of a lot of current writing is on the instinctual aspects of human beings — survival or perpetuation of the species (chase scenes and preoccupation with the sexual, often voyeuristically so).

Author Nathan Rutstein predicted this more than 25 years ago. He had worked in television and other media and authored many books when he made the observation that human society was increasingly losing sight (literally, as if not seeing it) of the higher possibilities and qualities in human potential as it grew more fascinated with and gripped by materialism, both in media and in the rest of what was called culture.

Almond’s article describes the approach of most media as that of “minimizing sustained attention,” which results in a flitting, easily distracted behavior that doesn’t ever engage with any depth – becomes incapable of doing so, perhaps. That’s almost the exact opposite of what a novel (or painting or play) was designed to require and invite. Or a spiritual, contemplated life.

Reading, unlike scanning and surfing, requires involvement and commitment, both from writer and reader. The narrator, and a story’s narration, is what facilitates this, helps create a book’s world, then lends it meaning. Many books now feel as much like packaged entertainment as most commercial television, and as unsatisfying and lacking in nourishment for our inner life. Much in publishing seems to train attention on mechanics, a shock-value, attention-getting and contrived writing style and manipulative repetition of “tropes.” A  cookie-cutter approach to more of the same. So much more of the same. Preoccupation with the lower nature, particularly if a series might be wrested from it. In order to have more of the same. Where is the room for discovery, depth, mystery? Soul?

Photo: Karen Darling

Almond describes how although some current works reach for these, “still work heroically to make sense of the world,” they find themselves “on the margins of a popular culture dominated by glittering fantasies of violence and fame. On a grand scale, we’ve traded perspective for immediacy, depth for speed, emotion for sensation, the panoramic vision of a narrator for a series of bright beckoning keyholes,” he says.

We’ve bartered away the riches of our indwelling higher nature, what brings meaning and depth to life, for the indulgence and absorption of our instinctual one. In a way, that is the only aspect of human being that seems to get the attention and focus now, perhaps with a thin veneer of the intellectual applied over it, or emotion that’s dealt with mainly in sentimentality, hyper-dramatization or other superficiality.

Narrative, and the meaning it serves, can restore the breadth and depth of human experience and bring it back home whole. Ennobled.

True expression, in any form, and always, in its highest one, is incomplete without it.

Find Steve Almond’s excellent article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-person-who-said-once-upon-a-time.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0