Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The Munich Girl: the secrets we keep

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Wassily Kandinsky, “Houses in Munich,” 1908

Reviewer and author Barb Taub has done The Munich Girl a big service with her insightful review:

“With her book, The Munich Girl, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring points out that an entire nation can’t be understood or explained with one label.

‘She does this by examining the life of one almost-invisible woman: Eva Braun, the “Munich Girl’ who was Hitler’s mistress from the time the seventeen-year-old girl met the man over twenty years her senior until their wedding followed a day later by her suicide at his side when she was 33. image13_zps7eb8aca8

“Although The Munich Girl has the feel of a memoir, it is a historical fiction that tells the story of three women. We first meet Anna, an American woman married to history professor Lowell. Anna has grown up in a house full of secrets, one of which is her father Rod’s war-spoils portrait that has hung in their dining room all her life. The second is her mother, Peggy, who has died just before the story begins. And of course, the third is Eva, and her doomed relationship with Adolf Hitler. As Anna is clearing out Peggy’s house, she comes across a manuscript that tells both Peggy’s story and that of her unlikely friend, Eva.

image-58034-galleryv9-bfrq-277x300“Anna’s story is told in alternating points of view. First we have her own experience as a child born in Germany at the end of the war, but raised in the United States. Having grown up feeling like an outsider and desperate to belong, she subverts her entire life into supporting her husband Lowell’s career and goals. When he orders her to work at an inherited family magazine that he thinks will help his career, she is at first reluctant but then captivated by her assignments, including Eva Braun’s story. But most of all she’s drawn to the magazine’s German-American editor, Hannes. But when Anna finds that her mother knew Eva Braun, and when she starts to suspect that Peggy’s secrets go beyond the portrait signed with Adolf Hitler’s initials, Anna’s interest becomes an obsession.

“This is an amazing story full of layers and meaning. The settings are beautifully detailed and seem both timeless and perfectly anchored in their little bubbles of time. But within those stories, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring has created three fully-realized women who are very different, but who manage to have so many themes in common. 12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_n

“One theme is the deals women make with themselves to allow others to achieve happiness or satisfaction, often by denying themselves those very things.

“Another theme is the secrets we keep from others and from ourselves. The one question that history demands of Germany—how could you follow a monster like Hitler?—is brought down to the personal level. Why would Eva remain with Hitler?”goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70

 

Find the rest of Barb’s review at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show?id=1499833670


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Setting a course for Soul-sized expression

photoAs I celebrate another year in The Munich Girl’s life, and my own, I’m pondering the power of expression in the world, the double-edged qualities of speech, the timeless gifts of questions and listening, and the potential of art to convey the wholeness of our experience.

I’m revisiting the path along which the novel led me, hoping to mine some reflective memoir. As I do, I’m inspired by words like the following ones from writers with soul-sized perspectives.

“Writing about one’s own or another’s life poses serious challenges. A writer trying to represent his life in a book engages himself in ongoing negotiations about what information to include and what to withhold, what he believes is true and what he wants readers to think is true,” says Helena Hjalmarsson. Meme1959335_758163877584949_5796047359521828465_n

“The need for synthesis – coherence, connections between past and present – is a constant struggle … ” Hjalmarsson notes. “Often, the sense of life as a logical, purposeful unfolding becomes more important to the autobiographer than objective truth. Also vital to writers of autobiographies is the drive to make their work relevant and accessible to their readership – as well as a desire for connection, a social and spiritual need to ‘reincarnate,’ to have their hard-won perspective exist outside themselves.”

Jhumpa Lahiri writes, “It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life.

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Painting: Judy Wright

“And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me.’ ” Lahiri cuts right to the core, in this.

Elizabeth Sims recently shared timely words about this process in a blog post called “A Real Writer’s Duty”:

“These days when extraordinary, historic events occur, everybody becomes a writer. Social media enables all of us to spew impassioned opinions—joy, outrage, elation, despair—if we want to. And so many do. And free speech is great.  the soul ajar_congdon2

“But a real writer of either fiction or nonfiction takes a much longer and deeper view of human affairs and human nature than most people.” (How I love this. Indeed, I live for it.)

“A real writer is more curious than defensive,” she continues. “A real writer explores. A real writer is ready to be surprised. A real writer never panics. A real writer knows the world is in the work.”

Find Elizabeth’s Zestful Writing Blog here:

http://esimsauthor.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-real-writers-duty.html

 

 

 


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What shall we keep room for in our hearts?

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“Evolution is transformation. And transformation is happening all the time. It happens as we learn new things … ” notes author Christine DeLorey.

“Evolution is not an automatic ever-ascending spiritual conveyor-belt,” she adds, “but the result of our ability to face reality, adjust, adapt, and change.”

A key element of our transformative path is contrast, whose intensity and extremes can sometimes seem — and feel — shocking. Even disheartening.

10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_oHow can we maximize its effectiveness, by seeing what it is pointing to, for our heart’s understanding? What is it helping us remember? And how is it reminding us of all that we do not yet know?

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” urges poet Mary Oliver, and theologian Paul Tillich reminds, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

“ … if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody,” writes Gangaji.

“It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.”

11798178_10155840072870181_1562789834_nOnce this happens, then perhaps we are equipped at last for what these words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s invite:

“Make ready thy soul that thou mayest be like the light which shineth forth from the loftiest heights on the coast, by means of which guidance may be given to the timid ships amid the darkness of fog …”

Including those often-timid ships of our own small selves.

 


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Our most liberating destination: beyond expectations

My thanks to blogger Rachel Poli, who is sharing a Guest Post of mine at her book-review site: burgphoto

A year ago this week, I was in Germany when my novel, The Munich Girl, published last November.

In the eight years I’d spent following this story’s trail, I never once imagined that life would bring me back there for such a personally significant landmark.

This book’s pathway has been filled with things I’d never have expected.

When I was a military brat in Europe in the 1960s, my first friends were German families. After I married another brat who’d also spent part of his childhood in Germany, we began returning there as often as we could. I realized that if I wanted to understand this culture I love so much, I needed to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.

hitler-eva-braun-history-third-reich-peter-crawfordNever could I have imagined how quickly that intention would take me straight to Hitler’s living room. Within days, I received a copy of British writer Angela Lambert’s biography of Eva Braun.

Then a combination of entirely unexpected circumstances led to my finding the portrait of Braun that began unwinding the sequence of events in The Munich Girl. th

A major turning point in the story’s development occurred when I discovered, while researching the war crimes Trials at Nuremberg, that an action of Eva Braun’s in the last week of her life saved the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war.

Two members of my mother’s family were among them.

Link to the post at Rachel’s blog here:

https://rachelpoli.com/2016/11/15/creative-process-invites-us-beyond-our-expectations/

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SALE: The price of the novel’s Kindle version is dropped to $1.99 this week as part of the book’s anniversary celebration.

You can find 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/

 

Purchase links: Amazon US | Amazon Ca | Amazon UK

 

 


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Born of certitude, inhabiting our lives fully

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Photo: Liz Turner

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The inner joy that every individual seeks, unlike a passing emotion, is not contingent on outside influences; it is a condition, born of certitude and conscious knowledge, fostered by a pure heart, which is able to distinguish between that which has permanence and that which is superficial.

 ~ The Universal House of Justice

The beauty of the terrible situation that we are in is that it forces us back into ourselves to fully inhabit our own lives.

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

~ Jim Haba

Acceptance of what is – and the way it makes you feel – is the mother of invention.

Balance does not mean uniformity. It means arranging things in way that enables energy to move FREELY.

Creative energy is magnetic emotional energy. It attracts. It draws us to it – and draws itself out of us.

 ~ Christine DeLorey


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A year with The Munich Girl

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Come celebrate with me: One-year Birthday Party for The Munich Girl: Monday, Nov. 14, 6-8, Shooter’s Pub, Exeter, NH

A highlight for me one year ago, as my novel, The Munich Girl, came into the world, was my return to the first place in Germany where my family lived when I was a child.

On the cloudy November afternoon that the book published, I faced the Main River in the tiny village of Dorfprozelten and offered my thanks at the grave of Herr and Frau Geis, who shared their house with my family back in the early 1960s.

It was because my military family lived “on the economy” with them that my sense of myself as a citizen of the world began so early.

The fact that my family established close ties with German people in post-war Europe also inevitably led me to want to understand the experience of Germans themselves during the war.

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With my British Grandmother outside the plant-filled window of the room in which I slept in the Geis family home in Dorfprozelten, Germany.

I’d never have imagined this path would take me through Hitler’s living room as it drew me into the life of his longtime mistress, later wife, Eva Braun.

“How will you ever get readers past the fact that it’s her – that she’s such a large part of the story?” is a question I grew used to hearing.

I wouldn’t. I knew that from the start. Readers would embark on that particular journey only if they were willing to.

This story in no way seeks to exonerate or “redeem” her.

Eva_mk_R1B-1Rather, she makes a good motif for looking at the ways in which many people, women in particular, suppress our own lives – or often don’t even claim those lives fully at all.

The story of The Munich Girl is about many things, including, of course, Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, and many facets of history from the time of the war in Germany.

It is also about the power of friendship, and the importance of our often ignored and overlooked inner life, without which our world careens increasingly out-of-balance, as it did in those wartime days.

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With author Lenna Kutner at the New England Library Association conference last month.

Much like the book’s protagonist, Anna, I repeatedly experience what invites me to look beyond what I think I know, and have understood about life. The process of uncovering the story has helped me remember many kinds of homecomings, spiritual and material, that life brings to us.

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Childhood photo / Eva Braun (middle) with father, Fritz, and sister, Ilse.

At its heart, it’s a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion that unavoidably visit us, in both public and private wars, and how we transcend those challenges. We seem to do that by valuing, and believing in, the stronger possibility in all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building together.

Part of our ability to do that, I’ve come to believe, rests in being able to recognize that human beings aren’t usually all good, or all bad, but a complex mix of where our experience, understanding, and choices have led us.

As one character in The Munich Girl observes: “Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.”

MunichGirlWebAdEight years ago when the process of this book began, I also couldn’t have imagined what those words might come to mean in the atmosphere of our world today. I thank every reader who’s giving the book time, and also offering thoughtful reflection that helps me to continue learning from the pathway of this story, every day.

Find more about The Munich Girl here:

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

 


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What is Spirit calling for?

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As I’m preparing for some upcoming author visits, I’ve been reflecting on themes that are surfacing in these wildly turbulent times.

The planet, and the unfailing presence of Spirit in the world are speaking.

What are they calling for? How are we listening, or not? How are our hearts — Spirit’s intended home, by Divine design — responding, or not?

“All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory;” Bahá’u’lláh wrote nearly a century and a half ago, “yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved. Notwithstanding I have concealed thy secret and desired not thy shame.”

14671193_10155473760553902_8364308015943477763_nThe indigenous, Native peoples in every part of the planet know, and honor, the truth carried in these words. They know, too, that in so many cultures, as in their own, water represents spirit, the very source of all life.

And today, they are speaking from the “heartland” of my country.

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time,” author Terry Tempest Williams has written. “To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. … Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” 14720601_10155473760403902_8711454713838355839_n

Over the next two days, Baha’is around the world will focus our hearts on love, unity, and the oneness in which the Creator has fashioned humanity as we gather to celebrate Twin Holy Days, the Births of the Báb, and of Bahá’u’lláh.

“The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
Bahá’u’lláh
My thanks to Patricia Hupahu Locke (Patty), age 5, named for her brave-hearted Grandmother,
for the beautiful artwork here. Her family’s hearts are standing with those who, at Standing Rock, are standing for the truth of Spirit for all humanity. And my heart stands with them.