Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

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A life of many secrets


“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 years ago on this day, 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. th

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.


The Munich Girl, a novel of the legacies that outlast war, is scheduled for publication this year.

Those interested in receiving an advance copy in exchange for a review are invited to request one by emailing info@phyllisring.com.

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Within the treasury of trust


Painting: “Sunrise” by Diane Kirkup

Although the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage.

Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail. By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. … Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.        ~ Bahá’u’lláh


Image: Cary Enoch

The religion of God has two aspects in this world. The spiritual (the real) and the formal (the outward). The formal side changes, as man changes from age to age. The spiritual side which is the Truth, never changes.

The Prophets and Manifestations of God bring always the same teaching; at first men cling to the Truth but after a time they disfigure it. The Truth is distorted by man-made outward forms and material laws. The veil of substance and worldliness is drawn across the reality of Truth.

~ Abdu’l-Bahá


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Spiritual intelligence and subtleties of truth


Image: D. Kirkup Designs /https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns

“Collective spiritual intelligence (SQ) is low in modern society,” physicist and philosopher Danah Zohar has said. “We live in a spiritually dumb culture characterized by materialism, expediency, narrow self-centredness, lack of meaning and dearth of commitment.”

However discouraging that assessment may sound, she goes on to describe how, as individuals “we can act to raise our personal SQ – indeed, the further evolution of society depends upon enough individuals doing so …”

Among the ways she describes that we can light up that darkness are to use our inner gifts:

–     to look for the connections between things;

–     to bring to the surface the assumptions we have been making about the meaning behind and within things;

–     to become more reflective;

–     to reach beyond ourselves a little;

–      to take responsibility;

–      to become more self-aware; and

–      to be more honest with ourselves and more courageous.”

“Happy are those who spend their days in gaining knowledge, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in penetrating the subtleties of pure truth,” Abdu’l-Bahá has reminded in a book called Some Answered Questions.

SO! The means of raising our SQ — and assuring the further evolution of society — is also – the source of happiness!

Each day presents us with a blank new canvas on which to place our steps toward this.

The world may seem a mess, but divine design remains both wondrous and unlimited, when we turn toward it and receive it with WTOEimage.phpwillingness.

Explore more about the spiritual invitation of our times in With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past, When We Can Investigate Reality? at:


Also available in print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html

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Creativity’s invitation to reunion

My deepest thanks to Ruthz SB, creator of delightful literature for the souls of children, and the child in all of us. Your review of Snow Fence Road captures the essence of why my writing heart kept it company until it came full circle as the book’s story:

a very pure intuitive love is beautiful and emotional.” SFR4ab79a8a-8a51-4e54-b19c-bc0bbaeca160_zpsc2bd263b

“Our heart knows what our mind has forgotten,”  Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written of the beauty of this subtle and powerful mystery. “It knows the sacred that is within all that exists, and through a depth of feeling we can once again experience this connection, this belonging.”

I suppose that every work of writing I accompany to its ending, whether nonfiction or novel, will have this theme at its heart.


Photo: D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns

As spring’s atmosphere of renewal finally reaches New England, I’m returning to Maine, where the book’s settings will surround me.

The days will also lead inward, as all creating hours need to do. The mere act of withdrawing in order to be present for creative process will draw me nearer to discoveries I can’t possibly predict (or try to control) but that I know from repeated experience will arrive. They’ll not only help bring a growing story into being, but reunite me, mysteriously, with my own depths.

“It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you,” John O’Donohue observes. “It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.” IMG_6021

Ponderings that will travel with me:

How does creativity require faith in the way that spiritual life does?

How does creativity hone my abilities as a participant on the path of life?

How does creativity help me adjust as information or circumstances change?

How does creativity act as a remedy for mental tests?

How does engaging with creative process help me learn more about my truest self?

Find more about Snow Fence Road at: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Fence-Road-Phyllis-Edgerly/dp/1934912549/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1372083362&sr=8-2&keywords=Snow+Fence+Road+Phyllis+Ring

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Awake to life, alive in the moment

It’s my privilege to share a thoughtful writer friend’s guest post.

Karen K. Mason ponders how a writer is often moved toward “placing the particular against the larger backdrop”. This can lead to a kind of being alive in the moment that “makes it possible to be aware of other dimensions of the reality I’m inhabiting”.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

Alive in the Moment

by Karen K. Mason

To write, for me, is the opportunity to reflect and ruminate – and be surprised by my own spontaneous emotion if some forgotten memory should surface in the process of writing.

Of course, a lot of writing I do is like the journalistic news article, a straight presentation of what happened to whom. The challenge is then to get the story “straight”. This kind of writing or reporting requires me to concentrate on information. It’s good mental exercise that disciplines my craft and develops skills in the areas of critical thinking and communication. But when the writing task is to share my views confidently with a wider audience, the process of wrestling with a complex issue means that, as I look for the piece of the issue that speaks to me, the current topic invariably gets set against another place or time. I end up placing the particular against the larger backdrop, usually societal, that forces me to think and feel outside a knee-jerk response.


Image: Lauren Chuslo-Shur

This second more exploratory kind of work is where spontaneous associations with the past leads to insight and personal learning, where being alive in the moment makes it possible to be aware of other dimensions of the reality I’m inhabiting.

If my senses are awake to the moment, being alive in the moment adds fuel to the writing process. As my craft has developed writing nonfiction essays and poetry, I’ve discovered sensory memory kicks in to recreate a scene, remind me of my feelings, provide graphic detail, give a name to the thing needing a name or at least clarify it.

No matter how lifeless a topic may first appear, as in “minimum age for a driver’s license”, the details I need to build a case, tell a story, explain a situation come from my personal archive of sensory detail, from testimony and first-person accounts. Sometimes I relive the moment, actually experience it again. More often my thinking process leads to a reconstruction, which helps me analyze the work at hand. To the extent that my senses were awake to the whole moment at the time, the moment recreates itself.

10347543_846302745461694_8266923788768021570_nThinking about the prompt, “minimum age for a driver’s license”, and apart from listing reasons for an argument pro or con, can I even access that period of my life? I remembered that I failed the road test, which led to this:

Once again I’m 16, being driven home by my mother from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The silence is awkward because normally Mom would be talking, but I sit quietly crying. I must retake the road-test portion of the exam. My future slips further into the distance because I don’t know if I’ll pass the test the next time. This bit opened a window for me onto a particular place and time in my life when days seemed like years.

I attribute my aptitude for life in the moment to family culture and spiritual practice. My family immigrated to America in the 1840s but our roots are in Norway, and family traditions and culture are still closely tied to that country. I’m fifth generation. My family identifies less closely with ancestors these days than in years past, but my approach to life is a die that was cast before I was 10. I had already begun to look at life through the eyes of the immigrant, thanks to the stories I heard from relatives. 


Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

When I was 25, I discovered first-hand what it means to be the foreigner. My husband’s work took us to live for years in Switzerland and later Luxembourg. We moved house many times. Moving often was a reality for my birth family, too. Each time in a new locale I noticed the many ways my otherness rubbed up against the manners of the local population, a habit that as an adult became intentional, building on my natural inclination to live in the moment.

With counter-culture shock upon returning to the US, I began to look for details in place and in people that makes something “American” or “Swiss” – looked for “thing-ness”. The practice of being awake to life for reasons of learning something new enhanced my effort to be “in” a place but not “of” it, which is a spiritual discipline.

It seems to me that what values people display transcend place and time even as they are seen in the moment. So, the spiritual practice helps me perceive the other in a context outside of the physical one we inhabit. This mode of thinking adds another dimension to being alive and leads to being alive to the intangibles that exist in the moment, a kind of out-of-body experience. These are discoveries I’ve made as a writer by developing craft. 337Mason_KarenHeadshot

Karen Mason was born and raised in Illinois and spent nearly 20 years in Europe as a result of her husband’s job transfers. She is a teacher by profession, an inevitable choice given her fascination with the contents of the family bookshelf before she could even read.

She started writing stories as soon as she was able to write a sentence and turned seriously to poetry in college. Karen has taught writing in Illinois, Geneva and online from Luxembourg. She now lives in New Hampshire.


Karen Mason’s chapbook of poetry, Not From Around Here, was published by Finishing Line Press.

Find the book at: https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=1638.


Rowing all the way through

2005 China Slide Show 196

Photo: Vanessa Jette


Psychology will soon become a thing of the past because it doesn’t take seriously the beyond-ego aspects of the self. …

Spiritual health requires flexibility, a searching mind and comfort with not having all the answers.

 ~ Thomas Moore

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Photo: Jon Ring

The most difficult endeavor is not to create something. The most difficult endeavor is not even to begin. The most difficult is to keep rowing all the way through to completion.

And this, in spades, is the content of the night-sea journey … making the descent to true self, nourishing the work from that locus of control, and completing the work. Then beginning the next, and the next … and completing them.

 ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Image: Lauren Chuslo-Shur

There are things which only happen, which cannot be done. Doing is the way of very ordinary things, mundane things.

You can do something to earn money, you can do something to be powerful, you can do something to have prestige; but you cannot do anything as far as love is concerned, gratitude is concerned, silence is concerned.

It is significant to understand that ‘doing’ means the world, and non-doing means that which is beyond the world.       



What few put into practice


“Pond”, Lauren Chuslo-Shur

Sometimes, things I stumble across just seem to dance together.
Maybe this is the way Universal Divine Mind waves at me.

This time, the partners are a poem from my friend Ronnie Tomanio,
and long-enduring wisdom from Lao Tzu:


“Morrell Falls 2″, Judy Hughey Wright

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.

~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

The Practical Moon

by Ronnie Tomanio


“Sunburst”, Lauren Chuslo-Shur

When was that moment?
The cucumber becoming a pickle moment
When I became … dare I say it out loud …
The moment when dancing clouds became water vapor
When the heart sun within
Became burning hydrogen without
No longer just two friends
Playing peek-a-boo
I see you
In the sky of blue
All day long


“Make Hay While the Moon Shines”, Lauren Chuslo-Shur

Until the practical moon
That battered, solemn head
Says bedtime
I obey
But I can still dream
Of endless ascendant mornings.


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