Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

The beginnings in the endings



Up the hill to the castle we went to celebrate the “birth.”

What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

 ~ T.S. Eliot

A little over a month after the publication of the novel that has absorbed my focus for the past eight years, I find that the days feel like an incongruous blend of the unreal, yet also fully realized.

Back in September, I was swamped in galley files of the book to proof, corrections to track, publishing details to tend – to remember at all. Thank heaven for my publishing “doula” Marina Kirsch. Those fast-moving weeks of September and October felt the way seasonal work in retail stores often does – compressed, nonstop, persevering action reminiscent of those performers who keep a dozen plates spinning on skinny sticks.


Hotel Schwan in Wertheim fills the two white buildings to the left, with the tower between, and a gate into town at the bottom. The little light halfway up is “my” window.

Then, early one morning in November, as I sat in a tower that holds a gateway into the walled old town where I lived in Germany as a child, the book suddenly “published” before my eyes. The only experience that has ever felt remotely similar was the sudden-seeming delivery and arrival of each of our children after long hours of labor.


A few of the local swans.

When the book “birthed,” I was sitting beside a tiny window that has likely been in that stone wall for many hundreds of years. The table beside it was the first place I found an internet connection that morning.

Hotel Schwan, where we were staying, is the first place my family came to back in January of 1960, the first home I knew in Germany. In a world where nothing stays the same, it’s an immense comfort to revisit the Schwan and still feel so at home. I can easily overlook a little spotty internet access.


I’m a fool for “signs” of all kinds. When I spotted the names of my book’s two main characters on my first day in Germany, it was a fun surprise.

Now, decades after that first stay, in the week of my 60th birthday, the book, much like a child, “chose” to be born into publication. It was as wonder-filled as it was shocking.

And as the novel and I have gone forward together into the world in the weeks since, I’m reminded of just what births really are: the beginning in the ending. For a mother, the end of a pregnancy is a landmark event, much as a destination feels like the end of a journey.

And then, like that gateway over which I was sitting beside that historic little window in the tower, it reveals itself as a whole new beginning. I’m still soaking in the enormous spiritual metaphors (for me, at least) in the physical setting of where I actually received this publishing experience.

When I began writing what became The Munich Girl, one very wise voice advised me to reach for a style in the unfolding of its story that would be “holographic, would know the end in the beginning, and use the words to prove it.”. Whether or not that goal was reached will remain to be seen, but as one cycle of life closes and another opens, I know that the vision of that accompanied me to the very last page.

Sometimes, rather like mothers and infants, endings and beginnings seem to have a conjoined world of their very own. 12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_n

 “And suddenly you know … It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”  ~ Meister Eckhart

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here;


3 thoughts on “The beginnings in the endings

  1. Dear Phyllis,

    Thank you for sharing the “birth” story! 🙂 What an auspicious sign of all things good for the book; two central names on the sign! The book is amazing, illuminating and a great read.

    Congratulations on your birthday, too! 6o is a fabulous milestone!



  2. Ah, Phyllis: I’ve been awaiting an opportunity to speak about finishing The Munic Girl…. It was not well-timed. Your book, with its amazingly rich texture and warm, heart-based storyline, held me up through holiday preparations and sustained me as the house filled up with family and friends. It was my secret nurture. And then – oops – I finished it just before New Years Eve, and have been feeling a bit hollow since. Anna’s journey had become so precious and personal to me, that I felt a bit bereft at the end. The richness of detail in this book is palpable: I could feel the Germany of Eva’s time, and climb inside the culture surrounding her. And I could feel my heart filling both with her longings and her sorrow. Interlacing the characters as you have done indeed creates a holographic experience — finding the present in the past, and the past in the fabric of Anna’s self-understanding. Thank you, Phyllis, for giving a far richer understanding of Germany’s past than I had ever encountered. Thank you for taking me into some of its darkest catacombs with a tender voice and steady hand. Bravo.
    I am richer for having read this book. Bless you.
    PS: Happy Birthday!

  3. Well, both Janes, I’m just sort of weepy and inwardly tipsy as I encounter this abundance of kind love. Nothing (on earth, at least) means more than that this story be welcomed by such receptive hearts as each of yours. Very, very grateful.

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