Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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A reboot of spirit

Delighted to share this Guest Post from Tracey E. Meloni:

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

 

After a lifetime of moving as an Army Brat, Navy wife, and Federal drifter, I settled into my present home at the end of 2000. Looking for Christmas tree ornaments that first year, I came across a box labeled, “Somebody Stole My Boots.” It turned out to be the box of the best Christmas Past.

The winter I was 19, I was a newly married scholarship student in Boston University, making ends meet on $75 a week. My in-laws sent much-anticipated plane tickets so we could go home for a Connecticut country holiday, but Mother Nature intervened.

On Christmas Eve, monster snow not even Boston could overcome brought our plans to a halt. Christmas became an impromptu event, with an empty larder and equally empty wallets.

Down the hall lived friends Joe and Noni, another married student couple also stranded by weather and not much better supplied. We decided to pool our meager resources and make the best of things.

We took the then-MTA of Kingston Trio fame to the old farmers Haymarket (now a much trendier spot) and bought as many fresh, cheap veggies as we could carry just before the vendors went home.

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

We also bargained for a scruffy tree and dragged it onto the subway, laughing and waving at the conductor’s halfhearted warnings that no trees were allowed.

The engineering-student guys built a terrific tree stand. We trimmed the tree with popcorn, cranberries, and paper chains and installed it in the outside hallway for all to enjoy. Then we split up the cooking duties.

My mother had sent goodies from the venerable (now defunct) S.S. Pierce. Our Haymarket bounty was transformed into hearty vegetable soup, Delmonico potatoes, and what my husband called “painless beans,” the green bean-mushroom soup casserole. Joe and Noni defrosted their famous Bolognese sauce for Christmas Eve “SpagBog,” as the Brits call spaghetti Bolognese. We heard from two more stranded couples: one had a turkey, the other had cheese – and wine! Our Christmas feast seemed assured. We all arranged to meet for midnight services at a nearby church. churchnight

At church, our little band collected two more couples (fruit and rolls, guitar and flute) and we all trudged home to my building through deepening snow, feeling quite a contented glow.

A sad and ragged man armed with a sketchpad trailed behind us. We ignored him. Back at the apartment, my husband left his $10 boots in the outside hallway by the tree to dry out.

Reg4013900705643On Christmas morning, when we went to look at the tree, the boots were gone. We found a scrawled note following the cadence of The Little Drummer Boy: “Somebody Stole Your Boots, ta rup a tum tum.” Next to the note was propped a charcoal sketch, perfectly capturing us all, laughing as we walked home from Christmas Eve services – and oblivious to our portraitist.

Finding that note and the sketch brought memories flooding back. My coat was emerald green, even though it is shown in black and white. The images of my husband’s young and carefree face, and mine, make me smile – we did not know, when our unknown artist captured us, what horrors half a world away would derail our lives just a few months down the road. The charcoal, so hastily done, preserved our young innocence for all time.

Beyond that, the Christmas “Somebody Stole My Boots” taught me a most important lesson. Sometimes having no money is not a curse – it means you can’t blur spirit with commercialism. Still, even that year, I blindly overlooked someone much more needy than I, and will never forget the shame I felt that Christmas morning. Not only did Boot Man forgive our indifference – he rewarded it, and so perfectly.tracey_edgerly_meloni

Rediscovering the boot memory helped renew an old tradition in a new house. Once again, I’m putting out a modest pair of boots for needy Santas.

 

Tracey Edgerly Meloni won first prize in Ingenue Magazine’s short-story contest when she was 14 and just kept on writing. Her most recent award is a first place in feature writing from the Virginia Press Association. Formerly press secretary to three California Congressmen and Virginia’s senior Senator, she contributes regularly to several magazines, writing about food, health, the arts, and travel.

 


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Thank you, Let Them Read Books blog

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Blogger (and gifted cover designer) Jenny Q. kindly included a guest post of mine at her Let Them Read Books historical-fiction blog last week.

The post’s theme came back to the same focus I find so much response about The Munich Girl does:

“The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: ‘Why Eva Braun?’

“The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or ‘redeem’ her, or how she is perceived.

She simply makes a fine motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that. 42590298_5_l

“She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices — choices to serve good — when she could.

04_The-Munich-Girl_Blog-Tour-Banner_FINAL“She also made ones that served neither herself nor others very well. Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive? Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? These are themes I wanted to explore.

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nMy thanks to Jenny, and to commenter Eric, who has read The Munich Girl and describes it as a story  “about the human spirit, survival, friendship, love, betrayal, discovery and denial.”

You can find my guest post at the Let Them Read Books Blog:

http://letthemreadbooks.blogspot.com/2016/08/blog-tour-guest-post-munich-girl-by.html#comment-form

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

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8/


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Creativity’s invitation to discovery, and wholeness

IMG_2709Very grateful this week for the opportunity to share a guest post at reviewer Rachel Poli’s blog:

“The experience of writing The Munich Girl showed me that, rather than being something I ‘do,’ writing is a process that acts upon me, strengthening my sense of connection with my own wholeness. My responsibility is to listen and watch, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story.

“Creative process invites me to find a balance between my intuitive mind, which encounters the unlimited and unknown, and rational mind, whose structuring perception helps a story be both cohesive and accessible.

424 “People often hurl themselves at creative process ‘head first’ with the rational mind, trying to force or control things. My experience is that in creative process, intuitive mind is waiting for me to meet it, so that it can help me know and understand in new and wider ways.

“Gertrude Stein expressed this beautifully: ‘You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery.’ She gets straight to the heart of what allows writing process to be a revelatory power, and a bestower, rather than a distraction or plaything.”

Read the rest at: https://rachelpoli.com/2016/05/17/creativitys-invitation-to-discovery-and-wholeness/

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

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

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70And for those so inclined, a Goodreads Giveaway for the book is offered beginning at midnight Wednesday, May 18, through May 27.

Find entry info. at: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/187198-the-munich-girl-a-novel-of-the-legacies-that-outlast-war?utm_medium=email&utm_source=giveaway_approved


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Patience: time to dream of how the light will feel

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Photo: David Campbell / GBCTours.com

Our times, for all the unseeing blur of their speed, require patience, at the heart of it all.

Patience as a means, like a receptive channel, for Love to flow into, and through.

If any one particular wisdom seems to echo through these days, it is what New Hampshire poet Bob Moore conveys here.

This Guest Post is a Guest Poem, like a strong, sustaining infusion of light, for times when winds blow cold. A heart’s reminder of how our relations, the trees, teach us how to wait, to leave room for what the mystery in creation will quietly enter, and unfailingly fill with all that new beginnings need. 5x7pondforphyllis

 

Patience

by Bob Moore

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Image: enochsvision.com

The trees stood still. They knew enough to wait.

They knew that every season wasn’t great

for blooming, so they slowed down, and they dreamed

of what the light would feel like when it streamed

for hours in the warmth of a summer day.

When asked if they felt cold, they wouldn’t say.

But given the chance, they wore a coat of snow,

and waited for the length of days to grow.

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Photo: David Campbell

They watched the squirrels and chipmunks fetch their meals,

but never spoke a word of how it feels

to while away the time and not complain,

or worry if the forest would sustain

their young, or fret about the need for room.

Instead, they held out for a chance to bloom.

 

Reading Bob’s words, I’m reminded of those of W.B. Yeats:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Waiting for our inner and outer senses.


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In a full heart there is room

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Wertheim flowerbox photo: Jon Ring

Just like one of the characters in my novel, my mother had a Leap-Year birthday on February 29. As my sister and I remember her this year, I’m grateful to share a guest post from my sister that carries my mother’s voice — unmistakable to my inner ear, across years and the incomprehensible distance between this life and the next — in ways that leave my heart astonished.

It was captured at a time of unbearable loss, and unfathomable mystery, just the sort of atmospheres in which our mother knew how to accompany us.

 

Guest Post

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

I need my mother.

I’m twelve years too late, but never have I needed her more than at this moment. Her last words to me were, “I’ll always be with you,” though I doubt either of us believed that she was being literal.

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

This is not what I expected, this waiting for Bob, the last time I will see him in this hospital, the last time I will touch his hand, brush his lips with mine. Sometime between when a tinny voice called me in the middle of the night and when I arrived here, he was spirited away from his sterile ICU cubicle (now stripped and eerily empty) to this unknown room I am waiting to enter. The Visitation Room, they call it. Doctors, nurses, orderlies and general helpers bustle past; no one looks at me.

I am sitting in the Dead Zone, an awkward limbo to hospital personnel: the patient is no longer here, but has not yet left the building.

Don’t worry — you know they are getting him ready. And I will be with you.

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Painting, “Movement” by Diane Kirkup

Mum is here – that deliciously throaty voice, Helen Mirren meets Lauren Bacall, her Arden scent wrapping around me like her slender arms.

Yes, I do know, after years as a doctor’s wife,

I know about  “getting him ready.” Removing the tubes and wires, masking the bruises, the torn skin, the paddle burns; erasing that final image, the moment of knowing alarm, from his features. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but not with my Bob being the one readied. Definitely I am looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Let’s go away somewhere for now – pick your happiest memory.

There were so many … let’s go with Turks and Caicos, 1987, before the Glitterati discovered it, when only one gas pump, a Club Med and the most glorious scuba diving in the hemisphere defined it. When torrid and wine-drenched afternoons were spent lying naked under the lazy ceiling fan …

thOK, enough … I am your Mum, after all, and you were a long way from married then … pick another memory.

In Venice, on the Grand Canal, in the bridal suite of the Regina-Europa, toasting Mum’s leap-year birthday at a time when no sane person goes to Venice.

Or in Cairo, having dinner at sunset on the Nile …

Or in Djibouti, where “Bombay Bob” gained fame on our 100-passenger explorer vessel for my dubious lyrics, to the tune of the old “Pretty Baby:”

“If you miss the final shuttle

Say GOODBYE, your cruise is scuttled,

In Djibouti today!”

Naked stuff there, too, yes?

483660_10151501579297641_2073824323_nThere, and everywhere.  Soul mates and best friends and … yes.

“Mrs. Meloni? You may come in now – and my condolences.”

Mum says nothing – For this, I must step forward on my own.

The room is ridiculous, chintz and lavender wallpaper and a rocking chair, as if I am welcoming him to the world, not saying goodbye.

He is clean, pink, scrubbed – no sign of the odious central line that became so infected, all evidence of his cracked chest,  ventilator, bedsores and other bodily harm hidden by an Amish quilt. Terrible music – Mantovani Mediocrity, elevator music – plays softly in the background. Tears, the unbidden, unattractive snotty-nosed kind, threaten.

No, no, no! We don’t cry for bad taste and worse music. Get everyone out of here and be alone with him – capture what you need.

I ask everyone to leave. I kiss his forehead, his earlobe, his neck. I slide off his wedding ring, knowing I will wear it on a chain around my neck, maybe forever. I marvel at his peaceful expression, so different from yesterday’s angst. I long to stroke all of him, but know that those days are over.

Never again will we lie naked together, under a lazy ceiling fan.

Some not-quite-a-nurse person hands me a plastic bag: the dead man’s stuff, no longer needed. Glasses and underwear and a book he never read about Cole Porter.

I think of his spider-quote from EB White: “and I … as spiders do, attach one single thread to you, for my returning …”

Mum

Peggy Wilson Edgerly, 29 Feb. 1920 – 4 Nov. 2000.

You’ve forgotten Antonio, she reminds me;  we both love Antonio Porchia, especially  in a full heart there is room for everything and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.”

I cock my head to one side, holding Bob’s hand gently, wondering what she will say, and if she will come back again.

She blows me away:

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.

 

 A heart full of thanks to writer Tracey Edgerly Meloni

 


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Thanks, Book Club Mom

Ring Phyllis

Who’s that indie author?

I’m grateful and honored to be included in an author feature at Barb Vitelli’s Book Club Mom blog this week:

My palm’s lifeline accurately predicted a lot of different facets to my work life.

I’ve experienced them with people of all ages in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., but through it all, I’ve also always been a writer. 12063397_917792491640690_8686178482501438770_n

For years I did the writing that others needed or wanted done. I’m grateful to have lasted long enough to finally do what my heart wants: get lost with a few mysterious questions in the shaping of book-length fiction.”

Find the post at Book Club Mom:

https://bvitelli2002.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/whos-that-indie-author-phyllis-edgerly-ring/comment-page-1/#comment-1620


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Wars don’t end when the shooting stops

Charles Johann Palmié Munich (Marienplatz) 1907

Charles Johann Palmié Munich (Marienplatz) 1907

I am so thankful to receive response from those who generously share their reading hours with my novel, The Munich Girl.

This week, I received these thoughts and insights from New Hampshire novelist Betsy Woodman and am happy to share them here:

 

A novel of the legacies that outlast war

Wars don’t end when the shooting stops. In the fields of Belgium and Northern France, people are still being killed by accidentally unearthed bombs—from World War I.

We also continue to process World War II—in books, in movies, in the care and tending of monuments—and in our hearts.

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A shot Eva Braun took of her mother looking in a travel agent’s window around 1937.

Along with the more visible damage, war creates mysteries that leave people feeling uneasy and incomplete. Confusion and grief may particularly affect the war brides who leave home with their foreign soldier husbands, and curiosity about their parents’ past may nag at the children of such marriages.

In Ring’s thought-provoking The Munich Girl, Anna Dahlberg is the child of just such a war marriage. Her mother had both British and German heritage; her dad was an American soldier. We first see Anna in 1995, choked with panic in her airplane seat and clutching a handkerchief embroidered with a four-leaf clover. Mysteries abound: what earlier trauma has produced this state? Why is Anna headed for Germany? What will she unearth in her exploration of events that started over half a century ago?

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Eva Braun and her infamous companion.

Foremost in Anna’s mind is the question, was her mother really a close friend of Adolf Hitler’s mistress (and wife for 40 hours), Eva Braun?

The Munich Girl is not always comfortable to read. Hearing Hitler referred to as “Adi” in conversation will make some readers squirm. Until they think—well, even villains have someone who loves them. In life, as in fiction, so much is a matter of point of view. The reader is invited to stretch and understand people like Eva Braun, who don’t usually arouse much sympathy.

Ignorance of one’s past and of the people in it can leave a person feeling frustrated, baffled, and empty. Knowledge and reconnection are the cure. The Munich Girl is about healing, rediscovery, and finding one’s way out of the darkness into a bright future. Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s international perspective and deep sympathy for human beings shine through in this unorthodox and subtle tale.                   ~ Betsy Woodman

716oe2sfVuL._UX250_Find information about Betsy Woodman’s delightful India-based novels –

Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes,

Love Potion Number 10, and

Emeralds Included here:

http://www.amazon.com/Betsy-Woodman/e/B007CLOK7Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1454528756&sr=1-2-ent