Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The Freedom of Not Fighting

With the return of each day’s light comes an invitation to investigate, throughout the span of that day, rather than imitate the past.

Do I accept it, and apply myself to what it invites?

It arrives in a world of imperfection, one that can easily draw negative reactions from my lower nature, which must find its way in that world.

Autumn Landscape with Four Trees – Vincent van Gogh

Yet I’ve surely had opportunity to learn that dwelling on imperfections, berating myself or others for them, serves only to increase my perception of them.

It’s a circle of suffering I draw for myself. It saps my time, energy, and attention (those aspects of life over which I have choice) when I could instead offer them for something that is always calling, if softly, at times: the building of the good that I’m invited into each day.

Responding to that call, I discover how very much there is to become aware of and relinquish—how much preoccupation with negativity surrounds my life and can fill my thoughts and absorb my personal resources.

This, in many lives, is the debilitating presence of blind imitation of the past, including the kind of thinking that was born in earlier, fearful experiences and has led to attitudes, behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that have no basis in reality—nor, indeed, anywhere near it.

 

My encounter with imperfection extends an invitation, too—one urging me to recognize and accept how much I don’t know, or can’t change, yet I can always discover the limitless possibilities of love in the most essential kind of response I’ve been designed and equipped to make. Rather than exercising my survival-driven instinctual reaction to fight imperfection, or try to escape it, I can turn toward an innate, indwelling response—the possibility of it—that is better-aligned with the purpose for which I’ve been created.

As it invites me into the freedom of not fighting any one or any thing (including myself), it also reminds that every human interaction (including with myself) is either an act of giving or an act of receiving. By asking questions that encompass both giving and receiving, my sensitivity to my own true needs and those of others is increased daily. Each part of this questioning is equally important, because giving depends on someone willing and capable of receiving from me, and receiving depends on someone willing and capable of giving to me.

WTOEimage.phpThe following two service questions were created as a way to help us focus on and clarify reality for ourselves in the course of the countless decisions we are called upon to make each day. Those junctures of possibility arrive moment by moment, and as I seek to draw away from blind imitation of the past toward the true investigation of my own and others’ deepest reality, I return to these questions again and again:

  1. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that the other person is capable of receiving?
  2. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that the other person is capable of giving?

Adapted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

More information: http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I


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Building the good, together

The castle above my childhood hometown of Wertheim

A highlight for me, 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.

Eva Braun in the 1940s

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.

I would never have imagined that 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.

Reader N. Augusta Vincent

“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.

Rather, 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. It also explores how those who do not fully face and own all aspects of their own life and self often project onto, even demonize others.

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.

Artwork: Judy Wright

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.

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.

Eva Braun age 17, the year she met Hitler

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.”

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.

When the process of this writing this novel 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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Fence post: Now available on Audible

 

I am thrilled that my novel, Snow Fence Road, is now also available as an audio book on Audible, just in time for summer reading lists.

Narrator Sheri Beth Dusek has done a wonderful job of capturing the heart and spirit of the book.

To celebrate, the book’s Kindle version is discounted from May 18-25 — and the new audio book is there on the same page:

https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Fence-Road-Phyllis-Edgerly-ebook/dp/B00DDVB106/

I sketched down Snow Fence Road in my 30s after a vivid dream about the trauma that shatters its hero’s life, then spent the next 20 years writing nonfiction.

Finally I realized after half a century of life that what I want most is to explore the real power of relationships – their healing power. And if they are the gold on life’s path, fiction is all about them.

There are the relationships that the characters reveal to the writer, and the ones that writers and readers develop with them – and ourselves – as we connect with their story. Hearing that characters remain with readers like enduring friends is a wondrous gift. Yet the only reason this book exists is that the characters stayed with me for so long, and reflected to me what I was learning about giving and receiving love.

Once a rootless military kid, I find that place becomes a living part of story, for me. When readers say Snow Fence Road feels like an actual visit to Maine, I’m grateful because this place I love so much has always felt like a “fully-developed character”, to me. Small-town life there, as in the story, is human-scale. That’s the one that helps us learn the most about others, and ourselves, I think.

As it follows the developing relationship between Tess Johansen and hard-tested loner, Evan Marston, both ravaged by grief and gun-shy about love, this story is categorized as romance. But it probably seems a whole other country from what many perceive romantic fiction to be today. It’s a love story, and about relationship, but I’m always most interested in what transcends the impermanent, what helps hearts open, and heal, and reach the greatest potential for which they’re created.

Snow Fence Road aims at more emotional and spiritual themes because in the many wounded hearts I’ve encountered, no amount of physical love or attraction ever healed or helped them trust again, but real love did. Real, lasting love requires accepting, and sharing, vulnerability, which in itself can be a miraculous and eternal kind of beauty.

This story also explores the weight of secrets — why we keep them, when they drain our life away; when there isn’t even need to, though shame and guilt convince us otherwise. We learn to keep secrets to avoid vulnerability, then never get to know what real intimacy is.

While a lot of current writing may focus on pain and horror and give center stage to the fear these generate, I think there are higher, kinder, stronger visions to reach for. My goal is always to highlight the beauty and meaning that can exalt human lives.

When people ask me now, “Why do you write?” I may have finally found an answer, the same reason I get up each day: for the increase and advance of the one thing that lasts — the love that brings us home to our own hearts.

It’s a process that began one morning a long time ago when a dream’s sorrow lingered with me, and I began to love and listen to people I will never meet, but who became as real for me as the pages on which their story is printed now.

Find Snow Fence Road at: https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Fence-Road-Phyllis-Edgerly-ebook/dp/B00DDVB106/

A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets- the kind only the miracle of new love can heal.


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Patience a key on the soul’s map

Photo: David Campbell / GBCTours.com

It was a turning point when I realized that patience isn’t something I “should” cultivate or practice, but a bearer of grace and mystery that deserves to be warmly welcomed into my life.

More things require — demand — it in my days now. Much like the better-informed choices that can help preserve my physical well-being, patience is too vital a resource to overlook in these rapidly changing days.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

When I open to patience like a flower, receive its remedy, and practice restraint with the personal tendencies that want to trample it underfoot, I feel protected from things that could become stressors and irritants. Eventually, many of them stop hitting my inner radar screen at all, which suggests that, without patience, those previously mentioned tendencies actually go looking for unhelpful things. Patience is a key that opens a door that leads beyond them.

Of course, intercepting those tendencies often leads to encountering feelings, ones that the tendencies seem determined to avoid. That’s when I remember that patience, when welcomed like a kind, benevolent friend, rekindles something I love very much: a quiet, steady believing feeling that things are going to turn out as they need to, and all is well. The whole experience of living feels reassuring. Soul-sized, from a liberating overall perspective, rather than the ruts those old tendencies of mental habit might drag me through. They won’t stop trying to drag me there, but I don’t have to go.

Recently, someone who works hard, does a lot to help others, and has challenges, just like the rest of us, stood beside me and breathed, “I have a good life.”

It was like a blessing. It definitely felt like words that come from the other side of that door that patience, with its resulting assurance, invites us through.

John O’Donohue expressed this kind reality beautifully:

“The soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

 


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Going the distance, staying the course

Sometimes, as one friend has described, we’re simply “riding the donkey”. Decades ago, this was how one got from one place to the next and in many places, it still is.

It could be tedious. It can be tiresome, taxing of heart and testing of patience — even of confidence and faith, when the going is especially slow. Eventually, inevitably we all face such biding and abiding (ask any pregnant mother). Ideally, we make peace with it, yield to receiving what it brings – what our own ideas and designs often chafe against.

A heroine of mine, Marion Jack, learned a lot about this. When I need inspiration for staying the course, going the distance, perhaps when I most want to quit, I remember what her life demonstrates about accepting this price of some of life’s most valuable outcomes, even though our urge may be to flee, dodge, or fight.

Marion Jack

Marion stayed the course, consciously, willingly in very trying times, and places. One was Nazi-occupied, and filled with treachery. She could have left – she had opportunity. She chose to stay for others’ sake, and for commitments she’d made.

“As I have the capacity of suffering much, so I also enjoy much,” she once observed. She also noted with real pleasure, “It seems wonderful, what one can do without.”

Other words of hers hit close to home: “Each one has his own little work to fill in the great scheme of things. Mine seems to be to work quietly in new fields or in assisting the real [workers]. So I always think it wisest to try and do one’s own work and not think of attempting the line of other people.”

She was well-experienced with riding life’s donkey. I imagine her as thankful for the steps it covered on her behalf, however much the movement may have sometimes seemed backward. Or, at best, like treading in place.

She didn’t forget that, whatever circumstances felt like around her, she was being carried. And no matter what she could see, things were advancing. Often, the biggest of those was love, just as the real means of their advance was love, too.

She knew from experience that the pace that took, even when it resembled a donkey’s, was always exactly right.


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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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In the borderlands

strasbourgI recently returned to Europe for the first time since the release of my novel, The Munich Girl. Though my husband and I travel there a lot, this trip’s itinerary included places we’ve seldom or never visited.

Our route followed the natural border of the Rhine River, which means we repeatedly encountered those curious amalgamations of cuisine, culture, architectural styles, and attitudes that occur along divisions that humans decide ought to exist simply because geography seems to suggest them.

photo-2In the building dwarfed by its neighbors in the photo to the right, we, in a scene like something out of The Pink Panther, spoke three languages with the server in the course of his taking our order. As we all tried to accommodate each other, one or more of us kept shifting to a new one at exactly the wrong time. But I think we all appreciated the spirit of our intent.

We still wound up with some of the best Alsatian cooking I’ve had in a long time, generous with onions, cheese, and light buttery pastry I’ve found nowhere else.

833602_Food-KitchenWise-Alsatian-OThis section of France’s border with Germany is long-accustomed to shifting back and forth between nationalities and languages. As our tour guide explained why it is that even the youngest schoolchildren here have their classes in at least three languages, she described how, between world wars and other upheavals, her grandfather’s nationality changed four times in his 20th-century lifetime, though he never moved from his home city.

Much like clouds and changes in the weather, political insistence and other demands that humans impose on each other can come and go, often with great extremes. Within individual lives, challenges can arise in this way, too.

thHow we face and meet our choices — and what that helps us become — seems the vital focus in it all, however dire or uncertain things may appear.

And in that experience, though we walk the path of our individual lives alone, we also seem inextricably linked. This is one of the themes that I hope the story of The Munich Girl manages to convey.

Traveling along the borderlands of this river reminded me that navigating shifts in our circumstances is one of the main opportunities we receive to hone and develop some particularly pleasing qualities. I encountered them over and over in our stops along this route: a spirit of acceptance, flexibility, adaptability. Resilience. Relaxed openness. Even, delightfully, a kind of good-humored playfulness.

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Image: Charity Elise Designs / Charity Pabst-Hofert

It was as if over time, through all of that practice with change, people have adopted something of the flow that the river embodies.

“Thou wast created to bear and endure,” one passage from Baha’i writings states, while another declares that we are “created for happiness.”

These might sometimes seem nearly contradictory.

Perhaps the people I observed as I traveled have begun to reconcile what joy and hardship have to show us when we don’t impose a border between them; learned to understand that, like the waters of the river, each comes and goes, like the clouds and waters — and even invading armies.

But we get to decide how we embrace and anchor our own happiness.

 


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The country they call life

 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

 

Treasured words from Rainer Maria Rilke:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear: 10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_o

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke


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The water seeks the thirsty one

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Photo: D. Kirkup Jewelry Designs

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Biding in a refuge of Rumi:

 

Don’t be sad! Because God sends hope in the most desperate moments.

Don’t forget, the heaviest rain comes out of the darkest clouds.

 

Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our heart.

As you live Deeper in the Heart, the Mirror gets clearer and cleaner.

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Photo: Lara Kearns

 

Surrender.

 

Be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

 

Try something different –

Surrender.

 

Not only the thirsty seek the water,

the water as well seeks the thirsty.

 

I open the window

and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Rumi


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Accepting the pace life wants

Sometimes, as one friend has described, we’re simply “riding the donkey”.

Decades ago, this was how one got from one place to the next and in many places, it still is. It could be tedious. It can be tiresome, taxing of heart and testing of patience — even of confidence and faith, when the going is especially slow.

Eventually, inevitably we all face such biding and abiding (ask any pregnant mother). Ideally, we make peace with it, yield to receiving what it brings – what our own ideas and designs often chafe against.

mjackA heroine of mine, Marion Jack, learned a lot about this. When I need inspiration for staying the course, going the distance, perhaps when I most want to quit, I remember what her life demonstrates about accepting this price of some of life’s most valuable outcomes, even though our urge may be to flee, dodge, or fight.

 Marion stayed the course, consciously, willingly in very trying times, and places. One was Nazi-occupied, and filled with treachery. She could have left – she had opportunity. She chose to stay for others’ sake, and for commitments she’d made.

“As I have the capacity of suffering much, so I also enjoy much,” she once observed. She also noted with real pleasure, “It seems wonderful, what one can do without.”

Other words of hers hit close to home: “Each one has his own little work to fill in the great scheme of things. Mine seems to be to work quietly in new fields or in assisting the real [workers]. So I always think it wisest to try and do one’s own work and not think of attempting the line of other people.”

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Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

She was well-experienced with riding life’s donkey. I imagine her as thankful for the steps it covered on her behalf, however much the movement may have sometimes seemed backward. Or, at best, like treading in place.

She didn’t forget that, whatever circumstances felt like around her, she was being carried, moved — even led. And no matter what she could or could not see, things were advancing.

Often, the biggest of those was love, just as the real means of their advance was love, too. She knew from experience that the pace that took, even when it resembled a donkey’s, was always exactly right.