Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


The light of our kindness vanquishes the dark

Photos courtesy of David Campbell / http://gbctours.com/


As Winter overtakes my days, one book reviewer’s words continue to strike a chord:

 “One of the things I also enjoyed was that this story took place in a kind world, with supportive and loving folks, despite their past difficulties, even with each other.”

This is the reason that I write –  from the belief that this is the world that all of our hearts want – and that all of our hearts are capable of helping to bring it into being.

Our minds can be reinforced in a thousand ways to believe that this is unrealistic and impossible.

But our hearts know so very much better. They always hold the key to that kinder world they can envision, with love.

Perhaps this is what Carl Jung was pointing to in these words:

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence
is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.

It seems that “kindling a light of meaning” is inextricably linked with compassion, which author Christine DeLorey recently defined as “love of life.”

Our experience of life in these times can feel harsh and cold and unyielding. Those are the times when our hearts can feel stricken, fearful, confounded.

But like the sun, even in winter, there is always, each day, that waiting possibility of “radiating light throughout the world and illuminating your own darknesses” so that “your virtue becomes a sanctuary for yourself and all beings.”

Those words of Lao Tzu’s, shared a long time ago, capture the timeless essence conveyed in what we remember in every new Season of Light: the light does, indeed, shine forth most brightly, unmistakably, in darkness.



The foundation of all learning


“We need mystery. Creator in her wisdom knew this.

Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility is the foundation of all learning.

So we do not seek to unravel this. We honour it by letting it be that way forever.”

Quote of a grandmother explaining The Great Mystery of the universe to her grandson.

~ Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world.

Only then is life whole.

 ~ Carl Jung


When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

 ~ G. K. Chesterton 

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

 ~ William James


Finding our place in the family of things


Photo: Image from Star Island, Lesley Fowler

In the experience of writing fiction, I become captivated by place.

Sometimes, it is among the very first of the story’s “characters” to appear.

In the process of writing The Munich Girl, I’ve accumulated four journals and three photo-album-style scrapbooks. I’ve done this last, I suspect, because the best-known of the novel’s characters, Eva Braun, was a passionate photographer.

Yet so many of the images and passages recorded in those journals and albums are about the essence of places.


Alte Rathaus, Wertheim, Germany

I imagine that I’m drawn to the spirit of places, which I have been since my earliest memories (they go back as far as age 3, possibly a little earlier)  because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote about what the Sahara Desert taught him:

“Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.”

Place is an essential element of the story, of course.


Hexen Haus, Wertheim, Germany

As some have said, often in a book’s story, place is also character, or a facet of the story that reveals aspects of character.

An Aboriginal proverb observes:

“We are all visitors to this time, this place.

We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home. “

Along the way, the places that we pass through have a lot to reveal to us.


Photo: Berchtesgaden, Germany, David Campbell.

Carl Jung lived nearly half of his life in a home he built in the village of Bolligen located along the northern shore of Lake Zurich, Switzerland. In this place, to which he felt particularly drawn, Jung wrote about his many sensory experiences published in his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:


Photo: Kehlstein Haus, David Campbell.

“At Bolligen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself …

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons …

In Bolligen, silence surrounds me almost audibly, and I live ‘in modest harmony’ with nature.”

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Page from Eva Braun photo album.

In “The Power of Place,” writer Linda Sechrist has written: “Since we personally interpret the qualities, values, and spaces that make a place special in the context of other places, childhood experiences of where we are born and grow up, as well as the places where we spent our childhood summers, are the well of memories from which we most frequently draw.

“This relationship is one that Eudora Alice Welty suggests we, in the words of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, carry within ourselves as ‘postage stamps of native soil.’

“Welty wrote, ‘It is the memory of this place that nurtures us with identity and special strength and it is to this place that each of us goes to find the clearest, deepest identity of ourselves.’ ” DCGanse996728_10151804325191802_146979027_n

In her poem, “Wild Geese,” poet Mary Oliver sums this up eloquently:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

  ~ from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

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


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Deciding the life we live

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Photo: Kathy Gilman


Justice is what love looks like in public.

 ~ Dr. Cornel West

When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard,” I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”


Photo: Karen Olin Darling

~ Sydney J. Harris

Best work we can do on ourselves is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.

~ Carl Jung

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

~ Kahlil Gibran

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.


Photo: Nelson Ashberger

~ Flora Whittemore

Wisdom is instinct in body, emotion in heart, knowledge in mind and intuition in spirit.

~ Ian Lawton

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

~ William James

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The courage to relinquish certainties

Gleanings found here and there:

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup

Relinquish what is without. Cultivate what is within. Live for your centre, not your senses.

~ Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns


Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

~ Erich Fromm

There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”   ~ Carl Jung

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With our own eyes, and our own hearts

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Art by Lisa Congdon from “Whatever You Are, Be a Good One.” Learn more about her work here: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/04/01/whatever-you-are-be-a-good-one-lisa-congdon/


Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.

~ Carl Jung

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

~ Albert Einstein

If you desire faith, then you have faith enough.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Would it surprise you to learn that optimism is not a synonym for positivity, nor an opposite of negativity? Optimism transcends both. … Being optimistic ultimately means that an individual expects the best possible outcome from any situation. Such a person’s mindset and heart-set responds to whatever arises in the moment—uplifting or challenging—knowing that within it is a grace, an opportunity for their soul’s evolutionary progress.

Have you caught it yet?

~ Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith 


What is the freedom and power of seeing and understanding with our own eyes?

Learn more about the gifts of this divine possibility at:


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Contradiction: pathway beyond confines of ego


Photo: Saffron Moser

I thank Jeannie Zandi for the following excerpt from Parabola magazine of an interview with Helen M. Luke, a Jungian counselor, writer, and frequent contributor to the magazine.

The interview focused on the power and possibilities of one of the most challenging matters for human nature: embracing contradictions:

Interviewer LORRAINE KISLEY: I wonder if there is a more unnatural act than welcoming contradiction. It seems so difficult.

HELEN M. LUKE: An extremely difficult act. But it is the essential one.

L.K. It’s the last thing one wishes to undergo, the experience of internal contradiction.


Photo: Saffron Moser

H.L. Unless we live all our lives in the torment of the contradictions, as C.G. Jung insists, then we’re not human. We can’t become whole. If you’re stuck, and you don’t know what to do, stuck between two opposites, and you allow them each to live within you, then a small transformation of the ego takes place. It becomes related to the Self instead of identifying with it.

L.K. It seems that this is perhaps one of the paths toward the almost impossible idea that one could relate to the ego objectively. The bearing of contradiction is a kind of tool which pries apart the identification with the ego.

H.L. Yes, indeed, it is so.

L.K. An indirect method, but it seems to have that effect.

H.L. Jung says–as I’ve quoted already–“God becomes manifest in the human act of reflection.” That is to say, our God images are what we see in our mirrors. Narcissus’ God image was his own ego. But the Zen mirror, which they say must be utterly free of dust, reveals the experience of the whole. That’s the whole point of Zen, isn’t it? All the contradictions–you can’t put it into words at all. It’s a sudden breakthrough.

L.K. They use contradictions as a tool, also.China3.2009 022

H.L. Very much so. All their koans are contradictions unsolvable by reason. As I was going on to say, you have a conflict, you reflect, you simply bear it, and suddenly you glimpse the truth which unites the opposites; it breaks through. You are then released to act. And then you must not stop. That’s what we get into all the time, isn’t it? We think we’ve had a breakthrough, and now everything is going to be lovely and we’re going to feel good. But on the contrary, you must then start again on the next conflict, quite soon. So that one has to learn to rejoice in the conflict. Which doesn’t mean be happy!

Excerpted from Helen M. Luke in conversation with Lorraine Kisley from “The Only Freedom,” Parabola magazine, Summer, Volume XI, Number 2, “Mirrors,” 1986. Order this issue here › http://bit.ly/1i8PFdU

Learn more about Jeannie Zandi’s work at http://www.jeanniezandi.com/.