Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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A girl, a bat, and a story about courage and compassion

NEW RELEASE

Life delivered a very sweet gift when my children’s book, illustrated by wonderful Maine artist Leona Hosack, came into the world this week, published by Baha’i Publishing.

Jamila finalsketch1

Illustration: Leona Hosack

Jamila Does Not Want A Bat in her House is the story of a little girl frightened by the bat swooping around inside her house, especially when her parents can’t get it outside.

It flies out of their reach, over their heads, and disappears where they can’t see it. Jamila does not like this game of hide-and-seek at ALL.

jamilafinalsketch14

Illustration: Leona Hosack

When she finally sees the bat up close, she discovers that it’s very small, and that it might be as scared as she is.

That’s when she finds the compassion, and the courage, to help the bat, her family, and herself. Along the way, she learns about perseverance, cooperation, and the real power of prayer to help us meet the challenges that can arrive in our lives like unwelcome visitors.

Bats have visited my family’s Victorian house regularly through the years. Over time, as our family solved the challenge of freeing them, we learned a lot, as Jamila does, about the value of empathy, and of working together for the benefit of all (including the bat).

Find more about Jamila Does Not Want A Bat in her House here:

http://www.bahaibookstore.com/Jamila-Does-Not-Want-A-Bat-In-Her-House-P8761.aspx

 


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Using our spiritual intelligence

12694774_1101434059887387_3146455513196508987_o “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: 10273504_10153952761900815_8632154846483842611_n

~       “to look for the related 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.”

11826029_10153048364928951_3905597521307312867_n

Photo: Cary Enoch / enochsvision.com

“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.

Well, what do you know – ?! 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 willingness. WTOEimage.php

 

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

http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

 

Also available in print version from the publisher at: http://grbooks.com/george-ronald-publisher-books/spirituality/with-thine-own-eyes-1380638499


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The unexpected ways that love arrives

8b1eb59397011a81c3ee5df8596ef411My new novel, The Munich Girl, is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was Hitler’s mistress, and later wife, Eva Braun.

But it is really about two realities that matter a great deal to my heart.

The first is the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter in our life. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so.

The second, and particularly fascinating, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in that process, often in highly unexpected ways.

munichgirl_card_frontAs a child in Germany, and when I returned to visit as an adult, I heard little about the years of the Second World War — mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.”

Yet, similar to characters in the story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did.

They found the way to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering.

And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

11072937_833787143357991_5837640068723456300_nI believe that the example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, and that we’ve barely tapped into the spiritual gifts and lessons they offer.

As Elizabeth Sims, novelist and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest noted in her kind comments about the novel:

Love can manifest itself in enigmatic—and unexpected—ways.”

This month, life unfolds a continuing series of wonders about how our human family is going forward together, whether or not war — and hatred — try to assert their presence in the world. I am humbled daily in my encounters here in Germany with those who are seeking a safe life for their children and themselves, and those who have open willing hearts to help them. There is so much learning (and laughter!) on both sides of this engagement and interaction. A new culture of learning together, one might even say. Wertroofs76971_374138912682406_791237199_n

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would write a novel with Hitler’s wife as one of its characters.

Never for a moment did I imagine that the book would come out into the world while I am in Germany. Certainly, I never planned for that.

And never could I have imagined that I would find the themes of that book’s story reflected back to me as the descendants of those who were once in flight for safety here themselves — plus a few who remember the actual experience from childhood — so willingly offer their hands and hearts to the many who are arriving here.

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

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


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The brave journey of becoming

Gleanings about art and life, found here and there:

Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-022A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book ‘means’ thereafter, perforce — both grammatically and actually — whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it.

~ James Branch Cabell

Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.

~ Craig Paterson Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-029

Though I cannot predict what I shall be able to do, I hope to make a few sketches with perhaps something human in them …

 ~ The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – 4 September 1880

… art is a power that should be aimed at developing the soul. If art does not do this job, the abyss that separates us from God is left without a bridge. …

The artist must be blind to distinctions between ‘recognized’ and ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age. He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone.       ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Artwork by Wassily Kandinsky


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At the shores of discovery

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.

~ Gertrude Stein

I’m always searching for descriptions of what writing process feels like at its most essential level, and haven’t found any that describe it better than Gertrude Stein does here.

She’s gone straight to the heart of what allows writing process to be a revelatory power, and a bestower, rather than a distraction or plaything. The difference between these is a willing surrender into seeking and unknowing, rather than a presumed knowledge of any kind. The fact that what she observes about the experience of writing also applies to that of living makes her simple truth seem even more sublime.

As she suggests, my experience of writing is of something to be approached on the only terms it truly allows – the terms of discovery. I know that I’m immersed back in that process when things begin to strike with notes my inner ear can hear, when my crown and scalp suddenly tingle.

Before I reach that however, there’s the unavoidable surrender to that great blank that seems that it will never yield, no matter how I push on or try to break through it. And that is because I’m the one who’s meant to do the yielding.

Recognizing this — rather early, thankfully — is probably the reason I’ve continued writing at all. It was reinforced for me one afternoon while I swam with a friend, and remembered that in order to even be able to do this, I must meet the water where it is. I don’t take hold of it or try to manage it, but rather yield to and work with the way it envelops and supports me.

Every aspect of the story in my novel, The Munich Girl, every theme, revelation, and scene, has come to meet me in a similar way when I was ready to receive it, after I had immersed myself in its atmosphere and waited, listening, watching. Trusting. Eva_Braun_by_PrinzessinHeinrike

Believing that I “know” anything about a story before it has fully shown itself is the only “writer’s block” I’ve ever placed in my own way. “Save it for the page,” one character tells another about the experience of writing. “You know that it will lose its edge — its charge — if you don’t.” Save yourself, your willingness to not know, for what the page — or the day — will reveal, is how I might express that today.

Every story I’ve carried through to completion began with seeing or hearing something in the daily noise of life that stayed with me and took root inside, or was like a silent presence that followed me home. Just as with an animal for whom we would offer a home, it requires that a relationship of mutual trust be built.

Part of that trust for the soul who surrenders to creative process is that we will be met by what we are able to receive, and to integrate, on the deepest levels. A swimmer flailing in fear will not find herself very well supported by the water, even though its quality of buoyancy is always there. We learn to swim by learning to respect the qualities of the water, and shape our own ability to working with it. In a way, we become one with it. Creative process, when met with regard and respect, brings a very similar kind of connection with our own wholeness, and that of the whole world.


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Families who learn that home is the whole world

My sister-in-law, Happy, and I share a piece of personal history: If it weren’t for war, we might never have been born, let alone been Americans. In my case, a U.S. Army officer fell for a British girl who’d barely survived the Blitz, Happy’s life began in Vietnam, in the midst of a whole other war.

Both of our fathers were Army career men. But while my experience of military family holds memories that tend toward nostalgia, Happy, who’s watched her husband deploy to Iraq, and, multiple times, to Afghanistan, experiences military life in more current and challenging ways.

It’s part of a subculture many know little about, which I finally came to recognize as my own when I saw Kris Kristofferson’s film, Brats: Our Journey Home, about growing up military. All of those years of seeing myself as a citizen of the world yet feeling like a misfit when I came back to the States suddenly made sense. Like any overseas living, the military takes you out of the culture you’ve known, immerses you in situations where you must find ways to get along with others then once you return “home”, things can never be quite the same, Our shared experience of military-family life in childhood is unquestionably a foundation in the bond my husband and I share. So are whole perspectives and ways of being that this experience forged in us. index

Happy once told me that gender equality is a de facto reality in military families because when your spouse is away for months at a time, every need your family faces comes down to you. Back in the days when my mother kept the home fires burning — or, more accurately, kept starting new ones in different places, that inescapable pattern of military life – she relied on the same thing that Happy does: an indomitable sense of humor. It’s vital in a life fraught with potentially immense ups and downs. It’s also proof that no matter what life throws your way, the stable stance of a good nature helps you keep level ground beneath your feet.

Each time Happy’s husband Will has deployed, she hasn’t wanted to answer the phone. She’s already had to live through the latest version of a harrowing conversation about what they’ll do if he doesn’t return. I remember my mother shuddering when a U.S. Army staff car arrived in our neighborhood, heading for someone’s home with ghastly news. You felt the most awful combination of relief and survivor’s guilt as it passed you by.

On the other end are the anguished days between that call that tells you the deployed family member is coming home at last and the day they actually arrive. It would almost be easier not to know, for the uncertain fear that torments you during those tenuous days, Happy says.

10429486_814672575277618_1438444084807783482_n

Peden Barracks, Wertheim, Germany, circa 1960s. Once, the gateway to “home”, for my family.

The first night the refrigerator’s icemaker started making funny noises, her husband’s response from the floor above was a regular recon mission as he took the stairs slowly one at a time, freezing in place and braced for action on each one. Happy learned early never to climb into bed after he’s already asleep. He can’t help the inevitable fight-or-flight reaction that months of constant vigilance and inadequate sleep have trained into him. She doesn’t want to put him in a position like that. She knows how badly he feels afterward.

Families like hers make sacrifices while their loved one is in active service, and continue to make them long afterward. Many bide with situations a lot of us couldn’t begin to tolerate, and often do it gracefully and willingly. A lot of them don’t have enough money, while the service they’re rendering is truly immeasurable.

Military commissaries once had a slogan printed on their grocery bags that said: “Military spouse — the hardest job in the military.” Through the years and now, the generations, I find these to be some of the bravest and most generous people I know. LAFS6377506

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.

Find more about the book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details/dp/1931847673/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1FYGVM9S5BGBZH2TJHR4


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Spiritual intelligence and subtleties of truth

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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:

http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

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