Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The gifts of listening, watching; waiting

Ten years ago, I made a bid on an eBay item that would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time.

Something within me was strongly drawn to it, though I didn’t yet understand why. It was a portrait of Eva Braun drawn by an artist who never gained acclaim for his work — though his infamous name is branded on history forever. Eva Braun chose to die with him 73 years ago this spring.

That portrait is at the heart of everything that became a part of my latest novel’s story, set largely in the Germany of World War II.

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, I feel, is to listen and watch, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story.

Albert Einstein described the intuitive mind as “a sacred gift” and the rational mind as “a faithful servant.” We have, he said, “created a society that honors the servant, and has forgotten the gift.”

Creative process invites me to find a balance between that intuitive mind, which encounters the unlimited and the unknown, and my rational mind, whose tendency toward structure is what ensures that a story will be cohesive and accessible.

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.

The difference, for me, is a willing surrender into seeking and unknowing, rather than a presumed knowledge of any kind.

I know I’m immersed in that when things begin to strike with notes my inner ear can hear, when my crown and scalp suddenly tingle. But first, I must surrender to a great blankness that can seem as though it will never yield, no matter how I push or try to break through it.

And that is because I’m the one who’s meant to do the yielding, so that intuitive mind can impart its secrets to me.

This was reinforced for me one afternoon while I swam with a friend, and recognized that in order to swim, I must meet the water on its terms. I must yield to and merge with the way it envelops and supports me.

On the pathway that the portrait of Eva Braun opened before me, every aspect of the story in The Munich Girl, every theme, revelation, and scene, came 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.

Believing that I “know” anything about a story before it has fully shown itself is the only “writer’s block” I’ve ever created for myself. When I yield to and receive what intuitive mind wants to offer in the creative process, I am met by what I’m able to receive and integrate on the deepest levels.

I’ve come to believe that the rational mind serves best when it’s not trying to lead, or force, but to follow, when we’re seeking to discover what we don’t yet know. When we are willing to do that, the revelations that arrive via our intuitive mind will often surprise and delight us, both because they feel so inevitable, and also because they are beyond anything that rational mind, whose scope is confined only to previous experience, could imagine or predict.

The magic in the process is that when we open up to meeting the greater possibilities of what we don’t yet know, we’ll be repeatedly astonished that what comes to meet us is disarmingly precise, unfathomably generous, and remarkably right.

Find more about The Munich Girl at https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987 .

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So great a favor

 

Photo: Kathy Gilman

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free.

The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

I have lots of wonderful company these days, as I ponder the mysteries of inspiration and creative process while I also pursue some new writing work. The pathway of The Munich Girl was an eight-year journey of discovery that always reinforced the utter uselessness of expectations. It also revealed the surprising value of open-hearted expectancy. This newest work is doing much the same.

As I reread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I’m reminded that: “ … When you walk a path you love, there is something deeper calling you forward on it, like a beautiful question that can never be answered. In the hard times you may turn away from it, but a part of you knows you’ll always turn back because you can’t give up on what you love, even if you try.”

Author Toko-pa Turner, who has recently released a soul-nourishing book called Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, has shared some wise words about creative process:

“In the end, I think the real work is not finding inspiration, but attuning to it. So when I’m not feeling inspired, I know somewhere along the line I’ve been distancing myself from life.

“This feeling of being separate from ‘something greater’ is usually brought about by numbing habits; so I’ll take myself to the forest and let my senses be reawoken and warmed back to life. I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.”

Hers is a reminder of just how abundant grace and guidance are, and how they long for us to meet them. Both nature and artistic life are a part of that worship.

Image: Judy Wright

As the words of St. Francis declare:

“Such love does the sky now pour, that whenever I stand in a field, I have to wring out the light when I get home.”

Lest I think myself unworthy to receive, especially a bestowal that is so abundant, in a book called Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Baha urges:

“Try with all your hearts to be willing channels for God’s Bounty. For I say unto you that He has chosen you to be His messengers of love throughout the world, to be His bearers of spiritual gifts to man, to be the means of spreading unity and concord on the earth. Thank God with all your hearts that such a privilege has been given unto you. For a life devoted to praise is not too long in which to thank God for such a favor.”

 

 

 


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Following the spiritual breadcrumbs

As I revisit themes from my novel, The Munich Girl, during my travels in Europe over these next weeks, I am mining, inwardly, for facets of my experience in writing that book that have been calling –and loudly — for quite some time now.

Doesn’t matter whether I’m awake or asleep, they mean business, and they’re not going away. What they want even appeared like a sign on a wall in a dream: memoir.

This is always the point at which I hear a voice in my head, with a mild British accent, asking, “Whatever bloody for?” It chimed in frequently over the nearly nine years that The Munich Girl came into being. The process of that book showed me that if I didn’t flinch or back away from that question but met it head-on, that voice frequently shifted to something like, “Oh, right, then,” and actually became a helpful ally.

As a writer, I have actively avoided the prospect of memoir for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is public embarrassment. (“Who cares?” is an effective deterrent, too.) Some might argue that I’ve already gotten the embarrassment part out of the way, perhaps more than once, and I wouldn’t disagree.

When I finally understood enough about the purpose of memoir as focusing in and reflecting about a specific stage or aspect of personal experience, I had a humbling recognition. The fact is, in much the way creative process, in all its mystery, delivered every part of the novel’s story when I was willing to let it lead, it offered up, at the same time, a cache of memoir material. It was like those dual-action machines gaining popularity in Europe that both wash and dry your clothes — it had practically outlined the next book for me.

If I had the heart, and will, to follow the trail again. “Spiritual breadcrumbs,” one friend calls this, adding boldly, “Are you going to be so ungrateful as to let them go to waste?”

I hadn’t planned to write a memoir any more than I had a novel that includes Hitler’s wife . But just as the environs of that story did, something is acting on me in a way I’ve given up trying to explain, but absolutely cannot deny.  As I have more conversations with readers of The Munich Girl, encounter the deep questions they ask and the observations they make after living in the book for a time, the following passage, which played a big part in the emotional themes of the novel, is right back in front of me for re-examination.

Without a doubt, I’ll let it lead again, whatever the outcome, because my heart knows it’s too big a piece of our current dilemmas in this world — too universal a one — not to heed, and honor.

We are all of us searching for love, for the intimacy, closeness, tenderness we may remember from when we were in our mother’s arms or may have glimpsed in a lover’s embrace.

Or we may know it just as a sense of something we always wanted, something missing from our life.

This love is at the core of our being, and yet we search for it everywhere, so often causing our self pain in the process, losing our way, becoming entangled in our desires and all our images of love.

Then, one day, something makes us turn away from the outer world to seek this truth within us.

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


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Writing’s invitation to wholeness

Eva Braun taking her love of animals to an extreme.

I’m very grateful to share a guest post at the creative blog of writer Nicola Auckland.

Nicola was one of the very first to read and review my novel, The Munich Girl, and offer insightful feedback about it.

Her Sometimes Stellar Storyteller blog features delightful Six Word Story challenges, and explores one of my favorite things — creative process.

As she hosts me this week, I’ve done my best to address some of my own experience with it:

“Nine years ago, I made a bid on an eBay item that would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time.

“Something within me was strongly drawn to it, though I didn’t yet understand why. It was a portrait of Eva Braun drawn by an artist who never gained acclaim for his work — though his infamous name is branded on history forever. Eva Braun chose to die with him 72 years ago this spring.

“That portrait is at the heart of everything that became a part of my latest novel’s story, set largely in the Germany of World War II. 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, I feel, is to listen and watch, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story.

“Albert Einstein described the intuitive mind as ‘a sacred gift’ and the rational mind as ‘a faithful servant.’ We have, he said, ‘created a society that honors the servant, and has forgotten the gift.’ ”

READ THE WHOLE POST AT:

Stellar Guest Post from Phyllis Ring

 

 


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A Lover of Books hosts The Munich Girl

Grateful to Sonya Alford for including my Guest Post at her A Lover of Books Blog this week:

tumblr_m7n6ytThHG1rp2skqo1_500Not even in extra-large versions of my wildest dreams did I imagine I would write a novel in which Hitler’s wife is a character.

The Munich Girl is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was the megalomaniac’s mistress — later wife — Eva Braun.

Anna, my novel’s protagonist, grew up eating most family meals under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Braun.

This baffling situation has never been explained, other than that the portrait is a sort of emblem for her father of the Allies’ triumph over the evils of the Third Reich. e926fb293eafa51b9dded9b53301f087

Everything in Anna’s life is turned upside-down when she discovers that her mother had a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, and that the portrait is a key to unwrapping all of the other secrets this enfolds.

Read the rest at: https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/guest-post-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring/

 

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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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Dancing with what is “impossible-to-predict”

Hot New Releases in Cultural Heritage Fiction

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The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legac...


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The beginnings in the endings

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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;

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