Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


1 Comment

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.

Advertisements


4 Comments

The water seeks the thirsty one

10259918_685768931566288_5884985949559585494_n

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.

11805699_10155840072640181_725430136_n

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


2 Comments

The grace of wild mercy

photo 2

Quilt: Joan Haskell

As I share themes from my new novel The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War during my travels in Europe this month, the following two passages of inspiring thought seem especially relevant:

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

photo 1

Quilt: Joan Haskell

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. …

To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle.

Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace.

Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.

 ~ Terry Tempest Williams

 

Find more about The Munich Girl, available again soon, at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448266057&sr=8-1&keywords=the+munich+girl

 

 


5 Comments

The many kinds of homecomings

11902260_1042258072453337_5678325896717186853_n

 

QUICK UPDATE: She was here, then she was gone.

Yes, THE MUNICH GIRL is in process of becoming a published book, an interesting process for this author working with a book designer, with an ocean between us, at present! And I thought I already knew what big learning curves looked like. Sometimes, whole extra curves get thrown into the mix.

For those with any questions about the book, please feel free to email me at the address at the bottom here. For those awaiting your orders, know that they will come! 🙂

Yesterday, my husband and I had the opportunity — privilege – to be of some small service to a family of 16 from Syria as they made their way by train from my former hometown in Germany to Frankfurt. I think, if I am fair, that no matter what may transpire in a day, I’m going to have to search very hard to find what I could call problems in this life I’ve been given. Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog post:

I have the opportunity to spend time in Germany just as my novel, The Munich Girl, comes full-circle.

In the weeks I spent reading the book’s galleys, the scenes drew me back to settings I will carry with me always, whether as part of my inner geography, or because they are actual locations in which the story takes place. Many of these, from cobblestone passageways to Alpine vistas, tiny villages to market squares filled with symphonies of church bells, are ones in which I did the actual writing.

Much like the book’s protagonist, Anna, I repeatedly experience the many kinds of homecomings, spiritual and material, that life brings to us. Much like her, I often find myself in a kind of unbelieving daze as I sit in the same café I’ve known since childhood. Two years, ago, and maybe also five, I sat here capturing down pieces of a story that has always felt more like finding my way toward a puzzle’s finished image than it has any strategic plotting.

If the remedy for feeling out-of-sync in life is to reside in the moment, then we are all here today as I type this: my child self, sitting alongside my parents; that story-struck one who aspired to go the distance with wherever the writing process led (and wondering, at times, whether I truly would); and my self today, blessed to reach a point of completion. 15852216

A highlight for me this month was my return to the first place in Germany where my family lived when I was that child, a village on the Main River called Dorfprozelten. On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, as my life reached six decades, I was able to stand facing the river and offer my prayerful thanks at the grave of Herr and Frau Geis, who shared their house with my family back in 1960.

At the age I am now, seasons pass the way a month used to, but in those lovely days, my ten months in that village still seem like a little lifetime. I know that’s partly because since my military family lived “on the economy” in this way, we established much closer ties with actual Germans themselves, something that has played an important part in my life ever since.

984243_885496241474499_535556467277297526_nThe story of The Munich Girl is about many things, including, of course, Eva Braun and history from the time of the war in Germany. 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.

The novel is also a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building, together. When my family arrived at the Geis family’s home, there had been some very dark times, the kind that can make it easy to lose hope. Yet within months, we would embark on what we’d remember as some of our happiest years. munichgirl_card_front

As one character in my novel 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.”

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/

To be on the mailing list for news about the book and author events, please email info@phyllisring.com.


3 Comments

The many angels on my way

PR_64

Photo: David Henderson

It’s a landmark birthday for me, this year. Reflecting, as I do at this time each year on four seasons of gratitude, I’m supremely aware of all that relates to the connections my heart has with others. I want to honor and bless every single soul I have encountered on the path, who, as Gangaji so aptly states, is “my own self”.

The publication of my newest work, The Munich Girl, brought the opportunity for that most delightful of gratitude exercises, writing the Acknowledgements, with all that they reflect about how accompanied I am on my path. I had forgotten what a very satisfying way this is to reach the completion of a written work.

I’m also grateful for the work that others entrusted to me this year, quite a wondrous collection of projects that, magically, arrived at the just-right time in my own creative life and process.

Each brought with it a powerful lesson about mutual cooperation and reciprocity. I have known that creative process embodies this spiritual principle, and hope to one day create a book about how creativity and spirit work together in our lives as forces that shape each other, and us.

The first of these gifts arrived in February, when musicians Randy Armstrong and Volker Nahrmann of Unu Mondo asked whether I’d serve as a sort of word custodian for the liner notes of their newest work, Beyond Borders. I have loved their music for so long. It has, most truly, been a soundtrack of my life and work. The ice-cream experience in this for my spirit is that all through the concluding stages of my own work-in-progress, I had this out-of-this-world music to accompany me. It literally transported me to the very last pages of my book. Some days, I know it was the push, or pull, that got me there, helped me remember to let my mind go quiet so that something could be born through my heart.

Then a longtime writer friend, V L Towler, extended the opportunity to be a sort of doula as she brought her novel, Severed,  to completion. I knew the minute that she asked that this was a part of my own blueprint’s grace. Stage by stage, I have been humbled as I watched the level of dedication, consecration, and resilience she has shown as her work comes whole. I’ll thank divine bounty forever that she is the particular company that my fiction-writing self has received on the last leg of my book’s journey.

And, when a season of dark nights rose up like storms, another writer arrived with perfect timing to bring remedy, and offer me yet another chance to serve. Phyllis Peterson’s words reached right into my heart, as they had when I first heard her speak nearly 20 years ago, telling the truth without fear — or beyond it, at least. The arrival of her Authority of Self manuscript at this juncture in my life, and that of my own book, reminded me that when life can look the darkest, God sends the brightest messages of hope and mercy.

And last, but impossible to be anything but most, dear Larry Gray, those little intervals you invited me to spend with your text may just have saved me from my biggest problem and challenge: my insistent self.

Each day, as your beautiful beads pass through my fingers now, my prayerful heart soars in gratitude.


4 Comments

Leaps ahead of thinking

tram1462935_10152403355209698_875712848_n

Bernhard Kretschmar’s “Tram”, part of collection of art cache recently uncovered in Munich.

 

I am often, in my writing, great leaps ahead of where I am in my thinking …

~ Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

This insight is one of the things I love most about creative process.The author shares it in a book that’s a longtime favorite of mine, the first of her Crosswicks Journal works.

I experienced a serendipitous example of what she describes while researching my current novel during a visit to Munich. A portrait of Eva Braun is a key element in the book’s story — a real portrait with a 1936 framer’s label on the back that says “Promenade Platz 7, Muenchen (Munich)”, together with an August date. I’d tried for some time to locate this address without success and figured that whatever building had been there on that day was long gone since the bombing damage from the war.

Spontaneously one afternoon, my ever-patient husband asked whether I’d like to go see the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, one of Munich’s historic hotels. It just so happened that a scene set there had “arrived” on the page that very week, not that I’d told him anything about that.

It was still a bit of a surprise to me, as these often are. It had also somehow “connected itself” with a scene in that framer’s shop whose address I couldn’t find.

When we reached the Bayerischer Hof, I looked up and saw a street sign that said: “Promenade Platz” And there, on a stone building directly across from the hotel, was a blue address sign with the number 7 — !

munichgirl_card_frontBut more, the setting outside it – a long, slender park between it and hotel – was exactly what I had “visualized” as I’d imagined the framer’s shop. So were the two sets of tram tracks on either side of it. Although I hadn’t yet known where Promenade Platz was, the scene that includes it had already taken shape on the page – and here it was right before me, just as my inner eye had seen it. Yet it wasn’t until that scene had been captured down that – without trying – I was led to discover exactly where that address is.

I also learned that day during a tour of the hotel that its dining salon/lounge, where my writing’s process had just sketched a new scene – a huge, elegant space with a beautiful stained-glass dome overhead — is the only part of that massive hotel to survive bombing damage in the war.

These sorts of impromptu research discoveries leave me speechless. Indeed, in creative process, as L’Engle describes, mind lags far behind, like the slowest hiker on the climb.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

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


Leave a comment

Eternity is a part of every true gift

FullSizeRender

Artwork: Judy Wright

My friend, Carol, gave me a wonderful surprise at about the last place I’d have expected it — her funeral.

She received the devastating news about her cancer the same day her employer told her that she would soon be out of a job.

Things happened even faster for Carol, after that – fast especially for someone who, like most of us at this stage of life, was never looking to include life-threatening illness in her life experience. By early September, she’d been given three months to live. Her goal was to make it through all three of them, which, God willing, would be just enough time to see her first grandchild.

I made a trip to see Carol that week and brought a small CD player I’d picked up. She’d been feeling so terrible that even reading and watching TV were impossible, but she could still enjoy listening to music. However, her own CD player had broken.

CD playerThere was so much I couldn’t do for her. This, at least, seemed like one small thing I could offer. Knowing how weak she was, I searched for a little machine that was lightweight and, hopefully, something she’d be able to move herself.

The day I saw her, despite the fact that she was essentially drifting between worlds, she, as always, received my gift graciously.

But my heart was saddened by two things that were clear from the moment I watched the home-health nurse call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital: Carol was never going to use that CD player, and she wasn’t going to live to see her grandchild born.

A week later, I sat in a small Victorian church whose beautiful stained-glass windows flooded its pews with rosy light. Waiting for Carol’s funeral service to begin, I was thinking about her life, and all of the things that would never be, when I noticed that among the vases of cut flowers and the pretty candles that had been set out on a small table up front, there was something familiar.

Read the rest at BoomerCafe:

DSCF3564http://www.boomercafe.com/2014/07/14/touching-story-love-friendship/

312q7DGYsbL._SL110_

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

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=