Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Along my path of world citizenship

The afternoon train that typically brings me back to my German “hometown” of Wertheim.

I’ve been retracing a path of family history, following portions of the route that brought my parents together in England during World War II and eventually resulted in my speaking German (well, a kindergartner’s “German”) almost as early as I spoke my mother tongue.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of Germany’s most-visited towns.

During the U.S. occupation of Europe after the war, my military family spent two tours in Germany, the last of which holds my oldest memories.

In the winter of 1960, we sailed across the Atlantic to a very new life. As military housing was at a premium, we lived “on the economy,” first in a hotel that I still visit, then in a tiny village 45 minutes from Frankfurt. A family named Geis welcomed us into the ground floor of their home while they squeezed upstairs to make room for us.

My British grandmother visited us in Germany in 1960.

Contrary to popular belief about German-American relations at the time, they were unfailingly kind and astonishingly generous, especially since they had very little after the war. While they no doubt welcomed the money they received for sharing that clean, accommodating space with us, they always felt more like grandparents than landlords to me.

What I remember most is how cheerful and happy they always were. I later learned that Herr Geis, like my family, was a recent arrival in Germany. Before that, his wife and children had waited nearly 15 years while he was a prisoner of war in a Russian prison camp, wondering whether they’d ever see him again. I understand now that after he came home, they saw every day as a new beginning and treated it like something too precious to waste on anything but gratitude and joy.

Along the Main River near Wertheim.

It was during Easter week that this couple and I shared one of my earliest intercultural exchanges. One day my parents had some appointments and errands and the Geises offered to watch me while they were away. My four-year-old self delighted in the day’s pursuits, which actually involved little more than following along behind the couple as they did their chores, preparing their field near the Main River for planting, and helping me discover some stray potatoes they’d missed at harvest time.

After we’d eaten those at the mid-day meal, together with eggs we’d collected from their hens, they introduced me to my first Easter eggs.

We were coloring them when my parents appeared at their kitchen door, bearing some traditional American fare — Hershey bars and a big bowl of popcorn — that they’d brought as an Easter gift and thank-you.

Würzburg, Germany, after the war.

Most Germans had never seen popcorn, since corn was grown only for animal feed in Europe in those days. That bowl lasted for hours as the Geises removed a piece at a time, holding it up and marveling as they named the creature or object that its shape approximated. Eventually, we all began to do the same amid lots of laughter, and a pretty good vocabulary lesson on both sides of our collective language barrier.

This event stands out in my memory because it signals such a perceptible shift in my family’s bond with the Geises, the kind that meant they’d become regular guests at our military-base quarters on-base quarters long after we’d moved from our temporary shelter in their house.

I didn’t know of any other American families who shared this kind of friendship, and after my mother’s horrific experiences during the Blitz in Britain, most anyone would have forgiven her if she’d been hesitant to embrace Germans.

As I travel through Germany all these decades later, I feel eternally thankful for parents who were always able to see the humanity in any situation, above and beyond past history or politics. I realize today what a vital part of peace-building this is.

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

 

 

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The foundation of all learning

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

“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


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The cup is … refillable

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Georges De Feure, “Ferme au bord du Zuiderzee, 1910.

 

Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life and less attached to it.

~ Ram Dass

 

11892078_1011069658923828_8122238579020981986_nWhatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair.

Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows.

You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path.

Be grateful! It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want, thank before having what you want.

 ~ Shams Tabrizi

 


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The ways of a greater part

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GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul.

It is not easy… To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

Discipline is not a means of accomplishing more, but a stance of patience and curiosity to witness more of the faces of God in which we are already contained and cared for.

~ Andrew Shier

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With image thanks to Following Atticus: http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.

I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.

It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

~ Henri Nouwen

tobeytreehugger

Image: Tobey A. Ring

Yin is the receptive, feeling, compassionate force within.

It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead.

For Yin, withdrawing is entering. … Like an ecosystem, Yin considers all counterparts essential.

So ideas that emerge from this level of imagination serve more than the individual cause – they serve the great ecosystem upon which we are all dependent.

~ Toko-pa


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The many kinds of homecomings

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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.


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The many angels on my way

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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.


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Toward the territories of spirit

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The pain of yesterday is the strength of today.

~  Paulo Coelho

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

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Photo: David Campbell / http://www.GBCTours.com

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

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Artwork: Judy Wright

~ John O’Donohue

When you resist the flow of life, what you are actually resisting is your own inner nature, for everything that happens to us is a reflection of who we are.

This isn’t a mystical statement; it is part of the apparatus of perception. To perceive is to grasp the meaning of something.

~ Deepak Chopra