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


1 Comment

Fanning the tiny sparks

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Artwork: Judy Wright

I like the idea of dreaming the big dream and making small steps.

I’d like to think that you reach your hand, just a little bit further than your reach, not enough so that you’ll be frustrated, not enough so that you’ll give up, but just enough so that you’ll stretch yourself.

~ Maya Angelou

Trust yourself.

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

 ~ Golda Meir

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

Sometimes we forget that we must bring presence to the as yet unmanifest dream which wants to come alive around us.

By presence I don’t just mean attention, but a certain quality of attentiveness which holds the anticipation of being met.

It doesn’t require the world to act first, to prove itself, or miraculously appear.

Instead it behaves as if the thing one is becoming is guaranteed and moves as if it carries that secret in its step. Life isn’t only happening to us, we are happening to life.

~ Excerpted from  Belonging,

by Toko-pa Turner

 


7 Comments

A season of renewal and hope

Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau: Top of the Johannisstrasse, 1908

Author and friend Reiner Lomb once shared a story about how surprising – and kind – the human heart can be.

Toward the end of World War 2, on Good Friday, some of his ancestors were expecting their tiny village to be overrun at any moment by U.S. soldiers. The German troops were retreating, and my friend’s family members, six adults and two children, were trying to decide whether they should stay put or hide in hills above the village.

In a previous war, their village had been wiped out in a similar situation, with every single person killed, so they were quite fearful.

They also had a family member who was a prisoner of war overseas, one with whom they would later be reunited, and who would become my friend’s father.

All they wanted to do was to be able to live their simple life in terrible times, during a war they’d just as soon had never happened.

They decided to stay in their home, and within hours, several vehicles pulled into their farmyard and U.S. soldiers climbed out and ordered them upstairs while the soldiers took over the lower floor of the house.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

What my friend’s aunt, who was among those present, most remembers is how young these soldiers looked to her at the time. As she and her sister peeked down from upstairs, she saw that the soldiers were having trouble figuring out how to light the cook stove, and so, to her family’s horror, she bounded down to help them. (Her sister would later tease her that the only reason she’d done this was because those soldiers were so handsome.)

That weekend, they all eventually feasted together on the farm’s fresh eggs and the soldiers’ rations in a shared meal around that kitchen table. On Easter Sunday morning, the family came downstairs to find the soldiers gone, along with a basket of hard-boiled eggs that the family had colored earlier that week. In the basket’s place was a huge stash of chocolate.

“My family hadn’t seen chocolate for years,” my friend says, “and this, combined with how carefully the soldiers had left everything in its place when my family had expected them to ransack the house, gave everyone great heart, and the possibility of believing that maybe things would be all right after all.”

The miracle of his father’s return a short while later was the very best evidence of that, of course, and soon spring bulbs were blooming in the yard and, despite the ravages of the war, his family knew that they’d see green fields again.

It’s no coincidence that the essence of Easter – resurrection — is about restoration and renewal.

Whatever our faith, or lack of it, spring brings that glorious reminder that, no matter what has happened, no matter how long our personal winters may have been, the spiritual pulse of springtime always offers us a new beginning.

 

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

https://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0


Leave a comment

Born of certitude, inhabiting our lives fully

10487295_10201787886128853_3669968829347067565_n

Photo: Liz Turner

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The inner joy that every individual seeks, unlike a passing emotion, is not contingent on outside influences; it is a condition, born of certitude and conscious knowledge, fostered by a pure heart, which is able to distinguish between that which has permanence and that which is superficial.

 ~ The Universal House of Justice

The beauty of the terrible situation that we are in is that it forces us back into ourselves to fully inhabit our own lives.

14067453_660629360758749_4959400625890402316_n

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

~ Jim Haba

Acceptance of what is – and the way it makes you feel – is the mother of invention.

Balance does not mean uniformity. It means arranging things in way that enables energy to move FREELY.

Creative energy is magnetic emotional energy. It attracts. It draws us to it – and draws itself out of us.

 ~ Christine DeLorey


1 Comment

Art and the elixir of life

honnie_Landscape_2

Landscape 2 by artist Honnie Goode

 

It’s an honor to have an excerpt from my novel, The Munich Girl, included as the fiction offering of the latest issue of the arts journal,  e*lix*ir.

The publication is designed to “showcase the work of artists who find inspiration in the Bahá’í revelation and to foster an aesthetic whose key ingredient is the conviction that the mission of art is to inspire, transform, and uplift individuals and communities.”

Editor Sandra Hutchison offers soul-stirring reflection in the issue’s editorial, “Art at the Intersection of the Worlds.”

The words from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that she includes from The Promulgation of Universal Peace embody this theme, and the intent behind the creative efforts that many of us attempt:

“For material civilization is like unto a beautiful body, and spiritual civilization is like unto the spirit of life. If that wondrous spirit of life enters this beautiful body, the body will become a channel for the distribution and development of the perfections of humanity.”

12705196_981332535286685_4771980464209426187_n

Photo: Wertheim.de

Sandra writes, “Through the experience of creating art, the artist becomes acquainted with that invisible plane of existence that is just as real and necessary to our survival as the earth on which we plant our feet.”

It’s this sort of inner vision that I attempt to describe in the artist’s statement I was invited to provide:

I seek to uncover the noblest possibilities in the human heart and to discover how history, culture, spirituality, and the natural world shape the journey of the human family.

IMG_8192

Image: Diane Kirkup

The vision of the future that the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh evoke, is one of prosperity and hope, so as a writer of stories, I am alert to every evidence of these I can find, even, perhaps especially, when circumstances may appear dark or chaotic.

More than any other kind of writing I’ve done, book-length fiction requires an absorption that leads me to what must be realized in a story. For me, this is an utterly spiritual experience–to weave together mysterious unseen threads into a reality that the emotions and spirit can recognize as true.

To encounter truth in this way is an experience that transcends this earthly life.”

Find the latest issue of e*lix*ir here: http://www.elixir-journal.org/issue2/


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.


2 Comments

Possibility arrives anew in each moment

IMG_0432

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

With the return of each day’s light comes an invitation to investigate, throughout the span of that day, rather than imitate the past.

Do I accept it, and apply myself to what it invites?

It arrives in a world of imperfection, one that can easily draw negative reactions from my lower nature, which must find its way in that world.

Yet I’ve surely had opportunity to learn that dwelling on imperfections, berating myself or others for them, serves only to increase my perception of them. It’s a circle of suffering I draw for myself. It saps my time, energy, and attention (those aspects of life over which I have choice) when I could instead offer them for something that is always calling, if softly, at times: the building of the good that I’m invited into each day.

In responding to that call, I discover how very much there is to become aware of and relinquish—how much preoccupation with negativity can surround my life and fill my thoughts and absorb my personal resources.

This, in many lives, is the debilitating presence of blind imitation of the past, including the kind of thinking that was born in earlier, fearful experiences and has led to attitudes, behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that have no basis in reality—nor, indeed, anywhere near it.

My encounter with imperfection extends an invitation, too—one urging me to recognize and accept how much I don’t know, or can’t change, yet I can always discover the limitless possibilities of love in the most essential kind of response I’ve been designed and equipped to make. Rather than exercising my survival-driven instinctual reaction to fight imperfection, or try to escape it, I can turn toward an innate, indwelling response—the possibility of it—that is better-aligned with the purpose for which I’ve been created.

As it invites me into the freedom of not fighting any one or any thing (including myself), it also reminds that every human interaction (including with myself) is either an act of giving or an act of receiving. By asking questions that encompass both giving and receiving, my sensitivity to my own true needs and those of others is increased daily.

Each part of this questioning is equally important, because giving depends on someone willing and capable of receiving from me, and receiving depends on someone willing and capable of giving to me.

The following two service questions have been conceived as a way to help us focus on and clarify reality for ourselves in the course of the countless decisions we are called upon to make each day.

These junctures of possibility arrive moment by moment, and as I seek to draw away from blind imitation of the past toward the true investigation of my own and others’ deepest reality, I return to these questions again and again:

WTOEimage.php

  1. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that the other person is capable of receiving?
  2. At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that the other person is capable of giving?

Adapted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

Find more about the book at: http://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8