Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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What shall we keep room for in our hearts?

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“Evolution is transformation. And transformation is happening all the time. It happens as we learn new things … ” notes author Christine DeLorey.

“Evolution is not an automatic ever-ascending spiritual conveyor-belt,” she adds, “but the result of our ability to face reality, adjust, adapt, and change.”

A key element of our transformative path is contrast, whose intensity and extremes can sometimes seem — and feel — shocking. Even disheartening.

10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_oHow can we maximize its effectiveness, by seeing what it is pointing to, for our heart’s understanding? What is it helping us remember? And how is it reminding us of all that we do not yet know?

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” urges poet Mary Oliver, and theologian Paul Tillich reminds, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

“ … if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody,” writes Gangaji.

“It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.”

11798178_10155840072870181_1562789834_nOnce this happens, then perhaps we are equipped at last for what these words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s invite:

“Make ready thy soul that thou mayest be like the light which shineth forth from the loftiest heights on the coast, by means of which guidance may be given to the timid ships amid the darkness of fog …”

Including those often-timid ships of our own small selves.

 

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Finding our place in the family of things

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Photo: Image from Star Island, Lesley Fowler

In the experience of writing fiction, I become captivated by place.

Sometimes, it is among the very first of the story’s “characters” to appear.

In the process of writing The Munich Girl, I’ve accumulated four journals and three photo-album-style scrapbooks. I’ve done this last, I suspect, because the best-known of the novel’s characters, Eva Braun, was a passionate photographer.

Yet so many of the images and passages recorded in those journals and albums are about the essence of places.

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Alte Rathaus, Wertheim, Germany

I imagine that I’m drawn to the spirit of places, which I have been since my earliest memories (they go back as far as age 3, possibly a little earlier)  because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote about what the Sahara Desert taught him:

“Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.”

Place is an essential element of the story, of course.

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Hexen Haus, Wertheim, Germany

As some have said, often in a book’s story, place is also character, or a facet of the story that reveals aspects of character.

An Aboriginal proverb observes:

“We are all visitors to this time, this place.

We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home. “

Along the way, the places that we pass through have a lot to reveal to us.

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Photo: Berchtesgaden, Germany, David Campbell.

Carl Jung lived nearly half of his life in a home he built in the village of Bolligen located along the northern shore of Lake Zurich, Switzerland. In this place, to which he felt particularly drawn, Jung wrote about his many sensory experiences published in his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

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Photo: Kehlstein Haus, David Campbell.

“At Bolligen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself …

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons …

In Bolligen, silence surrounds me almost audibly, and I live ‘in modest harmony’ with nature.”

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Page from Eva Braun photo album.

In “The Power of Place,” writer Linda Sechrist has written: “Since we personally interpret the qualities, values, and spaces that make a place special in the context of other places, childhood experiences of where we are born and grow up, as well as the places where we spent our childhood summers, are the well of memories from which we most frequently draw.

“This relationship is one that Eudora Alice Welty suggests we, in the words of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, carry within ourselves as ‘postage stamps of native soil.’

“Welty wrote, ‘It is the memory of this place that nurtures us with identity and special strength and it is to this place that each of us goes to find the clearest, deepest identity of ourselves.’ ” DCGanse996728_10151804325191802_146979027_n

In her poem, “Wild Geese,” poet Mary Oliver sums this up eloquently:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

  ~ from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

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

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


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Harvests of the heart

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

Autumn is that time when so many endings seem to arrive at once, as the summer skies in which our dreams have soared in days of endless light grow overcast, like the darker mornings that are pointing us toward winter.

The intensity of contrast can be shocking when it appears. It reminds us of all that we do not yet know, and of the freedom in embracing that.

greens1374978_233813396773683_648730168_nEvery autumn, a part of me feels sad, as well as reminded, and also — like those spiked hulls from which such bright shiny chestnuts emerge — freshly broken open, once again.

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” urges poet Mary Oliver.

Theologian Paul Tillich reminds,“The first duty of love is to listen.”

colortip1383238_233814043440285_366268116_n“ … if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody,” writes Gangaji. “It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.”

Once this happens, then perhaps we are equipped at last for what these words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s invite:

rotetry1379621_233814693440220_853513411_n“Make ready thy soul that thou mayest be like the light which shineth forth from the loftiest heights on the coast, by means of which guidance may be given to the timid ships amid the darkness of fog …”

Including those often-timid ships of our own small selves.

Leaf photos courtesy of photographer Nelson Ashberger.


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Setting down the burdens

photo-12As I traveled in Europe this spring, and in my childhood home of Germany, I had all sorts of plans for what I designated as writing time.

And Life, smiling, laid waste to them with its wise, gentle love. It led straight to pieces of a book’s story I would never find on my own. And each time, as if a soft chorus echoed it, I’d feel the inner words: “Because now is the time. Because now, you are ready.”

I also heard my mother’s voice, which used to warn with a dire tone, “You can’t go home again.” Today, I can well understand her motivation, as a military spouse. Certain kinds of setting yourself up to believe and hope are a ticket to pain no mother wants to see for her child. Other wise words had reminded me, when I’d tend to set my my inner child’s nostalgic hopes on a place I’d loved so well: “Don’t mistake geography for your Reality.”

In these last nine weeks, a recognition finally came. You can’t return to the way things were. Yet you can come home to what you love about anything, right in your own heart. And the gateway, at least in this case, is grief, that wonderful, terrible angel of release, dogging us to face our burdens, to set them down at last. When we are ready, of course. photo-7

I had known that the remaining portions of the novel I aim to finish would lead directly through that no man’s land that I have been trained to avoid. It brings the most confounding mixture of joy and wonderment with it.

Who else but Mary Oliver could provide the words that sum up such ineffables? And there her poem appeared before me, the day my journey came to its end:

HEAVY

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poets said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled—
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

“Heavy” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst: Poems. © Beacon Press, 2007.


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Gleaming forth, unmasking the world

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

~ Franz Kafka

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If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

~ Mary Oliver

The source of crafts, sciences and arts is the power of reflection. Make ye every effort that out of this ideal mine there may gleam forth such pearls of wisdom and utterance as will promote the well-being and harmony of all the kindreds of the earth.

~ Bahá’u’lláh

Photos courtesy Nelson Ashberger and Diane Kirkup.

View artist Diane Kirkup’s work at: http://www.dkirkupdesigns.etsy.com


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The beginning in the endings

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“Evolution is transformation. And transformation is happening all the time. It happens as we learn new things …

“Evolution is not an automatic ever-ascending spiritual conveyor-belt, but the result of our ability to face reality, adjust, adapt, and change,” says Christine DeLorey, author of Life Cycles: Your Emotional Journey To Freedom And Happiness. I also highly recommend her http://creativenumerology.com/ site.

Fall is that time when so many endings seem to arrive at once, as the summer skies in which our dreams have soared in days of endless light grow overcast, like the darker mornings that are pointing us toward winter.

The intensity of contrast can be shocking when it appears; perhaps even disheartening. It reminds us of all that we do not yet know, and of the freedom in embracing that.

greens1374978_233813396773683_648730168_nEvery autumn, a part of me feels sad, as well as reminded, and also — like those spiked hulls from which such bright shiny chestnuts emerge — freshly broken open, once again.

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” urges poet Mary Oliver. Theologian Paul Tillich reminds,“The first duty of love is to listen.”

colortip1383238_233814043440285_366268116_n“ … if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody,” writes Gangaji. “It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.”

Once this happens, then perhaps we are equipped at last for what these words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s invite:

rotetry1379621_233814693440220_853513411_n“Make ready thy soul that thou mayest be like the light which shineth forth from the loftiest heights on the coast, by means of which guidance may be given to the timid ships amid the darkness of fog …”

Including those often-timid ships of our own small selves.

Photos courtesy Nelson Ashberger.