Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


4 Comments

To forgive the very world

Photo courtesy of N. Augusta Vincent.

 

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that had accumulated like small mountains in our house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns.

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible.

Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows.

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

A bird’s-eye view of the German town where I lived with my military family.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was.

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

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

Advertisements


2 Comments

Fence post: Now available on Audible

 

I am thrilled that my novel, Snow Fence Road, is now also available as an audio book on Audible, just in time for summer reading lists.

Narrator Sheri Beth Dusek has done a wonderful job of capturing the heart and spirit of the book.

To celebrate, the book’s Kindle version is discounted from May 18-25 — and the new audio book is there on the same page:

https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Fence-Road-Phyllis-Edgerly-ebook/dp/B00DDVB106/

I sketched down Snow Fence Road in my 30s after a vivid dream about the trauma that shatters its hero’s life, then spent the next 20 years writing nonfiction.

Finally I realized after half a century of life that what I want most is to explore the real power of relationships – their healing power. And if they are the gold on life’s path, fiction is all about them.

There are the relationships that the characters reveal to the writer, and the ones that writers and readers develop with them – and ourselves – as we connect with their story. Hearing that characters remain with readers like enduring friends is a wondrous gift. Yet the only reason this book exists is that the characters stayed with me for so long, and reflected to me what I was learning about giving and receiving love.

Once a rootless military kid, I find that place becomes a living part of story, for me. When readers say Snow Fence Road feels like an actual visit to Maine, I’m grateful because this place I love so much has always felt like a “fully-developed character”, to me. Small-town life there, as in the story, is human-scale. That’s the one that helps us learn the most about others, and ourselves, I think.

As it follows the developing relationship between Tess Johansen and hard-tested loner, Evan Marston, both ravaged by grief and gun-shy about love, this story is categorized as romance. But it probably seems a whole other country from what many perceive romantic fiction to be today. It’s a love story, and about relationship, but I’m always most interested in what transcends the impermanent, what helps hearts open, and heal, and reach the greatest potential for which they’re created.

Snow Fence Road aims at more emotional and spiritual themes because in the many wounded hearts I’ve encountered, no amount of physical love or attraction ever healed or helped them trust again, but real love did. Real, lasting love requires accepting, and sharing, vulnerability, which in itself can be a miraculous and eternal kind of beauty.

This story also explores the weight of secrets — why we keep them, when they drain our life away; when there isn’t even need to, though shame and guilt convince us otherwise. We learn to keep secrets to avoid vulnerability, then never get to know what real intimacy is.

While a lot of current writing may focus on pain and horror and give center stage to the fear these generate, I think there are higher, kinder, stronger visions to reach for. My goal is always to highlight the beauty and meaning that can exalt human lives.

When people ask me now, “Why do you write?” I may have finally found an answer, the same reason I get up each day: for the increase and advance of the one thing that lasts — the love that brings us home to our own hearts.

It’s a process that began one morning a long time ago when a dream’s sorrow lingered with me, and I began to love and listen to people I will never meet, but who became as real for me as the pages on which their story is printed now.

Find Snow Fence Road at: https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Fence-Road-Phyllis-Edgerly-ebook/dp/B00DDVB106/

A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets- the kind only the miracle of new love can heal.


5 Comments

The brave journey of becoming

Gleanings about art and life, found here and there:

Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-022A book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book ‘means’ thereafter, perforce — both grammatically and actually — whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it.

~ James Branch Cabell

Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.

~ Craig Paterson Wassily-Kandinsky-Painting-029

Though I cannot predict what I shall be able to do, I hope to make a few sketches with perhaps something human in them …

 ~ The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – 4 September 1880

… art is a power that should be aimed at developing the soul. If art does not do this job, the abyss that separates us from God is left without a bridge. …

The artist must be blind to distinctions between ‘recognized’ and ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age. He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone.       ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Artwork by Wassily Kandinsky


2 Comments

A useful kind of going astray

During the weeks I spent in Europe last spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind in order that my heart will be able to hear at all. For the voices that assist and guide it are soft and subtle, and are drowned out by the din of life and the world.

Because of the wide-open nature of so many European settings, the sky is a constantly-changing panorama I found myself stopping to watch like a movie, and there was always something on the horizon that I would set out on a long walk simply to see up close.

A Well Groomed and Tidy Land 86

Photo: Kathy Gilman

Ironically, more often than not I never made it there because I was waylaid by something magnificent along the way.

It could be the slant of the light on a field; the shape of a lone tree in the midst of hectares of rolling hills; one small, stunning blossom on a branch that brushed me as I walked past, like a woods creature trying to get my attention.

Diedenbergen_signs“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience,” wrote Saint Teresa of Avila

Astray from what? I wonder.

My preconceived notions? Insistent, certain ideas or opinions?

When I leave room for wonder or miracles, it leads me back to something Pema Chödrön has summarized beautifully in her book,

Practicing Peace in Times of War:

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.

We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.

DCchapel10245370_10152498072556802_2471127218286685802_n

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

That’s the true practice of peace.”

And Pema has also captured the very fulcrum of living:

“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”