Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The legacies that always outlast war

My novel, The Munich Girl, is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was Hitler’s mistress, and later wife, Eva Braun.

But its themes are really about two realities that matter a great deal to my heart.

The first is the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter in our life. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so. That privilege also allowed me to see that the benefits of achieving this inner reunion always extend far beyond our own small selves.

The novel’s second and particularly fascinating theme, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in the process of how our inner reunion occurs, often in highly unexpected ways.

As a child in Germany, and when I returned to visit as an adult, I heard little about the years of the Second World War — mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.”

Yet, similar to characters in my novel’s story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. 11072937_833787143357991_5837640068723456300_n

They found the way to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering.

And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

I believe that the example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, and that we’ve barely tapped into the spiritual gifts and lessons they offer.

As Elizabeth Sims, novelist and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest noted in her kind comments about the novel:

“Love can manifest itself in enigmatic—and unexpected—ways.”

And, as one character in the 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

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No one ever calls her “Mrs. Hitler”

A novel of the legacies that outlast war

“Wars don’t end when the shooting stops,” wrote author Betsy Woodman in her astute — and generous — review of The Munich Girl.

Deep in research now for her next novel, which is set in WW I, Betsy notes that, “In the fields of Belgium and Northern France, people are still being killed by accidentally unearthed bombs—from World War I.”

Eva Braun and her older sister, Ilse, with their father in his WWI uniform.

“We also continue to process World War II—in books, in movies, in the care and tending of monuments—and in our hearts,” she wrote. “Along with the more visible damage, war creates mysteries that leave people feeling uneasy and incomplete. Confusion and grief may particularly affect the war brides who leave home with their foreign soldier husbands, and curiosity about their parents’ past may nag at the children of such marriages.

Author Betsy Woodman

“In Ring’s thought-provoking The Munich Girl, Anna Dahlberg is the child of just such a war marriage. Her mother had both British and German heritage; her dad was an American soldier. We first see Anna in 1995, choked with panic in her airplane seat and clutching a handkerchief embroidered with a four-leaf clover. Mysteries abound: what earlier trauma has produced this state? Why is Anna headed for Germany? What will she unearth in her exploration of events that started over half a century ago?

“Foremost in Anna’s mind is the question, was her mother really a close friend of Adolf Hitler’s mistress (and wife for 40 hours), Eva Braun?

The Munich Girl is not always comfortable to read. Hearing Hitler referred to as “Adi” in conversation will make some readers squirm. Until they think—well, even villains have someone who loves them. In life, as in fiction, so much is a matter of point of view. The reader is invited to stretch and understand people like Eva Braun, who don’t usually arouse much sympathy.

“Ignorance of one’s past and of the people in it can leave a person feeling frustrated, baffled, and empty. Knowledge and reconnection are the cure. The Munich Girl is about healing, rediscovery, and finding one’s way out of the darkness into a bright future. Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s international perspective and deep sympathy for human beings shine through in this unorthodox and subtle tale.” ~ Betsy Woodman

Eva Braun was born 106 years ago today. “Did she really love him? How could she ever love him?” are questions I hear frequently about the woman who became “Mrs. Hitler” for the last day and a half of her short life. Ironically, even though marrying him was the greatest desire of her heart, no one ever calls her “Mrs. Hitler” now.

Anna, the book’s narrator, grew up eating family meals under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun.

Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother, Peggy, and Hitler’s mistress had a secret friendship, and a friendship filled with secrets.

The story begins to unfold for Anna with the discovery of a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief and the arrival of a man named Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.

The pathway of this novel’s story dropped many clues in front of me, two of the biggest, a handkerchief just like the one Anna finds — and the portrait of Eva Braun, which, somehow, found me, too.

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War here:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/B01AC4FHI8


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We’re finding our way, beyond war

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Book Club Mom Barb Vitelli – don’t miss her Read this, not that! blog

Book Club Mom Barb Vitelli had already been kind enough to feature me as an indie author at her blog last month.

Then she surprised me by fitting The Munich Girl into her busy reading schedule, and sharing very thoughtful reflections about it.

Barb has her own special connection with German culture, in a family history that includes relatives from the region of the Black Forest. They owned and operated a small hotel, restaurant, and bakery there, in a building that was bombed by Allied forces and then rebuilt after the war.

broetchen-verschIn her review of the book, Barb writes, “People choose their life paths for many reasons and their decisions are sometimes hard to figure. During wartime, many ordinary people become trapped on these paths, in situations that are bigger than themselves.”

In these tumultuous days of our own, much of life can begin to feel something like wartime.

Yet our hearts can help each other remember there is so much more — real and enduring goodness — waiting for us to bring it forth into our world together. There is an important reality, what has been called “an atmosphere in which peace can emerge,” that begins with each one of us. 424

Overall, the intent of The Munich Girl is less about Eva Braun and what we may or may not think about her life and choices than it is about the very themes that Barb draws out. These invite us toward better prospects and possibilities, if we can find the collective will to work and learn our way toward them.

I thank every reader who is reading, sharing, responding to, reviewing, and introducing the novel to book groups, readers’ networks, and so many others.

So much is changing so fast in Europe, and our world. Yet you help me continue to trust that stories are a vital part of our connection, and our healing, our hope, and our power.

Find Barb’s review here: https://bvitelli2002.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/the-munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring/


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Protection from our own ignorance

Stranded Lighthouse 589

“Stranded Lighthouse” image: Kathy Gilman

“…when thou traversest the regions of the world, thou wilt conclude that all progress is the result of association and cooperation, while ruin is the outcome of animosity and hatred. Notwithstanding this, the world of humanity doth not take warning, doth not wake from the slumber of heedlessness. Man is still causing differences, quarrels and strife in order to marshal the cohorts of war and, with his legions, rush into the field of bloodshed and slaughter.”

~’Abdu’l-Bahá

“Consider the pettiness of men’s minds.

They ask for that which injureth
them, and cast away the thing that profiteth them.

1509698_850882424962881_3108057775060869577_nThey are, indeed, of
those that are far astray.

We find some men desiring liberty, and priding themselves therein. Such men are in the depths of ignorance.

Liberty must, in the end, lead to sedition, whose flames none can quench.
Thus warneth you He Who is the Reckoner, the All-Knowing.

Know ye that the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal.

That which beseemeth man is submission unto such restraints as will protect him from his own ignorance, and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker.

Little Lamb Laying Low 31

“Little Lamb Laying Low” image: Kathy Gilman

Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.

Regard men as a flock of sheep that need a shepherd for their protection. This, verily, is the truth, the certain truth. We approve of liberty in certain circumstances, and refuse to sanction it in others. We, verily, are the All-Knowing.”

~ Bahá’u’lláh

 

 


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The unexpected ways that love arrives

8b1eb59397011a81c3ee5df8596ef411My new novel, The Munich Girl, is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was Hitler’s mistress, and later wife, Eva Braun.

But it is really about two realities that matter a great deal to my heart.

The first is the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter in our life. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so.

The second, and particularly fascinating, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in that process, often in highly unexpected ways.

munichgirl_card_frontAs a child in Germany, and when I returned to visit as an adult, I heard little about the years of the Second World War — mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.”

Yet, similar to characters in the story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did.

They found the way to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering.

And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

11072937_833787143357991_5837640068723456300_nI believe that the example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, and that we’ve barely tapped into the spiritual gifts and lessons they offer.

As Elizabeth Sims, novelist and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest noted in her kind comments about the novel:

Love can manifest itself in enigmatic—and unexpected—ways.”

This month, life unfolds a continuing series of wonders about how our human family is going forward together, whether or not war — and hatred — try to assert their presence in the world. I am humbled daily in my encounters here in Germany with those who are seeking a safe life for their children and themselves, and those who have open willing hearts to help them. There is so much learning (and laughter!) on both sides of this engagement and interaction. A new culture of learning together, one might even say. Wertroofs76971_374138912682406_791237199_n

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would write a novel with Hitler’s wife as one of its characters.

Never for a moment did I imagine that the book would come out into the world while I am in Germany. Certainly, I never planned for that.

And never could I have imagined that I would find the themes of that book’s story reflected back to me as the descendants of those who were once in flight for safety here themselves — plus a few who remember the actual experience from childhood — so willingly offer their hands and hearts to the many who are arriving here.

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/


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What the heart can never understand

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Domstrasse, Würzburg, Germany, May 1945.

My writing world this week is all scenes of rubble and destruction as I pass day by day through the spring of 1945. Such devastation can weigh the heart down flat. I have to remember, as I visit the pages each day, that the subtitle of my work is The Legacies That Outlast War.

And when I turn to the world around us, humanity continues to make war on itself.

I was reminded that the Red Cross exists at all because the first Nobel-Peace Prize winner, Swiss businessman Henry Dunant, was so overcome by emotion at the sight of the unattended wounded on an Italian battlefield that his subsequent efforts led to both the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention.

So, the very first Nobel Prize, which launched a force for good still present in the world today, began with a response of the heart to what, in a sense, it could find no way to reconcile, so it offered itself in service to healing.

All week, my thoughts have turned to all that ‘Abdu’l-Baha said when he visited the U.S. in 1912, that it’s time for a whole world to understand what the Dalai Lama has summarized in this way:

At the end of a talk, the Dalai Lama was asked: “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”

He looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”

Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he said, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back … but the heart, the heart would never understand.

“Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”

And that, indeed, is something the heart will never understand. Perhaps this is what lies at the very heart of the proliferating violence that shocks us so. At its roots is this despairing, hopeless  battle — one that can never be won, by anyone. What the heart most longs for is to be part of a force for good.

Artist Barry Lane and his daughter Jessie have recorded a sweet reminder of where our real power and possibilities lie, even in a shattered world. Hear the song, “Only Love”, from Force Field for Good: https://barrylane.bandcamp.com/track/only-love


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“In times of war and deprivation …”

As scenes, and themes, of hunger envelop my current novel-in-progress, this writer’s Guest Post is a glimpse of history – and hunger – from the branches of our own family tree: th

The measure of a moral compass

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

Nana’s last ration book, bilious green and brittle, is pasted to the inside cover of her journal. Rationing in the UK continued until 1954 – July 4 – and defined three generations of my family, for better or for worse. Now, it seems the hand of “democratic deprivation” touches – teaches? – six-year-old me.

Sample_UK_Childs_Ration_Book_WW2Holding it, feeling it, I am engulfed in memories that are not mine, but are as deeply embedded as if they were. All my short life I have heard about the evacuees from London and Birmingham that filled The Chantry, the Victorian Gothic-horror house where eventually I was born in England’s Lake District. Retold stories of GranNana “tsking” over the poor quality of coal available to heat the house while she supervised the hanging of “ill-fitting” blackout drapes, lamenting in her ladylike way the conversion of nearby Shap Wells resort into a POW camp for upper echelon German officers. I recall Nana joining the chorus: “We managed on one egg a week while the best provisions sailed past bound for ‘Those Germans’.”

My mother took up shooting rabbits for meat – “I’m not eating another revolting mouthful of bloody whale, and you’ll not convince me SPAM is meant to be eaten by humans. I’d rather wait for horsemeat.” 1601418_894304997248646_7548890421444550389_n

The “Land girls” made sure they – I can’t help but think “we” – had plenty of vegetables and developed recipes to make them palatable in the absence of butter and onions. Most treasured, and missed, were bacon, butter, cream and whole milk. Till the day they died, my forebear-women would not tolerate margarine, powdered milk or the dreaded peanut butter (used as a less-than-successful shortening in wartime baked goods).

Sharing the shortages was a red badge of courage. Rationing was good for all.

Mostly…

A Well Groomed and Tidy Land 86

Photo: Kathy Gilman

All the women spoke gleefully of the alligator shoes, a size too small, my mother found for 100 pounds (!!) on the black market. No one chastised Mr. Dixon-Hunter for siphoning petrol from unwitting hotel visitors. The tale of Rodney, the ill-gotten pig, hidden and slaughtered for a village Guy Fawkes Day feast, is still cheerfully ballyhooed.

Uncle Willie, my Godfather, who fought in a ghastly conflict no one mentions, sees my untutored ethical struggle. He smells of Pear’s soap and Players cigarettes and ginger. I love him very much.

tracey_edgerly_meloni“In time of war and deprivation,” he says earnestly, looking into my eyes, “our moral compasses may venture off true north.”

Years will pass before I grasp his meaning, but the words remained as indelibly etched as the brittle feel of the ration book.