~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Falling Into Fascination

Marion Woodman
One of my quirks seems to be that I fall suddenly into fascination with certain authors, both fiction and non-fiction. In the past, it's been with the marvelous and wise Jungian Marion Woodman (born in 1928, published her first book when she was 52) or with the evocative naturalist Terry Tempest Williams; I end up buying every single one of their books to read sequentially, and google articles, essays, and videos on them, just to obtain a more in-depth feeling for these people. It's sort of like falling in love:
"There was I, sitting at one side of a long table, quietly listening to a Geography lesson and doing (as they say) nobody any harm, when suddenly the world was filled with a wonderful and quite unaccountable light and warmth. Trying to make out where this radiance came from, I gradually realized that it centered on Daphne, who was sitting opposite. We beamed at each other."
The above quote was written (about a time when she was a child) by my new love, Mary Midgley, a philosopher born in 1919 (published her first book when she was 59), in her memoir The Owl of Minerva. I "met" Mary while reading a series of books on nature by Stephen Harrod Buhner; he mentioned Mary quite often and with every quote he shared, I fell more in love with her until the momentum carried me into getting as many of her books as I could. I've never ended up meeting any of my author-loves, and maybe I don't need to ... I hear their voices in my heart and head, almost as if they are happy to guide and bless me from afar like distant mentors.
Mary Midgley
As it happens, however, I don't fall in love only with writers, but also with topics or subjects, and when I do, then comes immersion within those as well. When I began to show dogs in my 20s, I read hundreds of books on canid behavior as well as those specific to training and breeding; almost 10 years later, I did the same with felines, and then came the energy medicines (homeopathy and flower essences) followed by Ayurveda in my fourth decade. All of these were built upon the continual scaffold-shifting that is my spiritual Self seeking the Divine. Thus, while my study of topics or subjects (or authors) is intense and immersive, I come up for air to explore my own intuition and imagination to apply these ideas in the context of my own life. 

So, what occasionally appears to be indecisive or waffling behavior is, rather, a whole-life view--the Big Picture--of what this all means to me instead of a reductionist approach in perspective. I dive deep but try not to become mired down, thus allowing my fascination or love to guide me, hopefully, into being a more loving, embodied, and empowered woman who is more at ease with the ebb and flow that is Nature.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unkempt

I wrote elsewhere a while back about my distress over my neighbor "mowing the woods" in front of my property because he thought it looked messy -- we live in a semi-rural neighborhood, it's why I fell in love with the place, it's supposed to appear chaotic and wildly gorgeous! Not only that, but the "messiness" is inherent in promoting a healthier environment:
"The industrialized eye, accustomed to suburban lawns and controlled gardens, generally sees such diverse, visually complex plant communities as chaotic. There appears to be no order or control, only wild, random growth. Regardless, plant communities have spent some 500 million years learning their craft; there is a reason for how they are structured. The more visually complex a plant community, the better it can respond to ecosystem demands and stressors. All ecosystems are dynamic over time in their drive to preserve this kind of 'wildness.' A suburban landscape, not continually forced into an orderly shape, will 'relax.' It will begin rearranging, reassembling, itself immediately; it will begin to look rather unkempt." ... "Disease outbreaks and heavily destructive insect infestations are extremely rare in these kinds of lumpy, visually complex, 'unkempt' ecosystems." ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner in The Lost Language of Plants
I have also been seen as messy or unkempt, especially once I passed my mid-thirties. Maybe that's part of why I protect the messiness of the woods; I feel it as kindred, as part of me.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Maybe?

We have a possible new addition to the family - a kitten. Five days ago, I found a feisty little blond kitten in our garage, hiding in the under-carriage of my car. The kitten is skittish, for sure, but beginning to trust me. Now if I can just get the elder cats (14 and 17) to accept the kitten instead of chasing it!
I think I know who the kitten's momma is; ever since moving in, we've seen a tortie-colored adult once in a while and last year I saw her briefly with a kitten. The previous owners of the house had been feeding what they said were two strays, but left them behind and our cats aggressively chase them away. I don't know why momma-cat would have abandoned this little kit, though -- maybe she was killed or a Tom-cat separated baby and momma as soon as he was weaned? Haven't seen a sign of her, though, since the kitten's been with us.

This little one was terribly skinny so I've been feeding every few hours -- which is also helping him/her to trust me. Because of how thin it is, I'm thinking it may be a little older than I first thought. Will know more when I can get it into a vet's office without traumatizing it too much.

Needless to say -- for those who know me -- I'm already in love with this charming kitten.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Small Town, Big History

I recently returned from a two-night getaway with a good friend, something we have done in the past. We wanted to find a quaint walking-town that would be conducive to good conversation and exploring interesting sights. We decided on Hermann, Missouri, a town in Gasconade County established by German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century.

We had one full-day to explore and spent a good part of our time touring the Deutschheim State Historic Site, Stone Hill Winery, and Hermann Farm (a type of living history museum). All of these were marvelous experiences!

During our tour of Hermann Farm, we were taken around the property in a wagon where we periodically got off to visit renovated and reconstructed buildings, make friends with the Shire horses, and view the country side up close. At the top of a hill, from the old cemetery, we were afforded a magnificent view of Hermann where it borders the Missouri River.


One thing our guide pointed out is how much the flow of the river has changed since Hermann's creation. Her grandparents remarked that at times back then the Missouri River was much more broad and could sometimes be crossed by a team of horses pulling a wagon; however, "civilization" has resulted in a deeper, more narrow river.


Our visit to the Deutschheim State Historic Site provided us with a glimpse into the lives of the German immigrants. They were woodworkers as well as vineyard owners; most of them were relatively well-off for the time period, building beautiful homes that have withstood the tests of time. This isn't to deny that they all had to work very hard because this was, after all, a wilderness. The Germans used to transform flax into linen; the "tail" seen (on the right) in the photo is spun flax. I've seen lots of displays and demonstrations about the process of spinning wool or cotton; this was the first time I'd seen one on flax.


Because some of my own ancestors lived in Gasconade County at one time, though none in the town of Hermann (as far as I know), and because I've been doing a lot of genealogical research on my family, I was particularly interested in the map on display that provided an overview of ethnic immigration and settlement patterns in Missouri.


The place I particularly wanted to visit while in Hermann, however, was the Stone Hill Winery. I was fascinated, not by the wine, per se, but by the underground wine cellars (those photos online are much better than any I managed to get) that had taken the original owner 22 years to carve out of the limestone (by hand, mind you, starting in 1847 -- it remains the largest underground system of cellars in North America) and the unusual history of Stone Hill. The historical images HERE show the remarkable size of the arched stone cellars and the large casks in use at that time.

This large cask was not one used at Stone Hill
Winery, but was on display in the
Deutschheim.
As the story goes: 
"By the turn of the century, Stone Hill Winery, which the German immigrant Michael Poeschel began building in 1847, was the third largest winery in the world (second largest in the U.S.), producing more than a million gallons of wine a year. Its wines, such as Hermannsberger, Starkenberger and Black Pearl, won eight gold medals at world fairs between 1873 and 1904."
I have become fascinated by the history of Missouri Wine--specifically Stone Hill Winery and others in Hermann--and will probably delve into the topic further.

All in all, my little trip to Hermann, Missouri, was absolutely wonderful. I look forward to returning and, if you're ever driving between St. Louis and Kansas City, I encourage you to stop in Hermann.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Words and Meaning

I'm still waiting for the sacred to imbue my writing the way it used to ... before the desert and the monster in my mind scared my heart so. Sacred. Scared. Same letters but switch two of them and, oh, what a difference. So it has been with great delight that I sense the wellspring rising and meaning beginning to emerge through my private writing.
"To the alert person, a golden thread may emerge from any ordinary thing and open a doorway into the metaphysical background of the world. ... Writers follow the threads by writing down, as concretely as they can, what they are experiencing, what they are feeling, what they are seeing, hearing, sensing. Robert Bly describes this, brilliantly, as 'following the tiny impulses through the meadow of language.' It must be done slowly. Carefully. Feeling your way."
This is a different kind of writing than what we usually see in fiction, though even there it can sometimes startle us with its shimmering. I'm going to step into that meadow, with reverence, and open to its sensations and follow the golden threads.

___________
Quote from Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, the chapter "Following Golden Threads," by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What if ... ?

I've been reading a variety of books on plant intelligence, from conventional science to innovative experiments to holistic perspectives to sacred intuition, and yesterday's reading--the chapter titled "The Function of Psychotropics in the Ecosystem" from Stephen Harrod Buhner's book Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth--led me to a few "what if" questions that I decided to share.

our volunteer patch of
Philadelphia Fleabane
What if ... one of the ways that people in power began to control others was to deny them the ability to empathically connect with plants, animals, and even other humans by limiting their access to psychotropics? (Studies have shown that "serotonergic neurognostics generate, or perhaps more accurately, regenerate, the natural childlike feelings of empathy, the direct experience of the personhood of the [human and] nonhuman other, by altering sensory gating in important ways.")

What if ... some of the visions of prophets and/or spiritual leaders were a result of plant-assisted journeying (as with current indigenous shamans)?

What if ... one of the reasons for our current drug epidemic is that some people intuit (on a level they aren't aware of) that we need to find our way back to the connective, inter-related oneness of all life? That the so-called escape it provides from our modern society is also part of a journey or return to holistic functionality?

Buhner's book is itself profoundly mind-opening and I highly recommend it. This last of his books is a 500-page tome that I have explored slowly, every chapter gradually leading into the next one -- a beautiful journey.

When Robin Wall Kimmerer (botanist and author of the delightful book Gathering Moss) spoke with Krista Tippett of On Being, she commented that, "science asks us to learn about organisms; traditional knowledge asks us to learn from them." This is a sensational way of bridging the gaps between conventional science, indigenous wisdom, and sacred connection with Gaia.

Some people choose lifestyles that naturally lead them into learning from the earth, from Gaia. Even then, however, their sense of the aliveness of every Being around them can gradually become rigid. We don't have to imbibe psychotropics to alter consciousness, though. Remember daydreaming? Remember pretending? Recall the last time you read a thoroughly engrossing novel or were swept away by a piece of music? That altered your consciousness, because you allowed the meanings, feelings and sensations access (sensory gating). We can do this naturally. We can reconnect with Earth when we offer ourselves the space to do so. Creatives are an obvious example, one that any of us can mirror and then become.

Friday, June 9, 2017

POV to Systems

I was struck how appropriate the following quote could be when applied to other systems besides organ systems (and plant systems, which is the focus of the book); for instance, consider its potential for understanding cultural, political, social, or religious systems, not to mention simply other personalities, and how we can relate to them.

"The closer the reality of the organ system is to your normal point of view, the easier it will be to experience its reality. The farther away it is, the more disturbing it will be. Experientially assuming an extremely different orientation will in itself teach you about the narrowness of your normal point of view. The resistance you have to this new and very different perspective is information about how and how much you cling to your normal perceptions." ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants


The book Secret Teachings of Plants is profoundly moving; I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will I Ever Read What I Used To?

When an email popped into my in-box, I was curious about one of the authors being interviewed. Not because I currently read his work, but because, until about seven or eight years ago, I had read everything he had written. Dean Koontz. Yup. There was a time when I couldn't get enough of his stories. But I gave all his books to a friend when we moved to Arizona, figuring I'd never read him again; I felt like his books were far too intense for the older me. In hindsight, there were a few I ought to have kept.

Anyway, he is starting a new series and it sounds intriguing; if he keeps the horror parts to a minimum, I might just find myself pulled into the new stories. With a female protagonist who is a rogue FBI agent, I'm definitely interested.

A bit of trivia I liked in the interview -- available on Goodreads -- was that Dean Koontz says one of his all-time favorite authors is Charles Dickens:

This is one of those odd coincidences because several months ago, I became determined to re-read A Tale of Two Cities, recalling how much I enjoyed it in high school. And, hey, if I could enjoy that book when I was 17 years old, chances are I would enjoy it even more now.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Its Home On Its Back

This little box turtle (wish I had a good telephoto lens because he or she would tuck its head inside every time I tried to get very close), trudging along with its home on its back, reminded me of travel, the meaning of home, withdrawal when in danger, being hard on one side and soft on the other, and the ancient fable of the tortoise and the hare. Just to name a few imaginings that came up.

And those musings recalled how everything I read, most of which is non-fiction, seems to inspire a story line. Books about our planet like The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry to A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser; on society and religion as from Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra to Evolution of God by Robert Wright; from Reasons to Stay Alive by Haig to Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Levine. Not to mention the variety of books on history, psychology, and spirituality.

Then there is the basic review of my own life experiences from divorce to single living, from competing in dog shows to hiking on mountain trails, from moving across the country to making new friends, from learning about natural remedies to falling in love later in life.

Most of the abundance of ideas or themes can be woven into tales that could take place within my fictional series, except that the first book isn't even finished yet. I've dozens and dozens of possible tales. How will I ever get to all of the stories? I guess the simple answer is that I will get to the ones that I'm meant to write. And that will have to suffice. My Muse will have to offer the rest to other people, although I hope she waits until after I've officially discarded them.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Celtic Family Roots

Carnac in Brittany, 1909

I have ancestors with Celtic connections on both sides of my family tree. Most Americans whose families have been here for 350 years probably do as well. Of my ancestors who I’ve been able to trace back to country of origin, there were 59 (at last count) who emigrated from the Celtic locales of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, alas none from Brittany (in context, there were 208 from England, the clearly predominant country, with a smattering from countries on the continent including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and France, plus a few drops of Native American mixed in for good measure).
My primary fascination with the Celts is due to their visceral and spiritual link
to the landscape, one that I resonate with, as well as their belief in a mysterious parallel dimension, referred to as the Otherworld, inhabited by fairy-folk. On the other hand, the Celtic aspect completely alien to me is that they were renowned as a warrior culture; I definitely didn’t receive those genes. I also try to extricate Celtic women’s past out from under the heavy weight of the patriarchal times and mythologies (since the 1970s, thankfully, many other women have been absorbed in this effort as well so I have plenty of guides). Unfortunately, most non-mythological records focused on battles and wars; that’s what interested most men and they wrote the histories, so one has to peek between the lines to find cultural nuggets beyond those limitations.
The Baker family tree on my mother’s side reveals a robust blend of Celtic lineage. My great-grandmother Rosetta Jane Baker’s line contains 10 individuals from Scotland, 5 from Wales, and 7 from Ireland (possibly Scots-Irish, based upon the time period of emigration; further research would be needed to verify), a few of which I’ll mention here.
© Trustees of the British Museum
According to an online genealogy resource for the Baker family, it is said that, “The dark rolling moors of the Scottish/English border are home to the notable surname, Baker. Its ancient history is closely woven into the rich and beautiful tapestry of the border chronicles” and that the family motto is “Dum spiro spero. (While I have breath I hope.)” The theory is that the Baker name and family descended from the northern mix of Scottish Picts and Angles (about 400-1000 CE). That adds in the intriguing history of the Picts, current theory emerging that they were the “indigenous population,” the original inhabitants, for that part of the world.
My 4th-great-grandparents were James and Rebeckah (Small) Baker; their families were from Kentucky, and previous to that, Virginia in the 18th century. I am still trying to unearth the definite direct link for James Baker, but it was recorded in 1889, in a county historical tome, that his wife Rebeckah Small was of Irish descent. This statement is a curious puzzle, however, since most of my research points to the Small ancestors (plus the Burnett and Henderson wives in that family tree) as being from Scotland; immigrant John Small was born in 1716 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland (southwest of Glasgow, though he could have Irish roots) and the others in the northeast lands of Aberdeen and St. Andrews (both are northeast of Edinburgh). James and Rebeckah’s son Hiram married Clarisy Maddy, and her family line brought in some Welsh through the Morris lineage.
This indomitable Celtic family line gradually traversed America from Virginia, then to Kentucky and Tennessee, before finally arriving in Missouri in the mid-19th century. There’s a generational story here, one of many, just waiting to be told!
My husband doesn't really understand my recent interest in ancestors and cultural family history. I tell him it's not that I think this knowledge will change me--life is good and I like who I am--but rather that it does seem to help me understand myself a bit better. Plus, I've always been curious and a seeker, learning is fun for me, and "visiting" my ancestors or ancestral cultures is also a way to honor their journey.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Flowers!

I just love it when these bloom! Such joyful flowers!

Amethyst Falls Wisteria

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Theories of History and Pre-History

As I get further into researching Celtic history, for both my family genealogy book and a future novel, there are contrasting theories (I mentioned a little of this in an earlier post HERE). Lo and behold, in an older (1975) book titled The Celts: The People Who Came out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm, the author doesn't even pretend to have all the answers. Refreshing!


Herm states at one point, referencing an amateur being derided by experts, that even those so-called experts "have had to admit that they were themselves guilty of bias" toward the amateur who, they said had "a tendency to tailor pieces of prehistory to fit his own ... theory."

Herm then goes on to explain that:
"This practice [of tailoring] is not, however, uncommon, even among reputable scholars. Indeed, used in moderation, it is quite legitimate. It is rather like trying to do a jigsaw that refuses to come out by starting at a different corner. If it works, so much the better. If it fails, the attempt should not be condemned out of hand but should be classed among the many models that have, over the years, been set up only to be knocked down again. Indeed many useless hypotheses belong among those sorts of wrong answer that must be given so that we can know why they are wrong." 
Further, Herm states that:
"The existing facts have grown into such a mountain that a survey would take a whole lifetime, without guarantee of result. Hypothesis has to be our core-sampler: with it we can probe the mountain, in the hope of being rewarded with unexpected insight. I have in what follows had occasion to use such methods, and studies whose arguments, though plausibly founded, cannot be conclusively proven. At best the result will be a picture that ought to be looked at with caution: this is how it might have been. If it was not, no doubt we shall one day find out."
I would personally step back from even the optimism of that last sentence. For one reason, because the "facts" used are often not facts themselves but interpretations and theories. Secondly, I do like his cautionary approach, but would view the theories as likely to remain in the realm of "this is how it might have been." Herm doesn't address this once, but regularly throughout his book, like when trying to find the answer to a particular question, he writes that, "to answer it we must persist with hypotheses and the sparsest evidence." I truly did find his openness to possibility delightful.

I'm glad that I've placed Herm's older book at the top of my reading list, for it more easily lends itself to later thoughts and ideas.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Leaning

Oops! The heavy rains have caused a lot of flooding and the Finley River down below has once again flooded the bottoms...and is causing a power pole to lean quite a bit.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

History of the Celts ... and what may have been before

I find history fascinating. What I don't find in history is certainty. Unlike many who study history (or anthropology or archeology), I see it quite simply as interpretation. Even written history is often only that which was recorded by the dominant culture and how they perceived what they were observing (since the records of those who were subjugated were often destroyed); this is easily realized when we consider how Europeans misinterpreted so much about Native American culture. If those confusions arose only several hundred years ago, all of it "documented," then it is quite easy to see how confusing history can be going back even further in time.

As I research Celtic history, I find repeatedly that each person is determined to make their interpretation one of fact. During the past years, it seems, there has been a lot of uproar regarding the identification of whether one is genetically "Celtic," but we can no more isolate our genes and DNA than we can our veins and heart. There is even dispute on whether Celtic societies were actually established in Ireland, Wales, Brittany, and Scotland, primarily because of modern linguistics; again, we can only see through a glass darkly on this or any other historical so-called definitive interpretation. I enjoy the research; I appreciate the tremendous effort involved. However, I see the endeavors as portals into what might have been, not what was (as fact), and in this undertaking to find out more about ourselves.

For me, the Celtic legacy remains its culture as a whole, not its parts as isolated components to substantiate whether someone is right or wrong. The whole view, individually interpreted, is what has the potential for helping humanity achieve greater good for every being. In other words, what in this legacy can help us lead better, more balanced lives?

That is the angle I come from, whether in my personal genealogical and family tree research, or in the fictional history of the characters in my novels. In other words, how might Celtic culture have shaped the people of the past? What might I learn from the bits gathered together into various patterns?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Blessed Rain

As I sit out on our porch, giving thanks for the rain, I'm reminded of some lines from one of Carrie Newcomer's songs:

The Blessed Rain it falls like Grace,
Without regard to wealth or race ...

Friends and family tire, I think, of hearing me remind them of the blessings of rain. But I can't help it. I've always loved the rain, but after living in the Sonoran Desert for over four years, the blessings of rainfall are more resplendent than ever. When the monsoon season arrived, I would sit out on our patio with each Blessed Rain. I still do. Here in the Ozarks, now, after a half-day deluge, the foliage is absolutely dazzling!

You can listen to the song "We Were Sleeping," which contains those lines, HERE.

May we always feel blessed by rain and, perhaps, let our Love fall like the rain, with grace, and without regard for wealth or race.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stone and Flora

We hope to create a lush haven in the area of our small stone terraced beds; many more hosta are needed, as well as other shade-loving plants. The steep hill to its far side needs a hardy ground cover.

Most of our small property consists of this steep, rocky slope; very few places are level, and nearly all areas are in shade once spring has done its dance of leafing.

We will take our time and do our best. It's been many years since previous owners provided much in the way of TLC to either house or property. May our efforts be blessed.

I am, however, inspired by today's post "April Showers" over at the Vicki Lane Mysteries blog, showing areas of her farm in North Carolina bedecked by lush greenery!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cycles of Spring

I've been delighted this spring, witnessing the cycles of growth all around me in yard and woods. First were the daffodils and forsythia, then came the flowers of vinca vine and redbuds; several trees leafed out quite early, including our broad-canopied mystery tree near the front porch, while others remained externally dormant. Soon appeared wild sweet william near the cultivated tulips, and now emerge the pastel wild geraniums along with the dogwood whose large white petals are now dancing in the breeze instead of the small purple ones of the redbuds.

Having spent most of my adult life among coniferous forests in Colorado and Maine, I'd little idea of how the deciduous trees pulsed into life in their own rhythms. The hickory, walnut, and oak trees are leafing out last, our heavy weekend rain giving them a burst of energy!

So many more plants and trees to become acquainted with!

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Mountain Utopia

There's little doubt that my naive impression of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado as a sanctuary has been partially influenced by the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton, along with the classic black and white film based upon that story. I can't help but believe that paradise on earth is possible when I recall the breathtaking scenery provided by the many roads I've driven and trails I've hiked in the Rockies; the Mystery evoked runs deep.
big stock.com

Early in the story of Lost Horizon, when the frenetic young protege named Mallinson (portrayed as Conway's brother in the movie version) is railing against the circumstances they're in, Conway responds:
"If you'd had all the experiences I've had, you'd know that there are times in life when the most comfortable thing is to do nothing at all. Things happen to you and you just let them happen. The War was rather like that. One is fortunate if, as on this occasion, a touch of novelty seasons the unpleasantness."
When Mallinson then responds that, "You're too confoundedly philosophic for me. That wasn't your mood during the trouble at Baskul," Conway replies:
"Of course not, because then there was a chance that I could alter events by my own actions. But now, for the moment at least, there's no such chance. We're here because we're here, if you want a reason. I've usually found it a soothing one."
Who of us hasn't found ourselves in that kind of a situation at one time or another? How did we handle it? What did we do? When I was Mallinson's age (at twenty-something), I confess that I often reacted as poorly as he does throughout Lost Horizon. I'm grateful that my innate temperament led me toward introspection and, as I've aged, I've become a lot more like Conway.

When Conway sees Shangri-La, shortly after his above comments to Mallinson, I'm right there with him in astonished awe.

I don't recall when I first read and/or viewed Lost Horizon but with every re-reading over the years, I yearn less for the fantasy and instead find myself creating a personal paradise, first within my heart and mind, and then outwardly to hearth and home. I have more patience with my own discomforts or mistakes, and with the circumstances beyond my control whether they be people or events. Even reading the novel now, considering our current American political situation, I feel somehow comforted. My gratitude, and the desire to assuage someone else's anxiety brings me spiraling back to Shangri-La, a fantasy template for my own novel's imaginary town of Chantilly Lace.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Panorama of Spirit

The Rocky Mountains are my favorite range, its peaks and accompanying valleys never fail to fill me with awe, and have done so for as long as I can remember. The Rockies are the panorama of my spirit.


Nevertheless, I left the Rocky Mountains in my late twenties after a decade of living along the Front Range, a decision driven by my desire to escape from the circumstances surrounding a bad marriage's end. But, even though I then built a wonderful life in Maine, filled with good friends enjoyable activities, and steady work, I missed the West and Colorado terribly. Thus it was that four years later, I returned to Colorado with a dream and high hopes. That dream took me to one of my favorite places: Cripple Creek. To my mind, it's not the most fetching of towns--too exposed and spare of trees for my personal preference, sitting in an ancient caldera and stripped of forest by decades of miners--but there's an intangible something that pulls me in whenever I'm there. Maybe a past life?  

By the time I moved to Cripple Creek in 1994, a lot had changed from the days of my family vacations there (we had been visiting Colorado, regularly, since I was a toddler). It had transformed from a sleepy little relic of Gold Rush days into a chaotic harbor for limited-stakes gambling, one of three Colorado towns approved to do so in 1991. These were not places within Native American reservations, mind you; they were, rather, an experiment designed for and directed toward "boosting economies and preserving the past" -- or were supposed to be. I lived just outside of town, an adventure in and of itself, plus worked for one of the hotel and casino ventures in Cripple Creek for an exhilarating and often daunting eight months.

So what happens when gambling is made legal in a small town in the modern American West? That's just one of the questions addressed in my Chantilly Lace series of novels, the first book of which is to be released this winter. While the town of  Chantilly Lace is a synthesis of several places (some in Colorado, others around the country), Cripple Creek was definitely my initial inspiration for it.

My personal hopes and endeavors quickly fell upon hard times, not once but twice, however, those experiences have not in any way dissolved my peculiar bond with Cripple Creek or tainted my adoration for the Colorado Rockies.

Isn't it strange how a place, a particular landscape or part of the country, can keep us held in thrall no matter what the external experiences may be?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stories As Potential

There was a good program by Tom at OnPoint this week titled "A Fictive, Failing Dystopian Future," that, in spite of the title, wasn't depressing to me (and provides a list of new books in that genre). Fiction has its own cycles and patterns, and that includes times when authors are writing dystopia, apocalyptic, or, conversely, utopia fiction. It depends, to some extent, upon what writers want to emphasize based upon their perceptions of the world. Again, I found the conversation quite enjoyable.

I've read books in those sub-genres, depending upon where I was in my own life journey (mostly I was reading them in my late 20s, early 30s), though I still want/need them to end on a note of optimism. My all-time favorite remains Stephen King's The Stand (loved both the book and the movie, that fall into the apocalyptic fantasy category). However, I tend to write my own stories into a stronger potential for a positive present and future. It's my antidote, of sorts.

For instance, Earth Maiden, the second full-length novel I actually completed (although it is the first I published; the first one is still sitting in a drawer) is a futuristic fantasy with an optimistic outcome...eventually. In hindsight, it does lean toward a utopia vision.

The novel I'm working on now is contemporary, not futuristic, but is also one with a foundation in the power of community and compassion, and the importance of women's roles in government for harmonic lifestyles and peaceful resolutions to problems. The imaginary town in my novel is not a utopia, though that is what the young protagonist was seeking, but is, instead, my vision of what might be possible in a non-patriarchal society.

10,000 Feet Above Sea Level





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Stories and the Mind

I have many traditional books on writing (regarding plot, dialogue, outlining, etc.), as well as those by authors written to encourage creativity, however, one of my favorite recent books is Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. It's fabulous!

Rather than being a step-by-step guide to writing, Cron takes us inside the way our minds understand story, and I'm finding it quite inspirational since I'm into the editing process for my latest manuscript. Cron refers often to the work of Steven Pinker and Antonio Damasio, but presents it in the form of how to write a great story. She begins each chapter with a meme showing the "Cognitive Secret" followed by the "Story Secret," and I'll be copying some of those and posting them on my wall, for sure.

This reflective approach to how we understand stories is a relatively recent passion of mine. I also wrote about this perspective, coming from the fairytale angle, in "Writing for Shimmer."

Writing is an ongoing learning process for me, one that I thoroughly enjoy. When I began writing my first novel back in the early 90s, I thought it would be easy because I was an avid reader, especially in the genre that I chose to write. And it went pretty well, I think (even though that particular manuscript is stuck in a drawer and never made it to the self-publishing stage). What I learned, however, as do many people who think it should be easy to write -- after all, I'd read thousands of books by the time I was in my 30s -- was that I didn't fully understand the nuance of flow or the structure of story (along with much more).

What keeps me returning to the writing path is the pure delight I feel when my thoughts and imagination are transferred to a form that I can share with others. Plus, I like the result, I like my own writing. But then, I'm a reader with broad, eclectic taste in fiction and non-fiction, including a lot of self-published books that don't make it into the mainstream. In many ways, this enchantment I feel toward reading and writing across a wide spectrum returns to how I perceive more through essence than detail or structure. And, while the latter is necessary and gratifying, the former is where the well of my creativity emerges these days.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Mountain Essence

Even as I sink my roots into the Ozarks of Missouri, home of my birth and ancestors, I can't help but fantasize about the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We vacationed there often, from the time I was 3, and moved there when I was 18; I ended up living along the Front Range and up in the mountains for 12 years. I adore the Rockies. If money were no object, I'd have a vacation home there right now. The next best thing is revisiting the mountains via memories, photos, and books. 

Is it any surprise, then, that my latest novel (the manuscript is finally complete in draft form) takes place in a fictional little town high in the Rocky Mountains? 

A curious trait of mine is that I remember the essence of past experiences more than the specific recall of details. This is where photos and books are the perfect resource; they provide the visual and I can then sense the location and imagine events. Indeed, one of the books I inherited from my dad is A Portrait of Colorado, published in 1976; it provides a delightful blend of photos, paintings, and essays. For instance, see that old mining shaft on the cover of that book? I swear I've been there because it evokes a sense of the mystery and history that was a part of my time in the Rockies.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On Not Knowing

I follow the moving and evocative Brain Pickings, and today's post is one I am compelled to share. Both the reflection on Inspiration, and the reference to how damaging Certainty can be, spoke to me in Maria Popova's How Our Certitudes Keep Us Small and the Generative Power of Not Knowing, using Polish Poet and Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska's words as a doorway. Beautiful!

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, hubby and I spent the weekend outdoors cleaning away massive amounts of dead leaves and tidying up the neglected beds with an eye toward where to settle new plants in a couple weeks. Because our house is on a steep, rocky hillside, and surrounded by wild, tangly woods -- which I do totally love; once the trees leaf out, three sides of the house are snuggled in a green nest -- our challenge is to find resilient, hardy plants that thrive on limited sunshine.


At the end of an earlier post HERE, I had included photos from the back deck, that were from August and January. Below is one from this past weekend (taken from same spot); I delight in how our view continues to change through the seasons in our new home. While the trees are still bare from winter's hibernation, the fields across the bottoms have become verdant and magnificent, rather than brown.
April 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sharing a Tale

This short piece from a novel is such a delightful tale-beginning that I am compelled to share it; please pop over to read BLUE by Marie Cartier. Not only is the story marvelous, but the message it is sharing is vital.
Maine Coast; an hour from where I used to live

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Intentions

One of my intentions for this year is to provide more posts on my HolistiCARE blog, so I invite readers to pop over there for a visit once in a while if you are curious. I will be mentioning specific remedies or methods, as well as educational resources, about those modalities in which I've been trained.

I'm also hoping to start growing some fresh food-herbs now that I'm living in a moderate climate. I've never had much of a "green thumb," but perhaps the Ozarks will be kind to me in that respect. If it is, I will post the uses of those herbs that do grow, and how I incorporate them into our meals. I'm a modest, non-adventuresome cook, but this may turn out to be a curious journey nevertheless.

Spring is right around the corner, and a new season awaits. But meanwhile, I enjoy the ability to see the sunset for a while longer; once the trees get their leaves, the sun only peeks through.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Characters

A delightful aspect of creative writing in fiction is the ability to develop characters -- those I love and even those I don't, though, granted I don't do a lot of backstory on my villains. I write women's fiction these days, and, to be honest, the evil forces I'm most interested in are those in our own minds.

While my protagonist and her friends are modern young women (the story takes place within the last decade), I go several generations in their backstories and the history of the town. Several of the characters are elder women (the middle generation), and it is this interweaving of her-story that emerges.

The origin of people and place is at the old turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th centuries. Here are images of three of those ancestral characters, although, as with other images, my characters are not identical to these -- the images have simply provided inspiration and a visual touchstone.

Vianne

Bertha Rose

Kisaiya
Another fun feature of creating extensive backstory is that I already have the bones of at least six more stories I could easily conjure to take place across the past hundred years!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Settings

I've turned my attention to my three-quarters finished rough draft manuscript of my novel; here are a couple buildings and a yard scape that have inspired specific settings in my imaginary town high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I'm changing them in the story, so that they fit my characters and events, but the images give me a visual reminder. Could you live here?
The back garden of a wealthy local matriarch in my fictional town.

House where the veterinarian lives.

Shop with upper apartment where my protagonist lives.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Notes from the Past

It's funny what appears sometimes. Here I am, diving back in to my fiction manuscript, and I want to file an article I had clipped from last year, one that I had simply stuck into my pile of papers. I pull out the folder and it falls open to reveal an old newspaper clipping from 2003.
What's funny about this is that my protagonist has a "father issue" and this is one of the few artifacts I have from my own father who always seemed to disapprove of whatever I was doing in my life, including writing (I wasn't writing the "right" material). Attached to the article was a note from my father:
My father died a little over five years later, in 2008; finding his handwritten note along with the article made me feel closer to him. And, even though he never said he was proud of me, maybe he was...just a little. He was encouraging me, and I take that as a good sign.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Please Don't Feed the Frenzy

Please don't feed the Frenzy. 

It's a creature that can quickly turn fierce and frightening. 

We've all seen the signs, at various times in our lives, that say: "Don't feed the [insert name of animal]." Whether wild moose in the mountains or chipmunks in a campground or bear cubs in the woods, the instruction is for their safety and ours.

I'm suggesting we consider taking this advice into our current lives, when many of us are anxious, angry, and/or frightened, or when we may feel self-righteous. Please don't feed the Frenzy.

The Frenzy can quickly turn on us if we feed it, making matters much worse. The Frenzy feeds on chaotic energy and emotions. It can drain us of love, compassion, integrity, and clarity. The Frenzy can tear apart truth, vitality, and potential creative action. If this happens, who will then take care of our loved ones or people in need or the animals or the wilderness or our beloved planet?

Please don't feed the Frenzy.

In the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet (a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest), an arrogant man thought the Frenzy was a monster "out there." In fact, the monster was self-created -- it was a manifestation of what Freud called "the Id," the primitive, unconscious mind. When I imagine the Frenzy, I picture the monster from this movie, and it's not a pretty sight.

Yes, we evaluate and take conscious action where called to. But we also live a whole life in gratitude at the same time. Breathe. Push. As in giving birth to new life. Make change happen, yes. Live our integrity and truth with compassion and empathy. Ground ourself in our blessed, sacred universe. Find clarity and do what we can.

But, please, let's not feed the Frenzy.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Healing Our Wild Hearts

During this past year, I've often struggled to have faith that humans are worthy of the gifts of our magnificent planet and universe. The vicious comments to and about other people, from all points of view and all sides of the political conversation (if one can even call it a conversation, which I doubt), have triggered my tendencies toward melancholy and misanthropy. And, if it weren't bad enough that we treat each other badly, we destroy other species and the planet that provides so abundantly for us.
Winter in the Ozarks

Whenever I could manage it, I have always chosen to live "in the country," whether that was our new home here in the southwest Missouri Ozarks, or in the woods of Maine, or the mountains of Colorado. Even these areas, though not wild, retain enough residual wildness to soothe my soul when I am unable to visit true wilderness areas.

I worry that this next administration of our government will harm our environment even more than we've already done, by prioritizing short-term gains over long-term losses. I would like to think that humans can control our greed so that we do as little harm as possible to others and our planet, but, sadly, most people when given free rein will think short-sightedly only about themselves, whether farmers or corporations or the average worker buying as much stuff as they possibly can.
Winter Woods in Maine

If we further allow our country to invade, harvest, and destroy even our wild places -- national parks, forests, and refuges -- our souls, the wild magic within each of us, whether we know it is there or not, will die along with our resources. There have been multitudes of books and movies about what could happen, yet many of us see them as entertainment rather than warnings, pretending they couldn't possibly happen.

I may not visit those wild places very often, but I am deeply comforted knowing they are there -- for their own sake as part of the Divine Whole, but also in case I need them. If they disappear, where will we go to heal? Where will our hearts be able to feel a sanctuary of natural wilderness even if we cannot see it with our eyes?

Summer in the Rocky Mountains
I was blessed to grow up visiting these wilderness places each summer; they became a part of me, places I always knew were out there healing us through their vital existence. Further, I was blessed that these visits were journeys across our amazing America, from sea to ocean, from mountains to deserts--these were road trips. The insightful naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams writes about this eloquently in her latest book, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks:

     To be an American once meant unending possibility, and the land reflected that possibility. Always the next bend--the next ridge--the mountain range descending into the depth of canyons carved by water an wind and time.
     Now, we say we have too little time, not enough time for road trips. We used to visit our national parks most often by car. Families took time and experienced the gradual approach to the park being visited. Anticipation was part of the journey as was the wildness of a family spending time together for hours and days, traversing the states. Today we arrive by plane. We miss the trek across the vast expanse of this nation. I sometimes wonder whether these special landscapes now appear as "pop-up parks," a spot of entertainment and commerce instead of an unfolding geography.

This past weekend, I pulled out some books by an author I used to enjoy but had yet to read her four most recent novels. I had paused in reading her books because I felt like she went into a darker mental space than I cared to visit anymore; Nevada Barr writes about the intersection of wilderness (national parks) with humans-gone-wrong in her mystery series. I found myself wanting to read her stories now, though, for the very reason that her protagonist somehow always finds her way through to the other side, to where she still has faith in beauty and love and how wildness can help us to heal.

I wish more people would travel, would make space in their lives for experiencing the wonders of our natural, wild places. Unlike our ancestors once thought, the beauty and resources of our world are finite and we need to treasure them. Many people forget that our bodies and minds careen into the wastelands without the nourishment provided through our souls, our wild and divine hearts that are revitalized through our connection to our sacred earth.
Grand Canyon

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