You will like Making Room for George.
Notice on the screenshot from Amazon above that there are only 6 reviews showing for George.
In reality, The book has 23 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 reviews but 16 of them are assiciated with the first edition (Balboa Press, 2013;about to be out of print ) and thus Amazon is unable to link them to my second edition (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016).
So… I am capturing them myself! Isn’t that Super-Indie of me?
This reviewer compares the book to Olive Kitterage and Dinner at the Heartbreak Restaurant. Cool!
Here is what she has to say:
Take this journey.
(click here to read it on Amazon)
By sandy foster morrisonon June 30, 2015
I love this woman. Guts and grit, and grace under fire…until a reckoning was due. We know this story. Or know of it as I do from writing my own memoir about life in the Piney Woods. Especially if you share history with East Texas, the sights and sounds, struggles and redemption, ride back on waves of memory stifling as summer heat. My heart felt bruised and I was pissed from the first lines. The tension of small gestures. That particular brand of Texas men. Their unconsciousness. And still the feminine automatically – foolishly? – by nature, holds nurturing space for them to be. And still…the extraordinary power of love seeps up through the cracks in even the meanest of circumstances.
As I read Making Room for George, I was reminded of Dinner at the Heartbreak Restaurant and Olive Kitteridge. George is equally large in creating an immense, aching tension through the small cuts of disappointment. I feel the Bet’s insides…the small diversions…taking the top off flammable circumstance. The sleepless mind on spin cycle. The clueless man. Universal female understanding and automatic, inbred response to clueless men. That sense of entitlement. The wifely service rendered always…no matter. Until a lit match ignites the gasoline spill inside the gut.
This is a love story. But not as you imagine. The reflections shared touched me deeply, and brought me squarely home to myself: “I spent hours swinging in the shade of the elm, under the summer sun. I wrote in my journal, drank iced, herb tea, and tried to think what karmic act, what law of attraction, what principle of Quantum Theory I had set into motion that had shifted my life so dramatically in just three short years.” If you have accepted that change is the only certainty in life, and you are willing to look at yourself honestly, you will feel supported and alive to possibilities as you read this impelling story.
I’ll be reading at Malvern Books in Austin again! This time, I’m reading for their monthly event, Novel Night from my novel, Making Room for George, Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016 alongside Marcia Feldt Bates, the author of The Oys and Joys.
Earlier this year, I read at Malvern’s during an event they hosted featuring Tupleo Press 30/30 Project Alumni (a fundraiser for the press during which poets wrote 30 poems in 30 days). Here’s a link to the July, 2016 30/30 poems. If you’re a poet, consider volunteering for a month coming soon!
I’ll be reading for the Voices de la luna poets in San Antonio from a chapbook of poems written during the 30/30 Project last March. The reading is free and open to the public: Lynn Belisle Studio. To tease you into coming, here is the April 17, 2016 poetry reading at Malvern’s:
“The Cloak” 18X18″ Mixed Media Collage. Image courtesy of the artist, Brandi Strickland. Used with permission and gratitude. All rights reserved. Please visit Ms. Strickland’s website here to view more of her work.
Today is the thirtieth day of the season of non-violence–a sixty-four day block of time between Jan. 30 and Apirl 4 (the anniversaries of the assassinations of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, respectively) which is set aside annually & was originated by Ghandi’s grandson.
Why designate a season of non-violence? Of course, it is a celebration of the contribution these and other modern day public figures who have lived out their lives passionately, teaching the way of non-violence. But most importantly, it is one way to engage ourselves in a conversation about the power of gentleness.
I have never heard nor have I ever spoken these words: Happy season of non-violence! And though I think, Happy season of gentleness! evokes more of the resonance I personally want to create in the world, these are not words that have ever occurred to me to say. Hmmmmmm….
There is a season in which everyone walks the streets wishing everyone else everywhere merriness and joy and P.E.A.C.E! Culturally, however, we only give ourselves permission to show this much good will publicly for the thirty days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the time, we might say, “Have a nice day,” or “Be well,” but these phrases don’t carry quite the same message. They don’t really speak to the practice of non-violence the way, say, May you know gentleness today, or I wish you every gentleness might.
I write about gentleness, confessing my own need for it, my own need to practice, practice, practice, confessing that I lapse into violent thought and sometimes (still) words and actions that come from habits deeply imbedded in my neuron-pathways from pre-birth.
I write to watch myself. I write to know myself. I write to change myself. I write, hoping that what I have experienced will move others into their own way of being present to themselves and their own needs to watch, to know, to change.
What follows are excerpts from a talk I gave to women gathered for the Diocese of South Texas Episcopal Women’s Spring Gathering at Camp Capers in Waring, Texas, April 4, 2014. I share it with you today, celebrating my own season of non-violence, celebrating how far I have come, celebrating my own willingness to carry on.
Part I: Why Am I Here?
I started writing Making Room for George because I needed to tell the story of what was happening in my life.
But as I wrote, the writing morphed from a simple account of the events in my life into a journey itself–through my life’s history and choices– and as I wrote, it was much like taking an inventory, bearing witness, explaining, and grappling with the transformational journey I have been making from the person I used to be into the person I am.
After I finished the book, I realized that I would be speaking to people about the book. I had to decide what it was I really wanted to say besides, “Buy my book.” And as I asked for guidance and began to receive it, I had great resistance to the clear message that surfaced. But it was so clear and so profound and it scared me so much that I knew this was what I was being called to do.
So this is what I have come here today to say:
The woman sitting next to you in church every Sunday, well-dressed, intelligent, raising a straight-up child, holding a good job could be the very woman whose husband sitting beside her threatened her life and the life of her child the night before.
Statistics show that as many as one in every three of us has experienced some form of abuse by an intimate partner.
We must realize this is happening, maybe even to the woman sitting next to you right now.
We must talk about it openly. We must hold the door of our hearts wide open so that disclosure can happen. We must proactively educate ourselves and our children as to what constitutes a healthy relationship. We must teach each other how to practice respect and gentleness.
We must tell the truth. We must heal this abuse. We must stand together, become formidable, and thrive toward a culture of gentleness.
Part II: Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?
As an adult, I asked my mother why she didn’t just leave my father. After all, she had a job. This was her answer: “Because he said he’d kill both of us if I did.” So my mother risked her life and sacrificed her happiness to save our lives.
As it turns out, this threat is a common one made by many perpetrators. Sometimes, in spite of such a threat, women summon the courage to leave and succeed, finding new lives in other cities or carrying on where they are, but with restraining orders in place, finding that their spouse’s bullying behaviors subside once they realize she has finally, really left and isn’t coming back. Sometimes, the perpetrator hunts them down and carries out the threat.
A woman who lived across the street from one of my friends in an affluent San Antonio neighborhood was being held hostage by her husband, locked inside and not allowed out alone. None of the neighbors suspected anything was wrong until her sister called one of them to say there was going to be an intervention
Sometimes a woman has children and no job and no idea how she would survive and care for her children, so she tells herself after every beating or insult that he didn’t really mean it and that he won’t do it again. In fact, that’s what most perpetrators do say. They experience and express real remorse, but somehow cannot keep their aggression from surfacing again and again.
Sometimes, the woman is well-educated and has an excellent job and could easily care for herself and her children financially, but she has been brainwashed into thinking that the whole mess is her fault and if she would only do this or that differently, he wouldn’t lose his temper the way he does. So the woman jumps through hoops: taking cooking classes; losing weight; changing her hair; never going out; clinging; not-clinging; and so on and on and on…
The other reason women stay is because they love this man and because they would rather stay and risk a broken arm than endure a broken life with a broken heart. My mother loved my father until the day she died and I love my husband despite all of our difficulties.
Part III: You Can’t Get There From Here
Have I experienced violence at the hands of someone I love? Yes. I am one in three. But why did I choose a man who slapped me to the ground and treated me with such disrespect and why didn’t I just leave him?
Einstein is quoted to have said: “a problem cannot be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
I can speak most authentically to this point by telling my own story.
I cannot leave the place I inhabit unless I leave it consciously, by first identifying the energetic pattern-cause and then by practicing the vigilant work of choosing again and again a new way of inhabiting my world.
D. Ellis Phelps
In order to move on, I must embody a new energetic pattern. Otherwise, I will simply find myself back in the same circumstance or with the same kind of partner who may be slightly more or less abusive because that’s the kind of energetic space my consciousness inhabits, because that’s what’s familiar, because that’s what I’m attracted to subconsciously.
So when I found my husband, what kind of energetic-pattern did I embody? What were my deepest systems of belief?
From as early as I can remember, I learned that violence is a way of life. That it is part of loving someone. That it is the way to handle anger, disappointment, and frustration.
I watched my father become enraged with my mother, hit her, knock her down and bruise her. I watched her cry and mourn and grieve and then I watched them reconcile and stay together for twenty-eight years. I heard my mother say repeatedly that she loved my father, so I learned that this is how you behave when you love someone.
I learned that violence is funny. I watched the Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner do territorial battle on Saturday morning cartoons. I watched the Roadrunner drop the big rock or anvil on the Coyote’s head and squash him. And then I watched the Coyote spring back and do it all again and I watched this week after week along with many other cartoon characters who did the same things, smacking each other in the face with skillets and brooms and the like.
Implanted in those cartoons was the notion that these kinds of violent actions do not hurt, after all the Coyote never died.
And the same idea was implanted in my experience because though my mother was sad and I was frightened, no one died. So I became accustomed to living in tension and because I didn’t know better; I couldn’t know better.
I agreed subconsciously with the idea that violent action, tension, and pain are all just part of the landscape of love.
My psyche studied the roles: the aggressor rules; the victim submits; and the belief system: when there’s been an attack, pass judgment, figure out who’s to blame, and punish them by attack. This belief system implanted itself into every cell of my being, into my psyche, into my emotional blueprint, and therefore into every future relationship I would have, especially into the relationship I have with my own self.
I decided early on that to survive, I would be perfect. And I vowed that no matter what, when I grew up, none of this would ever affect me.
I graduated high school, President of the Drama Club, Student Council Officer, in the top ten percent of my class, an outspoken, upstanding, virgin, non-drinking Christian who attended church beside my parents every Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Wednesday Prayer Meeting. I looked like a young woman who was just fine.
When I got to college, I started drinking, having fun, and enjoying freedom–until I wasn’t having fun anymore. Within four years, alcohol had released the rage within me to the degree that I had already blown through two serious relationships and I had become spiritually bankrupt, anorexic and suicidal.
So, I had left home, but I had failed to leave what I learned there behind.
Do you live in an emotional landscape, longing to be in a different place? What ideas, patterns or habits might you need to relinquish in order to move on?
Are you one of the one in three? If so, call for help: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
I’ll be posting more of this story over the next few days. Click the follow button to the right to get my updates in your email inbox.
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, a love story. Balboa Press, 2013.
image: “Mystical Tree” Used with permission of the artist, Sya at Deviant Art
Because, as an artist, I work in multi-media (prose, poetry, painting, mixed media collage) and because my creative process is the tether to my sanity and sense of purpose in the world, I wanted to know about this author’s process.
Because my own dreams (and power animals) are my guide, the way, if you will, I receive from “between the worlds,” and because much of my work is conceived in the Dreamworld, I wondered if the same is true for this author.
Because I stand in solidarity alongside women and men who have experienced misunderstanding and persecution for using their innate powers of intuitive wisdom; because I stand alongside women and men who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of those in religious authority, both unconscionable misuses of power, and since these themes recur in Corvus Rising, I wanted to know what personal experiences this author has had with these intense social issues.
D: Does your own experience of the creative process mirror that of your character Jade?
Mary: In many ways, yes. I bury myself in art like she does, though I do not paint. My mother was a painter, and I opted for the 3-d art forms of ceramics and jewelry.
I am haunted, like she is, with a great many creations pushing to get out of me and into the physical world. Note: I did not say “real,” as this inner world is every bit as real as this surficial one that has its own illusions.
I live in this “underneath” world where Jade does, where the mystical and intuitive are the ways of knowing. And I am often haunted by the beings I encounter.
I fret less than she does and I don’t consciously remember most of my dreams.
D: Are the dreams Jade has actually dreams of your own or adaptations of your own dreams? Describe your relationship to the dream world.
Mary: Waking dreams, perhaps. There is such a fine line, you know. I have a vivid and energetic imagination and that underneath world I live in probably would seem like a dream state to someone else. I like to tear away at that boundary between the real and the imagined. There are secrets behind the curtain of illusion in which the real world cloaks itself.
D: Have you ever feared or experienced being locked away for perceived “insanity,” for being different?
Mary: If only they knew….bwahahahahaha!
Remember that Waylon Jennings song: “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane….”
Me to a T.
Seriously, I have never been afraid of being locked away or of being different.
My fear all comes from a profound sense of not belonging. In my book, Charlotte’s graying tells about that. I can see, hear everything, but people are all speaking a whole different language that everyone understands but me. Nobody sees me, no one understands me. I belong nowhere.
That is the lock up: a tremendous illusion that seems to have run my whole life.
D: What is your own experience with “animal speak?”
Mary: I speak to cats all the time, as I believe I am part cat. We just get each other, cats and I.
I’d love to have a crow start hanging around me. I do speak to them (and ravens too) and sometimes it seems they hear me.
I do believe we have misunderstood the speech of animals. If they make any sound at all, we think it’s a mating call. This is a pretty weird idea, considering that animals that make any noise at all do it all year long, not just in their mating season.
Sometimes I wonder what the crows think about our language. All they hear is what we shout at each other. Perhaps they think we lack vocabulary. Or that “F*** YOU! is a mating call.
D: Have you ever experienced a trance-like state like the one you describe in “The Keeper’s Trance,” like an Ayahuasca ceremony or other hallucinogenic states of consciousness?
Mary: Not sure I would call it a trance, but I do get carried off by Gregorian chants. It helps to NOT to understand the words.
The trance sequence in my book came from an unknown corner of my imagination; it is outside of any experience that I am aware of, and just came as I was writing. I hadn’t been thinking of trances or hallucinations at all. That is so cool when that happens.
I was thinking of brains: ours, that of Crows and how we know so much more than we think we do. We have it all in there, but use so very little of it. I imagined our brains as a vast lattice of space that you could walk around in, like a library of sorts. I think we carry a good amount of collective knowledge of our complete history on Earth, if we knew how to access it.
That’s where the trance came in. In the book, the early Patua’ gave the crows and ravens their entire history to preserve as they went underground.
More on that in Book Two.
D: Have you studied Reiki or any other form of energetic or healing practice?
Mary: No. My path seems to be through art and writing. Reiki and the other healing practices are a life-long effort, and I am engaged elsewhere. But, because I live in the “underneath,” I know there are different ways of knowing, and different ways of healing than what is out there in the “real” world.
Do I believe in ‘laying on of the hands’ as a way of healing? Absolutely!
image: “church at Abiquiu” New Mexico, d. ellis phelps. Rights reserved.
D: You mention the “sex abuse” issues “the church has been sweeping under the rug” more than once in this writing. Do you have personal experience with this unconscionable misuse of power about which you would be willing to speak here?
Mary: I grew up in New Mexico, where they sent the pedophile priest for rehabilitation. New Mexico is the place where the lid blew off Hell, because a great many of these rapists were sent there. The first prosecutions of priest sex abuse were in New Mexico.
I had no idea that the place in the mountains my family and I passed on our way to a picnic—it is still there, called the Servants of the Paraclete—was where they were sent for rehabilitation before being turned out into the parishes of NM.
New Mexico is very poor and very catholic and the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church cynically sent these rapists into New Mexico churches as Spiritual Leaders. I say ‘cynical’ because I think these self-serving bishops sent the troublesome priests to New Mexico, to sweep them under the rug.
Though it infuriates me, I have no personal experience with sexual assault from priests.
The subject comes up in my book because of one of my main characters, a Jesuit priest who is deeply flawed, but is not a predator. I wanted to confront it head on, as this is not what the book is about at all.
I admire the Jesuits more than the other orders, as they’ve always been about science and education and they haven’t engaged in the exploitative and hateful, bigoted practices of say, the Franciscans, who were quite brutal to native populations (including those in New Mexico).
D: Are the Patua’ a non-fiction tribe in history or a fictional tribe?
Mary: I invented the Patua’–a fictitious and ancient race of humans who spoke to the crows. They do represent what I think we all look back wistfully to: a Garden of Eden where we were one with all of Creation.
Patua’ is a real word, however—it means ‘dialect’ more or less. They were humans who were more attuned to the natural world of growing things and they figured out the secrets of the plant world. Because they were so connected, they had not forgotten everything humans were given when we got here. They didn’t forget the language of the crows.
Book Two will have more about the history of the Patua’, the Church, greed, hubris, and how their agricultural prowess got them to the same place we are now with corporate farming (a euphemism for ‘starving the people’).
D: Are the fictional Patua’ in your book symbolic representatives for shamanic and witchery practitioners that were forced underground and persecuted by the rise of Christianity?
Mary: Yes. There will be more of that part of the story forthcoming in Book 2.
The Patua’ were looked at as heretics. Humans are not supposed to speak the tongue of the crows, or any other animal. But they also knew how to grow things far, far better than anyone else. Some thought this was unnatural and perhaps portended an unholy alliance with the powers of darkness.
Though they guarded their secrets, the Patua’ weren’t doing anything magical; their botanical lore was based on many centuries of observation and experimentation.
But what is magic? The thing we point to when we don’t understand how something works. I heard a Baptist professor once comment that scientific knowledge over the centuries has shrunk the ‘God of the Gaps’—meaning that we attribute to God (or magic) what we cannot explain.
D: Have you experienced building a wilderness abode such as the tree house you describe?
Mary: I have not, though I was happy to spend six weeks sleeping in a tent when I was in graduate school. I’ve fantasized about caves as well. When my father took me and my brothers to Carlsbad Caverns when we were kids, I fantasized about getting lost from the group and disappearing.
I would LIKE to build an ‘off the grid’ place far enough away from cities to have animals and quiet, but close enough for companionship.
D: How far along are you on Book Two? When do you anticipate it will be ready for readers?
Mary: I am hoping to publish Book 2 within the next four to six weeks. Its working title is Teosinte —after the ancestral plant that got bred into the corn plant we know today, more than 7,000 years ago in southern Mexico. By the time Columbus showed up, corn as we know it, properly called maize, was all over the Americas.
D: Tell us how you really feel about cookies.
Mary: Mmm cookies! In fact, I am more a chocolate freak than cookies. Really, I like to bake, so I gave that to the priest. I bake the most awesome sourdough bread. So does he, thanks to me!
D: In a few words, tell us who you are.
Mary: Enthusiastic. Obsessively creative. Curious. Outspoken. Raucous. Irreverent. I am an extroverted reclusive. Or perhaps an introverted socialite. I love freedom.
D: Ahhh! Methinks you are part crow!
Do you have a special relationship or kinship to certain creature-beings? Does your daytime or nighttime Dream World guide you? Do you experience a profound sense of not belonging? How does this show up in your life and work? Please, tell us about it here.
image: “Guardian of the Grove” Used with permission of the artist, Thomas Dawson. See more of his STUNNING images here. OMG!! All rights reserved. You can interact with this talented photographer more on FB here.
Thick and imposing, rich with humus and root, a lifting mist, palpable silence: this image personifies wildness. It is what I saw as I read about Wilder Island, a mythical place in Corvus Rising. I can hear the Raven calling.
Since childhood, I have been drawn into the woods, playing in an Oak grove behind my grandmother’s house in Central Texas for hours, swinging from the trees on ropes, building tree houses out of sticks and grapevines or hiking with my grandfather in the East Texas Piney Woods, listening to the crush of pine needles underfoot, listening to him call the birds.
To this day, I fantasize a simple life: a wooden bowl, a rudimentary shelter, a fire and solitude. And reading Corvus Rising allowed me a few precious moments in such a life. As I read, I wondered if the author felt the same, so I asked her:
D: Have you ever lived in or wished to live in a forest or jungle? Where do you live now?
Mary: Yes of course! Not a jungle though. Forest, yes. As a young girl I fantasized about living on an island with a black bird and a cat. And a rowboat so I could go into civilization when I needed food or other necessities. I reckon that was a huge inspiration for Corvus Rising!
I live in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River in Colorado, at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Only about 5500 people live in this valley; it is very quiet—people complain about crickets…sheesh!
Mountain lions and bears stalk the streets of our towns (really), raising a stir, but strangely no one has tried to shoot them, strange, because this place has a goodly share of gun freaks.
Politically, we go from wingnut to wingnut here. Plenty of everyone. I like it that way.
D: How do you think living environment— personally and ancestrally— influences who we are and how does this influence our relationship to the planet and other humans?
Mary: I was born and grew up in New Mexico, as an adopted daughter of the desert—
Both my parents were born in greener places (Mom in MN and Dad in NJ). They moved to NM in the late 1940s/early 50’s. My mother lived in Roswell during the ‘alien invasion’ of 1947.
Wilder Island in my book was inspired not only by my girlhood dreams, but by Nicolette Island on the Mississippi River, which cuts through Minneapolis. There is no other resemblance, however to this fine city. Minnesota calls to me sometimes, the green land of plentiful water, lots of fish. Hard to be hungry in a place like that—ghastly cold winters, though (Did you hear that MN closed schools last week? Never heard of them doing that before).
In New Mexico, white people are the minority(not by much)—but they are the dominant culture in terms of money and privilege. However, the influence of the Mexican and Indian cultures is prevalent everywhere, and it makes for a richness that is absent in other places where white people dominate the population as well.
I taught geology at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville for four years. Can we talk culture shock? Flattish land of cornfields and few rocks exposed—a nightmare for a geologist! No mountains…no green chilé, which is not only grown in New Mexico in great quantities, and the air is full of the aroma of roasting green chilé in the fall. I grew some chilé here in Colorado last summer. Not bad! It’s tasty, and hot enough.
Astounding humidity in Evansville, something that is hard for a woman of the desert to get used to. I spent summers in dry, mountainous New Mexico and Colorado.
Evansville is about 98% white. I missed the Mariachi music blaring out of open car windows.
I think growing up in the West had a profound effect on my life. Would I have loved rocks and mountains as much had I grown up in Minnesota or New Jersey?
My son lives in Brooklyn now (he grew up in NM also). It is noisy and exciting, the city that never sleeps. It has no crows. I surmise this is true due to rat poison used by people to rid the buildings of rodents.
Crows would eat a dead rat long before they’d peck at an apple.
I have mule deer nibbling at everything in my yard and a flock of wild turkeys that stroll through every day or so, and I hear an owl in the early morning. My son never hears or sees any of that.
In New York, there is plenty of noise and art and coffee shops and theaters and all the great and awful things that humans do. We live at opposites ends of all that, my son and I.
I think being a Boomer probably had the most effect on my attitudes toward the Earth and the environment. The rights of the earth have been part of our collective unconscious ever since the late 1960’s, as is also true for civil rights and women’s rights.
What do you think about how living environment effects one’s attitudes toward or love of nature & other humans? Tell me where you live and how you feel about it. Post a link to a photo of your favorite spot on earth!
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.
What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it);…
D. Ellis Phelps
From page one of Corvus Rising, I was enchanted, its pages calling me into the world of dreams & of wildness and justice reclaimed. As I read, I wondered how much of the story was autobiography written as engaging fiction and whether or not the strong social commentary I was reading was aligned with the author’s own opinion. So, I wrote my questions down as I read and corresponded with Ms. Simmons regarding an interview. She graciously agreed.
I anticipated a juicy dialogue and I am not disappointed. I will be posting our interview in parts over the next few days. I hope you enjoy getting to know Mary C. Simmons as much as I have. Read on…
D: Are you a “woman of faith?” If so, would you describe your faith? If not, can you describe your cosmology?
Mary: I am a woman of faith.
But I am not a woman of religion, in spite of my upbringing in catholic schools and church. My mother’s catholic family emigrated from Northern Ireland, and my father’s from Poland—there is no country on Earth more catholic than Poland….my father’s sister was a nun, could speak fluent Polish, had a PhD in theology and was Pope John Paul’s liaison to the US for a while.
I don’t go to church, but have all kinds of time for the teachings of Jesus.
While I was in geology graduate school, I was fortunate enough to be a crew member on a river trip in the Grand Canyon, which mostly amounted to cooking for a group of twenty-two men from an organization called Young Life, which is a Christian group that outreaches to youth.
I learned that you can cook just about anything in a Dutch Oven, when the captain of my boat baked me a birthday cake in one. Eight coals in the top is all it takes.
Food is a big deal in the Grand Canyon. For five days you’re hundreds of feet below the known surface, a long way from anywhere in any direction. Food service, then is huge. Breakfast, lunch, snacks in between, and dinner.
Enchiladas, Beef Stroganoff, Lasagna.
We geologists thought these twenty-two men were pretty weird with their noses stuck in Bibles after dinner rather than gazing in awe and wonder at the five hundred million years of time towering above us, pygmies as we were in the scale of a half billion years of rocks.
I had a few discussions with the two younger men on the trip, and one of them said: “Jesus gave but one commandment for us: Love One Another. There is nothing in the Bible about excepting anyone from that love…”
As a person who has studied geology, I cannot make a distinction between the Creator and the Creation. I love the Earth, the animals and plants, the rocks and water, landscape and sky. This is my temple.
This is my faith, my religion, and in this Creation, I too speak the language of God.
Look for the rest of Mary’s interview with me, appearing in parts over the next few days. In the meantime, I wonder: Where do you speak “the language of God?”
This is a book of dreams: tree-houses; talking birds, the lost feminine, found.
Wilder Island, a mysterious, mythical island that symbolizes (in my mind) the earth herself, is inhabited by the Corvus (crows or ravens), keepers of an ancient, almost lost language. Almost lost, that is, to humans.
Fortunately, there are humans known as Patua’ who can communicate with the Corvus in this language. Alfredo Manzi, the lone Jesuit priest and professor of ornithology who comes to Wilder Island with the intention of turning it into a bird sanctuary, is one of them.
As the story begins, we witness Jade’s nightmare: crows, shattering glass, a precious medallion given to her by her unknown mother (we think) who disappeared when Jade was very young. Jade’s husband Russ, an academic peer of Manzi, comforts her, tries to convince her that her dream is merely an echo of the previous day’s events and conversation.
But Jade, an artist and believer in beauty, knows her dream means much more.
As a student of dreams, a lover of earth and believer in beauty, I am often one who speaks a language almost lost. I often find myself at odds with what is: too much noise, too many things, too much doing, so I deeply identified with one character in particular, Charlotte, she having been institutionalized her entire adult life and unable to communicate with most humans in language they could understand.
What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it); money changers pollute and plunder the earth; people, acting alone or banding together, go to war over pieces of this planet (who owns it or how to treat it), all the while trying to understand or completely ignoring the language of the other.
Enter: the hero.
The author of this layered allegory, Mary C. Simmons, has successfully given the role of hero to her crow characters. They are funny and wise, silly and sly and believable. These savvy creature-beings indeed point the way.
I don’t know about you, but I have to believe that together we can make the kind of relationship between animals (human and creature-beings) and between animals and earth happen that this author postulates can happen.
I loved this book. -&-having never dreamed of crows before, and after reading the first few chapters of it, I did dream of them and then wrote the following verse:
for Mary C. Simmons
trunk of peace
// men //
Look for an interview with Mary C. Simmons coming soon on this blog!
D. Ellis Phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.
When I published Making Room for George last year, I was, at best, a Labrador puppy with a new bone: exuberant, elated, undisciplined, and naive.
Why not? I had just accomplished the dream of a lifetime: I had written my first novel and it was good. I could not wait to see it in print, so after multiple rounds of “send me pages” and “send me the manuscript” and “can you do (four) re-writes?” with traditional literary agents, I decided to publish independently.
I don’t regret this. I didn’t want to wait. I am a Baby-Boomer after all. I had certain control: I used one of my own images for the cover, decided what font and colors to use, designed my page layout, hired my own editor, chose my own Beta Readers, and I still own the rights to my content.
I’ve gotten some good reviews. I’ve done several readings to en rapt listeners (these were awesome!). It is precious to be heard.
What I do regret is not having done more research before choosing a publisher and buying marketing packages, the Hollywood Treatment and Press Release, for example that eventually proved not to be worth the money.
So here I offer two valuable blogger resources I have found recently for your referral.
“Writer’s Toolbox” by Ryan Lanz (@theryanlanz) offers tips and resources for #writers. In this post, the particular link that caught my eye was the one about how to create your own book trailer (gratefully, one of the packages I did not buy from my publisher). With these hints, I think I’ll give making my own trailer a go.
As for legal issues surrounding independent publishing, they abound. Since I published, I have realized (via a Book Baby blog post) that I have one, one I still must correct, but that’s another blog post.
So that you don’t end up with your own legal issues, there’s Helen Sedwick (@HelenSedwick), a writerly business attorney out of California. She has a book, Self Publisher’s Legal Handbook, and a blog for you. Here’s the post she writes about the not-so-wonderful idea of purchasing a Hollywood Treatment package where the publisher writes a synopsis of your book for you and shows it to their associate Hollywood production company then, if it’s not picked up, files it away in a Hollywood database, a place akin I think, to those cavernous federal warehouses full of floor to ceiling, huge, wooden crates of boxed files you see in movies.
Good luck and happy writing!
If you need a cheer-leader in your clan, this author is the one for you!
If you think you have endured life circumstances that entitle you to an eternal pity-party, this author will talk you out of that nonsense lickety-split.
If you suffer from self-doubt this author’s authenticity and experiences will give you confidence.
If you are at the intersection of down and out and have no idea which way is up, this author’s nine point plan will give you a leg up.
This book is not fast food, it is instead a serving of slow-cooked pot-roast with hearty vegetables that will continue to nourish you well long after you’ve left the table.
Get a blank journal. Find a comfy chair. Get ready to consider some tough questions and viable suggestions for becoming the “Best Brew of You.”