Thursday, September 1, 2016

Beryl's 2006 Summer Newsletter

August 31, 2016
Four Weeks after Surgery
While I was on a white water rafting trip with beloved Minnesota author Carol Bly, she happened to mention that she loathed cameras. Writers should be seeing, not taking photos, she reminded me. This comforts me because while I might have missed the opportunity to digitally record the glorious abundance of roadside wild flowers that graced northern Minnesota this year, I recorded them mentally. Golden birds-eye trefoil banked the roadsides. White daisies merged with thick swaths lupines in pink, purple and yellow. Black-eyed Susan, lacy cow parsnip, and bright orange and yellow hawk weed stippled the landscape turning every walk or journey into a fragrant, hopeful flowering of life. If you enjoy looking as well as recording perhaps you find yourself wondering, as do I, if our cement cities -- where so much suffering lurks behind walls of prejudice and fear -- could be transformed into places of compassion and empathy if more gardens and green spaces provided oasis of peace where we could listen to and share one another’s stories. 

In April, Bill and I decided to sell our Florida condo and stay year-round in our Lake Superior home. We’d just returned home when I had a bad fall and the resulting bruise transformed into a large hematoma on my right shin. Three months later, that wound almost healed, I failed a stress test and the following day underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Four weeks later, I’m back in my little writing shed, writing to you and reworking yet again the sequel to The Scent of God. Having recently been reminded of life’s fragility I greet each morning with joy. I am filled with gratitude for another day to celebrate living and the abundance of blessing found in every moment.

I am looking at Lake Superior right now from the window in my writing shed. It is grey and restless, perhaps contemplating a change in the weather. From here I send you my thoughts and hopes for a year of healing midst the turmoil of a nation at odds with the principles on which it was founded. May peace reign in our hearts and overflow into the lives of those around us.
Beryl 

© Beryl Singleton Bissell 2016
The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors." Her book The Scent of God was a “Notable” Book Sense selection for April 2006. Her second book, A View of the Lake was released in 2011 and named “Best Regional Book 2011” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She is currently working on her third book, the sequel to The Scent of God.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Don't miss this book



Kristin Hannah has given us one of the most powerful stories of heroism and love that I have ever read. The Nightingale captures the often untold stories of the French Resistance movement. The ordinary people who moved beyond terror to protect and save from the Nazi's a nation's honor and the qualities that make humans capable of true greatness.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Artistry of the Japanese Tattoo in exhibition

In 1993, my sixteen-year-old daughter Francesca acquired a tattoo without telling me. I thought she was simply spending the weekend with a girlfriend when it was actually a mutiny of sorts.  

“Fran, what have you done?” I gasped. 
“I knew you’d never give me permission and Kelly was getting one. So . . .” her voice trailed off but she didn’t drop her eyes. 
“What is it anyway?” She told me it was a rose but it looked more like a dragon to me, smoking its way toward her knee.  
“You realize you’ve marked yourself for life?” Francesca nodded, a smile lurking at the edge of her mouth. 

Not long after, Francesca’s older brother Thomas had both his arms tattooed. At the time it scandalized my relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Twenty years later not a day passes without my noting young people and even elders flaunting tattoos that extended up arms and legs to the neck and ears.

On February 25, 2016 I gained a greater appreciation of tattoos when an exhibition at the Morikami Museum and Gardens in Delray Beach Florida featured a “sold out” Exhibition Preview. of Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. Who would attend, I wondered? When a Sold Out sign appeared in the museum lobby I realized lots of people wanted to attend!  The night of the lecture/demonstration, the audience was filled to overflowing with people of all ages. Even a baby was there in attendance (an early introduction perhaps?)


On a blistering hot day a week later, Bill and I viewed the amazing artistry of traditional Japanese tattoos known as Irezumi on exhibit at the museum. Gorgeous life-sized photos of men and women adorned with full body tattoos – front, back, legs, arms – lined the walls. Having watched Horitomo (Kazuaki Kitamura) demonstrate the piercing technique on a slender young man at the exhibition preview, I knew the process was painful and appreciated the exhibition title – Perseverance! 

While there we encountered a beautifully tattooed couple. The woman, a nurse, told me she always wore long sleeves  out of respect for the sensibilities of her patients.This reminded me of the time my son, wearing short sleeves, volunteered to paint a church and was asked to leave. His tattoos were an affront to the other volunteers.

photos from Museum Website

Friday, February 26, 2016

Street Painting in Lake Worth Florida

This past Saturday, my husband and I attended the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth Florida for the first time. It was crowded and noisy and brilliant. Though many of the artists were still in the process of finishing their works of art, it was fascinating to watch the process. They worked from detailed images, often checking the sidewalk art with the image they already developed. They sat, the  squatted, they lay on their stomachs, careful always to avoid the already finished portions of their work. There were too many to photo all of them but here are some of my favorites. By the way, this was not a competition but a celebration. No prizes just delight.






Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Snowshoeing on the Superior Hiking Trail

I miss winter. I miss the hush of  winter mornings, the soft lavender shadows the sun casts on a landscape of wind-driven snow. I miss the chickadees that cluster on our deck, awaiting their turn at the feeder. Such polite little fellows they are, hopping on the feeder to fetch a black-oil sunflower seed and immediately flitting away to crack and eat it. 

 Photo by Kathleen Anderson-Gray

I especially miss snowshoeing on Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail, a 310 footpath that runs from south of Duluth to the Canadian Border. Easily accessed in any season from our house, the trail in winter was always an adventure, especially when fresh snow offers a glimpse into another world. Then the journey through the deep woods becomes a constant discovery … the tracks of snowshoe rabbits, red squirrels, pine martin, and sometimes moose and wolf the only sign of passage besides the tracks our shoes make. 

Kathleen Anderson-Gray is a North Shore friend who sends a daily photo she’s just taken. I can almost feel the crackling cold of those winter mornings even though I’m here in Florida for the winter. Kathleen recently sent me a photo that reminded me of one winter hike I took when snow and ice clung to branches like crystallized circus animals on parade, a giraffe, a sitting lion, even an elephant. Topped by a soft covering of snow, they resembled lace cookies baked in the woods. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Review of The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj

Based on bestselling novelist and spiritual teacher Karan Bajaj’s own experience, The Tao of Max’s Discontent, takes the reader on a breathtaking and often brutal journey in search of spiritual transformation—the dissolution of one’s sense of self and union with universal (or divine) consciousness.

Bajaj’s giant-sized protagonist Max Pzoras, shaken by his mother’s untimely death from cancer at the age of forty-nine encounters Viveka, a scantily clad East Indian food-cart seller whose experience living among yogis 20,000 feet high in the Himalayas intrigues him. Driven to make sense of his life and to attain what Viveka explains as the “un-born, un-aging, un-ailing, sorrowless, and deathless state” of immortality Max begins to investigate such a journey. 
When he learns of a South American yogi living high up in the Himalayas who teaches a method of yoga that leads to the end of suffering, Max impetuously leaves his job to seek this yogi. 

Gripped already by Bajaj’s gift as a story teller, this reader avidly followed Max as he confronted ordeals and disappointments bound to shatter many a spiritual seeker. Despite his focused effort to reach Nirvana, Max remains endearingly human. He might be living as the student of the great yogi guru Ramakrishna, but he is beleaguered by guilt for having abandoned loved ones in order to pursue his own goals. Starvation, intense cold, debilitating heat, exhaustion, fear, regret and anger threaten to overwhelm him as he continues his journey. 

Driven by the belief that his purpose in this life is to lose himself within the divine, Max continues his journey, experiencing intense love of and union with all of creation as his sense of self dissolves and union with the divine consciousness consumes him. 

The Yoga of Max’s Discontent is Bajaj’s brilliant and riveting meditation on the quest for spiritual insight and transformation. I couldn’t put it down.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Review: Dog Medicine: How a Dog Saved Me from Myself

Chances are most Americans know someone suffering with depression or have grappled with it themselves. Julie Barton, a bright and talented young woman on the cusp of a successful career in publishing, woke one morning on her kitchen floor, the room filled with smoke from the meal she’d been preparing the night before when she lost consciousness. Terrified, she crawled to the phone and called her mother, convinced she’d had a nervous breakdown. Thus begins Barton’s powerful depiction of the catastrophic depression that unraveled her life until an adopted puppy called Bunker released the love that would eventually help her heal. Behind Barton’s depression lurked memories of the violent physical and verbal abuse to which her older brother subjected her and which her parents failed to address. Convinced she was the stupid ugly loser he said she was, she thought of herself in those terms and continually berated herself with those words. Caring for Bunker, however, taught her to forgive and trust herself. When a medical condition elicits a doctor’s suggestion to put him down, Julie she asserts her belief in his life, obtaining for him costly surgery to correct his bone deformities. In nursing Bunker to health, in saving Bunkers life, in giving him a better life she achieved the strength to save herself. Dog Medicine celebrates the reciprocal sharing that can occur between man and dog. It’s an exquisite testimony to the power of that love to heal. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don't pick it up. It might be a snake.

Today, the first completely sunny comparatively warm day, my husband rode his bike through Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach Florida, while I walked the exercise course several times. I’d made a recent resolution to be attentive to my surroundings (actually I’ve made numerous such resolutions, this being the most recent) so as I traversed the park I focused on the cedar trail itself. Doesn’t sound very interesting does it? As I normally look everywhere but down while walking, looking down is a novel experience. An exercise my husband advises me to do each time I trip on a rock or branch.

Composed of cedar chips, the exercise course offers a huge variety of cedar chip shapes and sizes as well as the cones and needles that fall from surrounding pines. If these pose obstacles to walkers, I pick them up and toss them onto the side of the path. Encountering a beautifully shaped twig of some sort, I bent to pick it up to examine before tossing (maybe it would be something to collect) I noticed square markings down its length.  As it was less than a foot long, I didn’t think snake. But snake it was, making me very glad I was exercising attentiveness. I squatted down to observe it more carefully as it lay without moving on the cedars, determined to look up Florida snakes on the internet to determine its identity. The Florida Museum of Natural History offers an excellent guide to identifying snakes. A check the box kind of aid: “Is the snake banded?” “Is the snake blotched?” “Is the snake cross banded?” “Are its colors uniform?” and so on.


I learned my snake was a common brown water snake that fully grown averages between 25-60 inches. The snake I saw was less than a foot long, the size of a newborn which runs from 7-11 inches long with hatching season from June to October, but this is February. Then I read that though harmless, it is often killed because it resembles a Copperhead . . .?????

Friday, January 22, 2016

It's raining yet they're out there

Today, as huge snow storms hurtle toward the north eastern states, southern Florida is touched by the merest edge. It is even warm, 72 degrees, but we are told to expect high winds and rain, lots of it. I look out our kitchen window and see rain pelting off the tennis courts, but on the golf course greens elderly men swing their clubs and a condominium employee mows the lawn. Perhaps they've given up on the sun. Decided to make the best of what is. Meanwhile, my husband has pulled shut the hurricane shutters and darkened the apartment. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beryl's Winter 2016 Newsletter


I write this newsletter from Florida, where we’ve been enjoying a warmer and wetter winter than ever. I do think of you however, especially as my new smart phone keeps me updated on weather up north and across the nation and the news is not always good. Mother Nature seems to be in a punishing mode, her behavior more awesome, tumultuous and damaging than ever. I hope you’ve stayed safe, that you’ve weathered whatever drought, hurricane or blizzard has brought your way. Even more turbulent than Mother Nature’s actions is the angry divided condition our nation reflects.

Today, while perusing the work of Anthony de Mello, one of my favorite spiritual guides, one story struck me as applicable to our situation today.  A spiritual master once told a visiting bishop that religious people have a natural bent for cruelty. His disciples were embarrassed and asked why he’d made such a harsh analysis.  Because religious people all too easily sacrifice persons for the advancement of a purpose, the master replied. Isn’t this what we see happening in our nation as the lives of millions of innocent refugees are sacrificed to national security?  In his speech before Congress, Pope Francis offered a solution to the refugee crisis:  follow the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” words that earned him a standing ovation from Congress. Was anyone listening?

 Update on The Glass Chrysalis

“What happened to your newsletter?” is a question I hear almost as often as “When is your book coming out?” My apologies! This newsletter should answer the first question. The second is well on its way to being answered. You haven’t seen or heard much from me lately because I’ve focused on one thing only: the book. Having finished preparations for submission, a completed edited manuscript, a marketing analysis and comparative title analysis, The Glass Chrysalis will make its way into the world this coming week. I shall let you know when it’s found a home. Keep me in your prayers. I’ve done my best to weave a good book with the help of Jill Swenson, book developer. The rest is up to God.

Peace and all good to your inmost souls.
Beryl

© Beryl Singleton Bissell 2016


The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors." Her book The Scent of God  was a “Notable” Book Sense selection for April 2006. Her second book, A View of the Lake was released in May 2011 and named a best regional book by the Minneapolis Star Tribune