May You find the Castle in the Middle of Nowhere, made of Sand and Magic.

Some twenty years ago I was having a bad visit with my dad. Bad. My thoughts were dark, and my mood was gloomy. I was filled with the kind of despair that only a fight with a family member can give you. Like, stabbing-knives kind of misery. To escape for a few hours Barb and I took our nephew and the canoe out to an island on the lake. We camped on it every summer as children.

We discovered that someone, now decamped and nowhere in sight, had built a magical sandcastle and town. Suddenly the black clouds lifted and I felt as filled with wonder as my nephew Niko.

one of my favorite photos of a young Niko

The paths of the sandcastle town were lined with wild mushroom caps, still fresh and unblemished. Someone made the sandcastle just hours before we got to the island.

Not a soul in sight

My photographs are decades old and pretty grainy. But you can see the sandcastle is truly in the middle of the Adirondacks wilderness (i.e. the middle of nowhere)… Only the shores of Cranberry Lake are all around.

Who built it? What whimsy inspired the person or persons to erect a fairy town on the waterfront of an island that few people ever visit?

The memory of that discovery and its gift of magic in the middle of a very hard place have remained as detailed as every bit of love and care that someone spent building it for us to find.

For those who want to know what happened next: Dad and I resolved our differences and grew closer again. I never found out who built that fairy town. But I still wonder why it appeared in my life at just that point and I remain grateful and filled with wonder that it did.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, WITH MY DEEPEST THANKS TO MY READERS AND FOLLOWERS. MAY THE COMING YEAR BRING ALL OF YOU DISCOVERIES OF SANDCASTLES WHERE YOU EXPECT THEM LEAST AND WHEN YOU NEED THEM MOST.

NOTES: Text and Photos ©2022 Jadi Campbell. The township of Cranberry Lake has a whopping total of 126 inhabitants. Finding a fairy castle and town built on the island there was nothing short of a miracle.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was founded on December 14, 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes following WWII. In 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. The work of the organization to protect and help refugees all over the globe is more vital than ever. You can donate by clicking on this link: Donate.unhcr.org

In honor of the work that the UNHCFR tirelessly does on behalf of our world, I am reprinting the post I wrote about why I decided to offer trauma massage for refugees. – Jadi

After more than a decade, it was back. An insidious, slowly increasing unease, a worried feeling that the world was spinning out of control. For months I’d watched news reports about refugees drowning off the coast in places like Libya or Lampadusa, Italy.

The reports came with more frequency, their tone more urgent. One night I saw the tragic footage of a small child, lifeless where he’d washed up on a beach in Turkey.

That Turkish beach is in Bodrum, and I once set foot there. Two years after I got married we spent a vacation in Turkey. Uwe and I began with the magic of Istanbul. We visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins, took off our shoes at the Blue Mosque, and travelled down the coast as tourists on a local bus line. At rest stops the driver came around with rose water for passengers to wash their hands and faces.

We bought rugs in Bodrum and had them shipped home. I joked about magic carpet rides. We put a wool rug I’d chosen in the center of our living room. Its wavy stripes had reminded me of the ribbon candy my grandparents always gave us when we visited.

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Now, when I looked from the television to the floor, I saw waves in a treacherous ocean. I saw the long voyage of those desperately trying to save themselves and their families from wars.

Images of bombs and flight began to haunt my dreams. I had trouble sleeping and for a while I stopped watching the news. It was too close. The borders between frivolous holidays and grim realities had blurred. Actually, they’ve never really existed to begin with.

I was slipping into a spiral of feeling overwhelmed, and helpless, and very sad.

A German friend came for her monthly massage. “I’ve begun volunteering with refugees here,” she said. We talked through much of the session and I asked question after question, curious to know how she came to the decision to help refugees. I began to rethink how to respond to my encroaching depression and what I could do.

I talked it over with Uwe. A few weeks later, I called the Rathaus (Town Hall) to offer my services.

NOTES: © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Helping Refugees: Part One. I wrote an entire thread on helping refugees if you want to read further. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Stacey Yvonne Abrams

Stacey Abrams  was born December 9, 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin. A Democrat, Abrams is a politician, lawyer, author, and activist for voting rights. In 2018 she founded an organization to deal with voter supression called Fair Fight Action. Ms. Abrams’ efforts got out the vote in Georgia.

I would love to see her put in charge of assuring voting booth access for every state in the USA. Stacey Abrams has brought international attention to solutions that address inequality in access to voting, especially for blacks and minorities. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote about election night, 2016. – Jadi

On November 8, America voted for a new president. I sent my overseas ballot off weeks before the election.

I live in Germany, so it was early evening our time when the first results started being tallied. Uwe and I watched the nightly news and listened as stations began live reports from around the US. The living room glowed with candles. Around 10:30 p.m. Uwe said, “I think something’s burning,” and went out on our balcony. I got up and followed him. Sure enough, red flames were visible in the house right across the street from us.

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“Hilfe!” voices shouted, and from blocks away came the blare of fire trucks. By now smoke was billowing. Teams of firemen raced around to the back of the building. People hung out of windows waving their arms, or watched from neighbors’ houses. The firemen put up klieg lights and a long ladder to rescue people from windows and then aimed water hoses at the roof.

They quickly had the situation under control: it was more smoke than fire, so to speak. I kept ducking back in the living room to watch the election returns.

Life felt suddenly, completely, dizzingly surreal. The election-cycle reminder that I’m an American citizen living overseas; an election unlike any other; a house burning. Maybe the entire goddamned street where we live is on fire.

Later – days later – I learned that the whole thing had only been a drill. A practice fire.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the metaphors inherent in this experience. As I turn it around inside my heart and head I get dizzy again. I leave it to my readers to take from this story what you can.

I’m going to go light a candle.

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NOTES: Quick December 2022 update: Sanity has prevailed! Georgians rejected  an election denier with no prior political experience who stated he would push for a national abortion ban without exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother … (but pressured several lovers to get abortions). The state just re-elected Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock instead. © 2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Our House is on Fire!

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Dorothy Leib Harrison Wood Eustis + Life Off-Leash

Dorothy Eustis was born May 30, 1886 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She was an American dog breeder breeding German shepherds in Switzerland, to work as police dogs. Later she founded The Seeing Eye, a United States school to train guide dogs to work with the blind. As Wikipedia says, her “legacy has been long-lasting. Her work helped spawn dog guide schools in the United States and around the world, and also paved the way for using service animals to help people with various disabilities. Because The Seeing Eye refused to see its students as charity cases, Eustis is also credited with helping to change public attitudes toward the disabled and contributing to the disability rights movement that began in the 1970s.”

I toured The Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. campus in San Rafael, California, where puppies are trained and selected to work as guide dogs. It was a lot of fun and surprisingly moving. I have to admit my favorite participant was the resident cat who lives there to test the doggies’ resolve!

Ms. Eustis has been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after visiting the dog park at Lake Washington. – Jadi

Beatrice: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me. —Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing Act I, Scene 1

Friends of mine live with a large, enthusiastic, energetic hound named Jessie. Picture a black dog with white paws and the unnerving golden eyes of a goat: that’s Jess.

She’s ten years old and her owners claim she’s slowed down. But Jessie still takes fences with an easy bound, even if her paws now touch the top railing rather than simply sailing right on over it.

When I visit, our time always includes a trip to the dog park. A dog with this much energy needs a lot of exercise.

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This is where good dogs go before they die. Located on Lake Washington in Seattle, the Warren G. Magnuson Park – Off Leash Area is property set aside for the use of canines. Once you’re inside the grounds, all the dogs are allowed off leash to run, play, chase balls, chase one another, and generally act like… dogs.

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From the largest and meanest-looking to the smallest frou frou doggy, they love it here. The first time I visited I was amazed to see how well dogs can play with one another. Somehow they know: the park is theirs. The space belongs to them. There’s no territory to be defended or persons to be snarled for.

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Instead of dog fights, the park is filled with the joyous barking of canines wanting to play. Magnuson Park includes an area for timid dogs (usually but not always littler dogs that are intimidated by the bands of boisterous bigger dogs) plus lots of play areas and trails. The park has a beach front area where dogs can swim, and even a place to wash off pets and get a gulp of water before leaving.

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It’s a dog’s life!

In memory of Dorothy Eustis, 30 May  1886 – 8 September 1946

NOTES: wiki/Dorothy Harrison Eustis; Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Woof. Warren G. Magnuson Park – Off Leash Area: 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Brutus: I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon…
— Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 4

We can't wait to get out of this stupid car
We can’t wait to get out of this stupid car

My Imaginary Friends: #11 Elbow’s Song Real Life (Angel) + Today’s Birthday: Guy Edward John Garvey

Real Life (Angel) von Elbow bei Amazon Music - Amazon.de

Elbow’s lead singer Guy Edward John Garvey was born on March 6, 1974 in Bury (Greater Manchester), England. Mr. Garvey’s instruments include the guitar, harmonica, percussion, keyboards and, of course, his incredible voice. He also writes lyrics and presents on BBC 6 Music.

To me, one of the most heart-opening and heart-melting songs of the last decade is Elbow’s Real Life (Angel). I have been riveted by this song from the first time I heard it play on Radio Paradise – and Radio Paradise is hands-down the planet’s greatest indy, commerical-free, listener-supported radio station.

I know this is a lot of hyphenated hyperbole, but read the lyrics and listen to the song, and Guy Garvey’s voice will transport you to a better place.

The song: YouTube: Real Life (Angel) and The band: Elbow.co.uk

The lyrics: Real Life (Angel)

If you wake in the quake and the roll of the heartbroken
Pounding the ground in a sawn off ballet
Bring us in an indigo dawn with the lovelorn and renegade

You always found peace in the grip of the beat, darling
Time alone with the pounding of your heart
As it starts to heal you’ll find a better mirror in another

You have never known dumbfounded
So out of reach and hollowed through
Blue and white the light and sound surrounding
As the music pulls you through
And on that hallelujah morning
In the arms of new love, the peace that you feel’s real life

Go straight to the place where you first lost your balance
And find your feet with the people that you love
And bring us in an indigo dawn with the lovelorn and renegade
Yes you with the eyes ever met not forgotten
Get hold of the night that rises in your blood
Focus on your pulse, focus on your breath, know that we’re never far away

You have never known dumbfounded
So out of reach and hollowed through
Blue and white the light and sound surrounding
As the music pulls you through
And on that hallelujah morning
In the arms of new love, the peace that you feel’s real life

Angel
Angel
Angel
Angel

You with the eyes ever met not forgotten
You with the arms for the lonely whoever
You with the laugh that could bring down a tenement
Talking your way through the heart of the citadel
Up on the tables, or shouldering strangers, or
Under my arms we add to the waterfall
My little sister with brothers in common
You never need fear a thing in this world while
I have a breath in me, blood in my veins
You never need fear thing in this world while
I have a breath in me, blood in my veins
You never need fear a thing in this blue world

You have never known dumbfounded
So out of reach and hollowed through
Blue and white the light and sound surrounding
As the music pulls you through
And on that hallelujah morning
In the arms of new love, the peace that you feel’s real life

Angel
Angel

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Craig Lee Potter / Guy Edward John Garvey / Mark Potter / Peter James Turner / Richard Barry Jupp

Real Life (Angel) lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

My second book Tsunami Cowboys contains a scene in which I needed to convey harmony, even a state of grace. I often listen to music playing as I write, and I was newly in love with this band. The solution came to me without needing to think about it… A character named Scott puts a CD on to play and the room is washed by the song Real Life (Angel). I knew that anyone reading my book and familiar with this song would know exactly what I wanted to say.

NOTES: From Elbow’s CD The Take Off and Landing of Everything, released in 2014. ©2021 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de. You’ll find the scene Thanksgiving in my book Tsunami Cowboys. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

That Collection of Soaps

Putin and the Ukraine are the latest example in a long sad line of history. Another madman invades his neighbors.

The past repeats itself.

We watch the news each night and wonder, will Putin resort to dropping nukes? Or will he let his despot buddy Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko push the button in Belorussia? I watch the maps showing a 50 kilometer long procession of tanks heading inexorably towards Kyiv. The Ukraine is the country on the other side of Poland, which is the country on the other side of – us.

I take walks. I do the daily shopping and welcome my routines. Yesterday morning, coming around the corner I saw stacks and stacks of boxes in the plazza in front of our Town Hall. I went over and checked them out. They looked like supplies, the kind you gather and send as disaster relief or to refugee camps.

Back at home I immediately logged into our town’s Rathaus website. I guessed correctly: our town square is Ground Zero for goods to send east. The Ukrainians need sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, socks, coats, blankets, and food, and bottled water, and toys, and games, and (this one just about did me in) stuffed animals for little children.

The invaded Ukrainians need bandages and medicine and soap and toothbrushes and combs. I have a collection of these items along with pocket sewing kits, all saved in case a house guest spending the night forgot to bring their own from home.

… Or  someone in a war zone who left their house without the time to consider such mundane articles as the bombs began to fall…

I made a package and labeled everything in German and English. This morning on my way to the plaza I stopped at a bakery and bought some Butterbrezeln and belegtes Brotchen (buttered pretzels and sandwiches). The Rathaus website suggested snacks for the volunteers would be appreciated.

This morning at 9:00 workers are loading a giant transport truck. Over a dozen volunteers are packing boxes, sorting items into piles (a large one of sleeping bags). I set my little bag on a long table where a sign hung saying, Medikamenten und Hygiene. Someone directed me to place the bakery items by the coffee machine set up for the volunteers. A huge bag filled with pretzels was already there.

The transport truck in the foreground

And I’m crying as I write this, even as I think in the worst of times some people show their finest qualities.

The truck leaves tomorrow afternoon and is scheduled to arrive on the Polish-Ukrainian border on Monday. The action is organized by the Heck Spedition GmbH and the international YMCA. This is a time  to come together and give aid where we can, in whatever ways we can.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2022.

Here is the information from the Rathaus website.

Hilfstranport für ukrainische Kriegsflüchtlinge

Für einen HIlfstransport nach Medyka an der polnisch-ukrainischen Grenze sammelt die Heck Spedition GmbH, unterstützt durch den CVJM, von Mittwoch bis Freitag, 2. bis 4. März 2022, Schlafsäcke, warme Kleidung, Schuhe, Socken, neue Unterwäsche, Decken, Riegel, Babybedarf, Pampers, Spielsachen, Kuscheltiere, Bürsten, Kämme, Medikamente, Pflaster, Verbände und ähnliches.

Sie können die Sachen zu den folgenden Annahmezeiten auf dem Gerlinger Rathausplatz abgeben:

  • Mittwoch, 02.03.2022, 13.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Donnerstag, 03.03.2022, 09.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Freitag, 04.03.2022, 09.00-15.00 Uhr

Wer den Organisatoren bei Annahme, Sortieren und Verpackung, helfen möchte, kommt einfach zu den Annahmezeiten auf den Rathausplatz. Willkommen sind auch kleine Snacks zur Stärkung der Helferinnen und Helfer.

Der Transport wird am Freitag, 4. März 2022, starten und soll am Montagmorgen am Zielort eintreffen.

Kontakt: Heck Spedition GmbH, Telefonnummer 07156/43580

Wir danken allen Spenderinnen und Spendern sowie allen Helferinnen und Helfern für ihre Unterstützung an den Aktionen!

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 #

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve moved. You’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.

I always feel a little strange when I recognize it’s time to mark milestones and I have several to announce.

This is my 99th blog post.

I’ve posted in these virtual pages twice a month since I began way back in September of 2012. It all started with my husband’s suggestion that I establish an Internet presence….

My published books are fiction, and this blog serves as a good place to present excerpts. Potential readers of my books might want a sample of my writing and a glimpse of the human being behind the words. It’s also a place for non-fiction essays. I get to explore ideas and topics that don’t need to be transformed for novels. Posting every other week is great writerly discipline. I’ve never missed a bi-monthly posting date!

My topics bounce all over the place like gleeful ping pong balls. I’ve written about current events like The Death of Robin Williams, Helping Refugees: Part 1 and Tunisia Without Terrorism, to the World Cup in The Year the World Came to Party.

I occasionally write about historic events, too. Several are 8:15 A.M.Amsterdam, and Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones.

I riff on artists in Meet the One-Tracks and art, like the sacred sublime in Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres or sacred sexual in The Erotic Architecture of Khajuraho. I profile art made by human hands Wine and Sculpture, Wildly Creative in Upstate NY: The Ferros of Little York, Egypt 1: We had the entire Valley of the Kings to Ourselves or found in Nature: The Music of the Heavenly Spheres, Steamy Rotorua! and It Was a Bitterly Cold -22°.

Art can serve as reminders to bring us together, as in Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones and The United Buddy Bears.

Of course, I write about writers: My Sister & Maurice Sendak and Baum, Bats, and Monkeys. I quote my beloved Shakespeare with Egypt 2: Along the Nile. Even Colleen McCullough gets a mention in The Outback!

And I write about writing itself: The Gift of Gab, Someone Burned My Book.

Food has been a topic: My Mother-In-Law’s Cookies, Despair Is An Exotic Ingredient, Adventures in China’s New Territories 3: The 100-Pound Fish, Deep Fried and Served with Sweet & Sour Sauce, The Fork is Mightier Than the Sword. A Post in Which I Eat Paris, The Salt Pits and A Visit to the Food Bank, Part 1 &  2.

Holidays have been fun, from You Rang? (the worst/best Valentine’s Day in history) to Happy Halloween!

My day job is as massage therapist, and sometimes I write about healing and medicine. Helping Refugees: Part 1,  Massage in Indonesia: Lombok, Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine, A Massage at Wat Pho are a few of the posts.

…. and this all began simply as a way to introduce my two novels Tsunami Cowboys and Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Both are available at amazon.com in book and eBook form.

It’s been a fun journey these last three years! Thanks to all of you for visiting these pages. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays. I’ll be back in the new year with an announcement. Milestone #2 is on the way!!!

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99

The Human Dimension. Helping Refugees: Part 4

The Germans have a wry saying. “We sent for guest workers, but Menschen came instead.” Meaning that after WWII, the work force of foreigners who came to Germany turned out to be fellow human beings.

I find myself thinking about that saying. The flow of refugees heading this way is huge and overwhelming, and in some ways I am afraid. I love the security and safety of life here, how clean it is. I’m proud to live in a land with universal health care and great mass transit, wonderful street cafés, and (most important of all) the guarantee of personal freedoms and a firm commitment to human rights.

What does this have to do with the hordes of refugees flooding the country? I’m not sure. Maybe nothing at all. But I hear from some of my friends, “What if Europe becomes Muslim? What if the streets are filled next with women in full burkas? What if we lose our freedoms as Germans bend over backwards to accommodate the newcomers?

They’re nameless, faceless. They’re the others, the ones who constitute a vague but ever-growing threat.

One of my great bonds with the man I married is our desire to explore the world together. We’ve taken vacations in moderate Muslim lands. Every trip was wonderful, filled with people with dreams and hopes like yours and mine. I have a serious disconnect when I try to reconcile the horror of ISIS with the kindness of the friendly people we met in Egypt… Indonesia… Tunisia… Malaysia… Turkey… Singapore. The answer, of course, is they can’t be reconciled. The two have nothing to do with each other.

I’m terrified of the fanaticism that just killed more than 100 people in  Paris. The refugees are terrified, too. The people fleeing to Europe want the same things we do: a civilized place to work, live, and raise their children. A stream of humanity is arriving. People with dreams and hopes, like yours and mine.

Each time I go to massage the refugee M. [1], I’m confronted with my own fear of the unknown foreign.

We have no languages in common. I’m not only working without any knowledge of her history; we can’t even talk.  One of her children remains in the room the entire time to translate into German for her.

These are the hardest sessions I’ve ever attempted.

As a therapist my hands know their work; I’m capable to treat her PTSD symptoms. But the person-to-person connection…. I have to do this solely through touch. The afternoons of therapy have changed my understanding of the human dimension. It’s become more complicated, and much simpler. It’s changed me as well.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of the persons involved I have changed the names and use initials only.

PTSD. Helping Refugees: Part 3

I go one afternoon a week to where refugees are housed and provide therapy for a woman I will call M. [1]

When I decided to take the plunge and volunteer, I had no idea what that would look like or what I’d be doing. For the last thirty years I’ve worked as a massage therapist. I’ve treated people across the health spectrum: Pregnant. Disabled. Patients during chemo and radiation therapy. Triathletes to couch potatoes. People seeking relaxation, to a man in need of pain relief years after a helicopter crash. My abilities as a therapist deepen with each person I attempt to help.

I’m licensed in both Europe and America. I kept my US credentials current by doing periodic workshops. I did this for decades, until the weekend seminars felt like I was reinventing the wheel.

I briefly considered doing massage with the aged after we put my mother-in-law in a nursing home near us. But my grief as I accompany Mama in the twilight of her life makes it too personal. When I learned a refugee needed massage, it seemed like the perfect way to stretch myself as a therapist and as a human being.

M. and her family fled from an earlier war zone; they’ve been in my village for over a year. M. is severely traumatized. She existed in a catatonic state for many months. Loud or sudden noises trigger panic attacks and migraines and a voice moaning in her head. Her entire body is a field of pain. Most movement is agony.

Within minutes of beginning our initial massage, M. began sobbing. She cries through every single session. It’s ‘just’ nerves.

No one in her family will tell me her story. I have bits and pieces, cobbled together from talking with her doctor and the volunteer organization. She discovered a dead body.  Was it suicide, or murder? Was it a family member? She was raped more than once. Twice, ten times, one hundred? One man or many? Someone known to her? Looters? Soldiers?

Like I say: I have bits and pieces.

I first met the German liaison when she took me to the refugees. She gave me the barest of details, less than five minutes before I met M. I’d be working right away, without any volunteer training or medical protocols in place. For me the single most important question was: Who had requested the massage therapy?

It was M.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of those involved I have changed names and identifying details, and use initials only. Part 4 to follow.

The Town Volunteer Program. Helping Refugees: Part 2

When dangerous months on foot or voyages in unstable boats are your only options, things are bad indeed. Refugees may be met at borders by hostile police or herded in subhuman conditions. Criminal bands now make more money from human trafficking than drugs. Millions are making the exhausting trek, often cheated and robbed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared Germany will take in refugees, particularly those fleeing Syria. This doesn’t begin to meet the challenge of how to integrate all these newcomers. The scramble is on to figure out how to register, and house, and provide for over one million asylum seekers, all arriving at the same time.

My community will receive 300 refugees. Every empty building is being assessed for use as temporary or permanent housing. I live in a 1,200-year-old village – with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. Strangers definitely stand out.

I began asking myself questions. What does it mean when an outside crisis brushes up against the everyday? Can I help? If yes, am I prepared for what that entails?

I called the Rathaus (Town Hall). “English is my native language and I’m fluent in German,” I said. “I can translate. We’ve got lots of household goods to donate. I’m a massage therapist: I can offer therapy if someone needs it.”

I was informed that my town has taken in earlier refugees from the former Yugoslavia, Pakistan, and other countries. The town runs a training program for volunteers (how to help the newcomers who suffer from shell shock and/or culture shock, what to expect, etc.). Translating services are in place; the town has more donations for supplies than they can use. But, the offer for medical services… They took my contact information to pass along.

The next morning, I received a phone call from A, the German liaison. [1] “Your offer is like hearing from someone from another planet,” she declared. “For months, a severely traumatized refugee has been requesting massage. How soon can we meet?”

I didn’t know it yet, but there would be no time for the training program.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of all persons involved I have changed the names and use initials only. Part 3 to follow.