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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!!!

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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.

Tsunami Cowboys

Tsunami Cowboys

Prepare to meet Todd, a hero with dangerous fantasies. Coreen, trapped in a cult. Ronnie, dreaming other people’s futures. Guy, waiting for disaster at a Christmas Market. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train with a seductive stranger. By turns terrifying and funny, this is the story of people riding life’s waves… the tsunami cowboys.

It’s official: My new novel Tsunami Cowboys is available in paperback and eBook versions. Look for it on Amazon around the world. The following links will get you there for the US and Germany:Tsunami Cowboys (for Amazon.com) Tsunami Cowboys  (Amazon.de)

I’m excited and proud and tired and floating on air. This book is the results of the last two years of writing. Thanks for your encouragement and support. It has made this journey a real pleasure.

 

Book Excerpt: The Hostess 2

“I’m Lynn.”

“Josh. Nice to meet you, Lynn.”

“You’re joshing me, right?”

“Yeah, as in, I’m joshing you.” His voice had a strange note as if he were thinking, that old chestnut again.

His gaze swept me up and down. I sum myself up as average weight, median income, medium length brown hair (graying and dyed to hide that fact), and better than average features. Still attractive enough… for middle-aged. But Josh’s frank glance was admiring.

Bemused, I registered the fact that I was flattered.

We began the conversational short hand of strangers. “Lynn, where you off to?”

“I’m heading home.”

“I’m on my way to Portland,” Josh offered. “This is the tail end of a long business trip. I always take the train so I can work. I get a rental car after I arrive. But my God, this train’s packed!”

“I visit the coast the weekend before Thanksgiving, and bring back seafood,” I offered. “I barely fit my bags in the bin.”

The conversation stopped while we studied the menus the waiter brought. “Sea food stew,” I decided aloud. If the taste even remotely resembled the chowder I’d had at Mo’s Restaurant with my parents the day before, I’d be happy.

“The chicken,” Josh requested. “Can I talk the lady into joining me for some wine?”

“Actually, you can. I’d love a glass of rosé or white.” There’s something about train travel indeed… and it wasn’t like I’d be having airplane travel mile high sex with Josh in the bathroom. Is there a name for having sex on a moving train? I wondered suddenly.

Josh added, “…and the Semillon.” This time his smile was filled with promise.

I smiled back. When was the last time I’d flirted with someone?

The train staff had found their rhythms in the busy dining car. Our waiter was back almost immediately. He expertly opened a cabernet sauvignon. Josh swirled the wine in his glass and tried it, nodded his head. The waiter poured more and set the bottle down. Then he opened a second bottle, this one my white wine. “You don’t have to finish it,” Josh said when he saw my expression.

I decided to go with the flow. “Okay,” I nodded, and gave my approval. The wine tasted perfectly cold and crisply dry. The waiter set an ice bucket at the window. “Enjoy,” he said, and vanished back into the galley.

“Cheers.” Josh clicked his glass against mine and drank deeply. “Ah!” he set the empty glass back down and sighed with satisfaction. “So, are you getting out in Portland?”

***

Prepare to meet a hero with dangerous fantasies. A young woman trapped in a cult. A person who dreams other people’s futures. A man drinking glühwein at a Christmas Market as he waits for disaster. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train trip with a seductive stranger. I’ll be posting the first pages to each chapter.

Committing my characters to an appearance on this blog makes them real. As of tonight, they exist beyond my imagination.

Here are the opening pages to my novel Tsunami Cowboys. This fifth chapter is titled, The Hostess.

Tsunami Cowboys will publish with Amazon in December, 2014.

Book Excerpt: The Hostess 1

“Time is the thing I am made of. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that tears me apart, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” – Jorge Luis Borges, “New Refutation of Time”, Other Inquisitions, 1952.

Well Trained

We filled every car and our suitcases, bags and packs threatened to topple from the bins. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the entire West coast was taking the train.

I tried to read. The book I held dated me: it was three-dimensional and had paper pages. In the seats around me people bent over electronic devices or talked in muted tones. A young couple slept with their arms around one another and a blanket draped across their legs and torsos. The retiree in the window seat ahead of me dozed, his head gently rocking.

The doors to the train car slid open and a good-looking man stepped through. Perhaps in his late forties, he wore a sweater over slacks and loafers, and carried a slim brief case.

I watched him tuck something into his pocket. Small change, I guessed.

His aura called out, inviting me to look closer. He had the tan of a man who went on golf safaris in the Southwest. His well-cut clothes hid the extra pounds around his waist. Perhaps he’d consulted with a wardrobe coordinator; shades of dark green in the nubby sweater suggested understated taste and male power. He passed my seat and I was at eye level to his crotch.

Ooh! I thought. This guy really is a big man.

When he reversed directions and backed up, I bent my head and pretended fascination with the cover of my book. He looked at the purse on the next seat. “I think this spot is mine.”

I moved my bag and he sat down. His smile vanished when he realized there was no room for the expensive brief case.

He stood back up and pushed at a large blue backpack on the rack across the aisle. The hiking boots laced to it swung, but otherwise nothing budged. He turned to the bin above my head as the train jolted. The man lost his balance and a hand smacked my shoulder; it would have stung if he’d been wearing a ring.

When I looked up, I was back at eye level with his crotch.

“I am so sorry,” he apologized as he fussed with the luggage over our seats. Satisfied, he moved out of my personal space. “Stupid space allowance!” He spoke to the air, but a smile was back.

I picked up my purse as he looked a question at me. “Lunch,” I said. I swayed my way through the train to the dining car.

A harried waiter led me to a table for two and asked, “Ma’am, would you mind sharing your table? I know you reserved a table for one, but we can use any free seats. These pre-holiday trains are always totally booked.”

“Of course!”

“We’d sure appreciate that.”

“It’s really no problem,” I assured him, and meant the words. I enjoy the random interaction with other train passengers. And I never cease to be amazed at how much information people willingly reveal about themselves to perfect strangers.

Dining on board a moving train as the landscape glides by is somehow magical. Who’d claim the chair across the table? Someone heading back home for the holidays or making a long trek cross-country? Or someone like me, visiting the coast?

Five minutes later there he was, sitting across rather than next to me: the man with the good clothes and big body. “Well, well. We meet again,” he said.

***

Prepare to meet a hero with dangerous fantasies. A young woman trapped in a cult. A person who dreams other people’s futures. A man drinking glühwein at a Christmas Market as he waits for disaster. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train trip with a seductive stranger. I’ll be posting the first pages to each chapter.

Committing my characters to an appearance on this blog makes them real. As of tonight, they exist beyond my imagination.

Here are the opening pages to my novel Tsunami Cowboys. This fifth chapter is titled, The Hostess.

Tsunami Cowboys will publish with Amazon in December, 2014.

Book Excerpt: What A Guy 3

They encountered air turbulence two hours into the flight and the pilots lost time. Air traffic was backed up when they reached European airspace. At last they landed in Frankfurt, ninety minutes late. Guy slumped over in a deep sleep and noticed nothing.

He woke to a strange sensation that was the absence of motion. Denice and Tia wore anxious expressions, waiting for him to rouse. Someone had gotten his carry on suitcase down for him.

Tia clapped her hands while Guy looked around and tried to understand why the plane was empty. “Mr. Guy, you were awfully brave! We hit bumpy air! I thought it was going to be bad, my mommy even got out a barf bag, just in case.”

“Tia!” Denice sighed.

“But Mommy, you didn’t use it. You were fine.” She drew the word out, fi-yine. “Mr. Guy, you slept like a baby, like there was nothing to worry about. That really gave me courage. You were zonked! I watched and did just like you.” Tia put her head against the side of the seat, closed her eyes, and snored loudly.

“I snored?” The child was informing him that he’d passed out.

“Like a trooper! No, that’s for when someone’s swearing! It’s okay, Mommy,” she added serenely. “Mr. Guy snored like a… a brick house. No, that’s not it. Like, a house on fire.”

Guy and Denice laughed and Tia joined in, all three laughing as if they’d never stop. The Lufthansa personnel watching in the aisle laughed too, relieved that they didn’t have a dead drunk – or worse, much worse – dead international passenger on their hands after all.

Denice and Tia retrieved their luggage at Baggage Claim and all three stood before a destinations board in the terminal. “Thanks again for waiting for me,” Guy repeated; he was still groggy. As he stared dispirited at the board, Guy knew he couldn’t face another flight, no matter how short.

They were taking a train on to Landstuhl. “I’ll walk you to the train platforms. I missed my connecting flight so I think I’ll just catch a train. Hey, I’ll go to Stuttgart. Aren’t Porsche and Mercedes Benz there? I’ve always wanted to go to the Porsche factory.” He lied, suddenly inspired. He and his therapist had worked out alternate plans in case Guy reached Europe too jittery to fly on. He’d arrived days before the conference began, so that he might take his time getting there. Progressive, systematic desensitization, he reminded himself.

They followed airport signs to the connected train station. Tia rode on top of the luggage trolley as Guy pushed. “So,” he asked, “will you get to see much in Germany?”

“It was planned as a family vacation. Our trip here.” Denice glanced up at Tia, perched humming. “Joe’s in the hospital,” Denice explained softly. “An IED; they’re telling me his condition is ‘serious but manageable’. Whatever that means. For his sake and Tia’s, I’m trying to stay optimistic. I want to wait until I see him before saying anything to her. It’s bad enough how much I worry.”

“Good heavens.” As they continued walking Guy held Denice’s hand in his for a long minute, a therapist unable to think of a single comforting word to say.

“I have to believe,” Denice’s eyes were tender as she checked again on Tia, “this will have been worth it. Joe still believes freedom to worship and vote and live as you choose are worth fighting for. Regardless of the deeper reasons for the war. My husband’s motivated by wanting a better world. They’re helping local groups rebuild.

“He was standing outside a school for girls when the explosion happened.” She looked at her daughter. “It’s the second time that school’s been destroyed. Like I said: whatever the other dynamics going on, we both hope for a better world for everybody’s children. They feel insurmountable at times, the problems,” she admitted. “But it’s all one world now. We have to believe that, because we’re parents ourselves.”

They reached the train station and Denice and Tia departed on the next train. Guy felt forlorn once they were gone, but he ignored the cold and his sense of foreboding. He tried to be stoic as he waited on the platform. No matter what, he wasn’t climbing on another plane! Maybe, just maybe, I can afford to sail home. I hear the QEII’s nice, he mused as a white and red ICE train approached.

***

Prepare to meet a hero with dangerous fantasies. A young woman trapped in a cult. A person who dreams other people’s futures. A man drinking glühwein at a Christmas Market as he waits for disaster. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train trip with a seductive stranger. I’ll be posting the first pages to each chapter.

Committing my characters to an appearance on this blog makes them real. As of tonight, they exist beyond my imagination.

Here are the opening pages to my novel Tsunami Cowboys. This fourth chapter is titled, What A Guy.

Tsunami Cowboys will publish with Amazon in December, 2014.

Book Excerpt: What A Guy 2

Despite himself he laughed. Where’d this precocious kid get her great outlook?

“I don’t know where she gets these lines. Tia always has such a great outlook.” Denice smiled with wry affection as she read his mind.

“But Mommy, why get scared? Planes only crash in moovies!”

“It’s not that we sit around watching disaster flicks,” Denice qualified. “I don’t need disaster films playing on the screen in our living room; I’ve got the one in my head.”

“We all have our fears,” Guy commiserated, remembering for a second or two that he was a therapist. The plane angled higher in the heavens and they felt the ascent despite the pressurized cabin. He gulped.

“It’s okay, Mr. Guy! We’re going up, not down, silly! Nothing to worry about.” Satisfied she’d calmed the irrational adults sitting to either side, Tia returned to the magazine pictures.

She started a cartoon as Guy and Denice chatted across her head and waited for the plane to reach optimal elevation and level out so Denice could get up.

“What’s taking you to Europe?”

“Her daddy’s currently serving in Afghanistan. Joe already had two tours in Iraq. We have Tia in a wonderful school and I’m reluctant to leave my job, so we stay in the States and meet him for school breaks and furloughs. We’re on our way to a base near Frankfurt,” she looked at her daughter and hesitated. “To Landstuhl,” Denice clarified. “For the holidays. Joe will be home for good soon but we had this trip planned already, a chance to get to see some more of Europe and where he’s been on and off for the last four years. Are you heading to Germany for business or vacation, or traveling somewhere further?”

The seatbelt lights pinged off. Denice stood up and retrieved a bag from the overhead bin.

“I have a layover in Frankfurt.” Guy drained the bottle she handed him. “Thanks! What was your question? Oh, what I’m heading to Europe for: a conference in Zurich. And I have pteromerhanophobia.”

The child looked back up at the sound of the curious word with so many syllables. “What’s that?”

“Fear of flying.”

“Which part?” Tia broke it down matter-of-factly and her manner was eerily similar to his therapist. “Afraid of being stuck inside and you can’t leave? Or something bad happening? That’s silly, because flying’s safer than riding in a car. Are you really scared of being in a plane crash?”

“No!” Guy squinched his eyes tightly closed. When he reopened them, Tia and her mother were staring. “I’m scared of being in another crash. I was in a forced landing once.”

“But, Mr. Guy, you’re alive.” Tia kicked her legs impatiently. “The crash couldn’t have been that bad.”

Denice laid a hand on her daughter’s knees to stop the kicking. “What happened?”

“I was on my way back from a conference, ironically one concerning phobia therapies. Little did I know.”

“But, what happened?” Tia persisted.

“We landed in a field,” Guy told her, but he stopped there. It would be cruel to scare a child. And, as his own therapist kept reminding him, pointless to keep reliving the traumatic event. The landing had been a bumpy one indeed.

After that, he drove the entire distance halfway across the country rather than fly to a symposium. A second professional trip had involved a long train ride. Guy even turned down a vacation with Stan and Lynn, which forced him to acknowledge the problem.

The Jungian conference in Switzerland offered a perfect opportunity to overcome his phobia. Guy had been comforted by the thought of a roomy jumbo plane. And it would be professionally fascinating; he’d made a snap decision to attend. Now he asked himself, Why didn’t I pick a really short hop instead? You idiot! Guy closed his eyes again and wondered when the pills and Benedryl would finally take effect.

***

Prepare to meet a hero with dangerous fantasies. A young woman trapped in a cult. A person who dreams other people’s futures. A man drinking glühwein at a Christmas Market as he waits for disaster. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train trip with a seductive stranger. I’ll be posting the first pages to each chapter.

Committing my characters to an appearance on this blog makes them real. As of tonight, they exist beyond my imagination.

Here are the opening pages to my novel Tsunami Cowboys. This fourth chapter is titled, What A Guy.

Tsunami Cowboys will publish with Amazon in December, 2014.

Book Excerpt: What A Guy 1

Life is like a game in which God shuffles the cards, the devil deals them and we have to play the trumps. – Yugoslav proverb


Come Fly With Me

Everyone watched. A few people muttered and a businessman clapped sarcastically as the big man finally arrived. While he didn’t actually delay their departure, Guy Carnac boarded the plane twenty minutes after everyone else.

“Ladies and gentlemen, now that all passengers are on board we’ll be getting underway. It’ll just be another minute or two,” the captain’s voice soothed.

Guy found his seat, swallowed another pill, and pulled down the shade. He didn’t have a seat behind the bulkhead with legroom, but at least he had a solid wall to lean against. Too bad it had a window.

He tried to settle down, and in. He almost convinced himself that he was ready, doing fine – and ping! The fasten seatbelts lights blinked on. Guy buckled his belt and like the signal for a race, his heart began an adrenaline gallop.

The plane moved away from the gate with the slightest of jolts.

Systematic desensitization, Guy. The laws of aerodynamics will keep the plane in the sky. Calm breathing! But, he reminded himself, you know better than most people that planes crash all the time.

He breathed faster. Get a grip! The facts, doctor, the facts! Fiercely he recited, My name is Dr. Guy Carnac, I’m a respected – highly respected – Seattle-based therapist, I’m a fifty-four year-old male, maybe overweight, maybe my hair’s thinning, but my libido is still intact and not thinning, thank you very much. I’m heading to an international conference of my peers. What’s there to fear?

What’s to fear? For starters, what happens when we can’t lift off? The plane’ll keep rolling, too fast to stop. And we’ll hit a building, or cars on the freeway, or another plane as it taxies in.… Smoke will billow as we’re all engulfed in a fireball. He gripped the seat arms. I’m wheezing. I can’t breathe, is there oxygen? Should I pull down a mask? Why haven’t the meds kicked in? Is it too late to turn back? Can’t they halt the plane? DON’T THE PILOTS REALIZE THEY HAVE TO STOP THIS FLIGHT, RIGHT NOW? Oh God oh God oh God Oh Godohgodohdgodgodgodgod.

The little girl in the middle seat eyed him as she whispered with her mother. Guy closed his eyes and pushed his head hard against the side of the plane. Machinery vibrated under his temple as they accelerated. He whimpered. They left the ground: Breathe!

For the next ten minutes he was afraid he’d pass out or vomit. He fought a need to do both and kept his eyes firmly closed.

Something scratched his right arm.

Guy opened his eyes and blue candy ribbons, pink ponies, and tiny hearts swam in his vision. For a few startled seconds he was sure he was hallucinating. The child in the next seat wore colored barrettes in her braids and a serious expression.

She looked down. Guy followed her pointing finger and saw that he’d wrapped his right hand completely around the seat arm separating their seats.

He unclamped his fingers as they continued to hurtle through space. Was that the start of a nosedive we’re going down I’m trapped really trapped even if I make it out of this seat I’m stuck on this goddamned plane until we crash and – He yanked his thoughts hard from the eventual, inevitable spiral. Guy closed his eyes and began to pray.

The scratching returned, more insistent. “Mister?”

He peeked cautiously.

The child patted his forearm and then his hand for good measure. “I’m scared to fly, too. This is my first time. If you want, you can have my medicine. I aksed my mommy and she says yes. I told her, this guy needs it and I don’t! He’s more of a ‘fraidy cat than me!”

“Than I, Tia. Asked, not ‘aksed’. And we don’t call people names!” Tia’s mother leaned across her daughter and took Guy’s clammy hand in her own warm brown one. “I’m sorry, a little six-year-old here is excited to fly but still learning about verbal filters. This is Tia, and I’m Denice. But the offer is real. Tia was scared about such a long time up in the sky so her doctor suggested we bring along Benadryl, just in case. Somehow I think she’s not going to need it.” The little girl wasn’t listening, her attention focused on the flight magazine page that listed cartoon offerings.

Guy looked at Denice. She was dressed not in loose terry cloth ‘jogging clothes’ but rather in a flowing skirt for comfort, pretty slip-off shoes on her feet and a soft scarf around her neck. Denice smiled, and her aura grounded him.

He loosed his grip on her palm. “I’m Guy Carnac. Thanks!” His smile wobbled. “I’d sure love to take you up on that Benadryl. My own anxiety pills never kicked in.”

“Glad to. It’s in my carry on, Guy, so you just hang on til the all clear to get up. I’ll get it for you.”

Tia had followed their conversation and now she turned back to him. “Your name is Guy, and you’re a guy. You’re funny!”

“Tia! Remember what we tell you about how to address people who are older than you, namely, with respect? This is Mr. Carnac.”

“Thanks for the comment about respect, Denice. I’m not sure I deserve a whole lot right now! How about Tia calls me, Mr. Guy?”

Tia patted Guy’s forearm with her little hand again and gave him a wide grin. “Hey, Mr. Guy, smile. This plane’s not going down!”

***

Prepare to meet a hero with dangerous fantasies. A young woman trapped in a cult. A person who dreams other people’s futures. A man drinking glühwein at a Christmas Market as he waits for disaster. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train trip with a seductive stranger. I’ll be posting the first pages to each chapter.

Committing my characters to an appearance on this blog makes them real. As of tonight, they exist beyond my imagination.

Here are the opening pages to my novel Tsunami Cowboys. This fourth chapter is titled, What A Guy.

Tsunami Cowboys will publish with Amazon in December, 2014.

Kyoto the Opaque

Uwe and I visited both China and Japan on a trip. We were startled when Japan felt  much more foreign than China. For a First World country, Japan is opaque and surprisingly difficult to grasp.

Huh?

Huh?

We made sure we had plenty of time in Kyoto, traditionally Japan’s cultural heart.* Tokyo is modern and young and moves swiftly. Ancient Kyoto also seemed to have an older population, although the Kyoto train station was by far the most wonderfully futuristic we’ve ever visited. Our autumn visit coincided with the Jidai Matsuri, or Festival of Ages, held every year on October 22nd.

For a millennium Kyoto was the country’s capitol. In 1868 the emperor moved his imperial court to Tokyo. The Kyoto Prefecture was afraid that Kyoto’s thousand years of history would fade from memory. To make sure this didn’t happen they built the Heian Shrine to house the spirit of Emperor Kammu, who founded Kyoto in 794. The Jidai Gyoretsu, a parade for the Jidai Matsuri, was first staged in 1895.

Chairs are set up along the parade route and reserved well in advance. The parade  started at noon at the Imperial Palace. We positioned ourselves on the grass 4.5 kilometers away, not far from the giant red torii gates of the Heian Shrine where the parade would end.

D30_8413_DxO8

D30_8390_DxO8The parade commemorates the continuous ages of Kyoto history with truly spectacular costumes and objects. It begins with participants dressed in the styles of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and then goes back in time to the Heian Era (794-1185). Musicians and buskers, riders on horse back and flag carriers all march.

D30_8375_dxoThe outfits are accurate from the samurai warriors’ headdresses and armor down to the last dot of face make up. Every detail has been researched.** Over 2,000 people take part in the parade.

D30_8358_dxo

D30_8295_dxoThe procession lasted for hours and Uwe took hundreds of photographs. Occasionally I made a run for bottles of water and snacks. We fell in love with onigiri, an ingenious salmon and rice treat wrapped in seaweed. It comes in a deceptively simple looking package that holds all of the ingredients separate until you open it.

D30_8433_DxO8

D30_8404_DxO8I’ll need a separate post to talk about the shrines and temples we visited and the geishas we saw. Or to describe the cloths and scarves I bought, each with its special weaving technique and materials. Or the lacquerware bowls I fell in love with, first developed by monks as the perfect receptacle for rice…

NOTES: *Kyoto contains 17 World Heritage sites and is a UNESCO World Heritage City.

**The methods used to make the costumes are traditional, too.

(All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)

Uwe’s photos of our trip to Japan and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de. Go to my earlier post 8:15 A.M.to read more about our visit to Japan.

Additional information: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/travel-tips-and-articles/77406#ixzz2zEtAXf7i

http://www.kyotoguide.com

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres

D31_2822_DxOWe’ve come to Paris for a quick getaway, and Stuttgart is less than 4 hours by direct fast train. As we think about what we want to do and see, we realize neither of us have ever visited Chartres.

Uwe and I go out of our way to see sacred places around the globe. (See my posts The Cult of Bà Chúa Xứ or The Music of the Heavenly Spheres for some photos and tales from other sacred spots.) Energies gather in some unlikely places. Sometimes I stand in famous spots and am disappointed, while a place less known for religion makes me feel the presence of the divine.

Chartres. I’ve been trying for days – weeks, actually – to summarize the “facts” about this site. It was built 1140-1260 and the labyrinth was laid in the first decade of the 13th century. I wonder what to mention about Chartres’ 1,000 years as a pilgrimage destination, or the female energies of the cathedral and their tenderness. Mary’s tunic, the Sancta Camisia worn at the birth of Jesus Christ, was brought here by Charlemagne. The king in turn had been given the relic as a gift during a trip to Jerusalem.

When the earlier church building burned on June 10, 1194, the Sancta Camisia miraculously survived. Chartres remains an important Marian pilgrimage center, and the faithful still come from around the world over to honor it.D31_2829_DxO

Chartres is one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals on Earth. Back in my college days at the University of Oregon, Professor James Boren in his Chaucer and Medieval Literature classes explained Chartres as literally turning the architectural form inside out. For the first time the ribs holding up the entire structure had been placed outside, allowing the inside heart of the structure to soar up into the Heavens, seemingly without limits. The support of flying buttresses was necessary because of the unprecedented size and heights of the stained glass windows and the nave. Professor Boren’s face glowed; this stern and learned man radiated as he lectured about a place that he said changed him when he saw it. That lecture and the look on his face stayed with me. Chartres: someday I would see it.D31_2883_DxO

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Chartres Cathedral contains one of the few remaining medieval labyrinths. It’s large with a circumference of 131 feet, almost exactly the same size as the West Rose window.

Rose Window

Rose Window

In the Middle Ages, French church labyrinths were the sites of Easter dances involving clergy and the tossing of a leather ball. Sadly, the labyrinths were destroyed, covered over, or hidden by Church authorities suspicious of their powers and pagan beginnings. (Labyrinths, including Chartres’, traditionally had an disk or placque of Theseus and Ariadne and the Minotaur at their centers. In fact, another name for a cathedral that contained a labyrinth was the “Domus Daedali” [House of Daedalus], a nod to antiquity’s Daedalus, designer of the labyrinth that held the Minotaur in Knossos.) *

But, Chartres’ labyrinth survived. I learn that while it’s covered by chairs most of the time, the labyrinth is made free for visitors to enter on Fridays. My one request to Uwe for our trip becomes, “Please let’s go to Chartres on Friday!”

So here we are, entering one of the holy pilgrimage destinations in Christianity.

Chartres. Once inside, the cathedral’s beauty immediately takes my breath away. I am so deeply moved that in the next moment I’m close to tears. Whatever I expected, this sacred soaring space is beyond all imagination. Light streams in through the windows and illuminates the visitors, pilgrims, and the simply curious. All of us are suffused in colors.

For a while I just walk around. Uwe’s already moved off with his camera, ready as always to use his art with photography to capture in images what my brain grapples with in words.

As the minutes pass I grow more and more stunned. And I remain dangerously, or is that gorgeously, close to breaking into tears. There is an energy to this place, a sense of the holy and the really, really blessed, that I have seldom felt anywhere.D31_2796_DxO

The Schwedagon Pagoda in Burma comes to mind. It is the most important pagoda in the country, and I felt the top of my head buzz like it was going to blow off from the concentration of religious energies. Or a back pond in the Adirondacks with only my family as fellow witnesses: loons with a pair of chicks calling in low cries to one another as they eyed us but didn’t swim away. Or a tiny Greek Orthodox church in Thessaloniki, supposedly built on the site where Apostle Paul preached. I attended on Sunday with my friend Cynthia and our Greek host Fotis, who led us up to an altar surrounded by burning, hand-dipped wax tapers. Fotis insisted we take bread from the common basket. Tears streamed on both our faces; I finally felt the deeper meaning of breaking bread in fellowship.

All of these places’ sacred energies are present in Chartres. It is so much more than I deserve or had awaited. I take a deep breath to center myself, and move forward to stand poised at the entry to the labyrinth.

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“A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. …D31_2798_DxO

“A labyrinth is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience. … It is a metaphor for life’s journey. It is a symbol that creates a sacred space and place and takes us out of our ego to “That Which Is Within.” At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are. …D31_2790_DxO

“A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a left brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out. A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.D31_2788_DxO

“A labyrinth is a right brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. A more passive, receptive mindset is needed. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.” – Dan Johnston, Ph.D. at www.lessons4living.com

Exterior Chartres Cathedral

Exterior Chartres Cathedral

While I walk the labyrinth and contemplate the mystery of the sacred**, Uwe photographs me. When I see his photos later I’m surprised, and glad.

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NOTES: * Another name for the eleven-circuit labyrinth is the “Chemin de Jerusalem” or Road of Jerusalem. Walking the labyrinth in Chartres or other places could be made instead of making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

** I haven’t even tried to talk about the lunations of the labyrinth. Their meaning is still debated. A celestial calendar? Esoteric design of the deeper mysteries?

Walking a Sacred Path. Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. Dr. Lauren Artress, Riverhead Books, 1995.

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/chartres-cathedral

http://www.labyrinthos.net

http://www.lessons4living.com/chartres_labyrinth.htm

(All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)

More pictures from France and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.