Old and Gray: Joy Grows Deeper Day by Day

 

During my Southeast months, I teach yoga for a fitness and recreation program called “Fifty and Wiser.”  The name has always struck me as comical. At fifty and older, I hope we’re wiser than at twenty or thirty, but that’s not why there’s a whole set of exercise programs for that age group. Apparently it was not good marketing to say fifty and older, though.

In one of my online writing groups, a member asked for feedback on her new web site. Most people talked about the design and content in comparison to her old one. One person, however, addressed her sunny, smiling, middle-aged picture. He was adamant that an author should not post a picture unless he or she looked like a professional model, and said he wasn’t about to post his own picture, because he didn’t want his readers to know he was old but to think he was as young as the characters he writes about.

In honor of that comment, I’m updating my picture. In the one I’ve been using, taken indoors in black and white, my salt-and pepper hair looks only half gray. In bright sunlight, the gray shines and it looks totally silver. I like it—I’m like a little bitty silver-back gorilla. In humans, females get that honor as well as the males.IMG_7667

At the present progress of the Mae Martin Series, she hasn’t turned thirty yet. Starting with a young character allows me to keep the series going for decades if I choose, and the tumult and challenge of that stage of life make for good stories, but at that age I didn’t have either the patience or the perspective to write them.

Yeats published this poem in 1893, a young man imagining his beloved’s aging.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

 

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with a love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

 

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

 ***

 When he was old, he wrote The Apparitions.

(I’m only including the final verse; you can read the rest at http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/william-butler-yeats/the-apparitions/ )

When a man grows old his joy

Grows more deep day after day,

His empty heart is full at length

But he has need of all that strength

Because of the increasing Night

That opens her mystery and fright.

Fifteen apparitions have I seen;

The worst a coat upon a coat hanger.

 

***

Who will we become when our empty coat is left behind? Aging. The heart grows full, while the hair grows hollow, light passing through it like a halo.

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Remembering his Radiance

One of my meditation teachers from my first yoga teacher training died this week. The message from his yoga center informed students that Goswami Kriyananda had left his body, suggesting the next stage of his soul’s journey rather than an end. I knew he was so far along in years that the parting was inevitably close, but I still felt sad. And then, strangely, I felt closer to him. The touch of his compassion and joy stays with me, reaching deeper than his words. He had the sweetest, sincerest, most humble and loving smile, glowing with both the playfulness of a child and the wisdom of an elder. I can access his teaching through books he wrote and recordings of his talks, but the lesson that affected me most was the heart-sense of his radiance.

 *****

http://yogachicago.com/2014/02/sitting-down-with-goswami-kriyananda

This is an interview from 2008. It’s long, but it tells some of his story and outlook, if you’re interested.

http://www.yogakriya.org/php/archives.php

The video on death, dying and rebirth is quite cheerful and uplifting. Regardless of your view of the nature of life after death, which may not be the same as his, you might appreciate the encounter with his personality and his philosophy. I watched it right before going to teach a college class and I think I was a happier and kinder person and a better teacher for having done so.

Namaste.

 

Giveaway and First-in-Series Sale

sm pink banner

Leading up to the give-away, I’ve introduced my “mystical mystery sisters” from across two oceans, Australian Virginia King and British Marion Eaton. We’re fans of each other’s work and have grown from fans into friends. In the spirit of sharing new series we’ve enjoyed, we’ve teamed up for a giveaway and over a week of discounts from April 21 – 30.

Enjoy a touch of the mystical and an innovative take on mystery from a trio of B.R.A.G. Medallion recipients. Buy each e-book for only $1.99 US. Enter the drawing to win a paperback copy of the first book in each author’s series.

When the Clocks Stopped

The Mysterious Marsh Series, Book One

 When lawyer Hazel Dawkins decides to write some wills while she waits for the birth of her first child, she unwittingly triggers dramatic consequences. Mysteriously, she encounters Annie, a woman whose tempestuous life took place more than two centuries earlier when Romney Marsh was a violent place, dominated by smugglers. Soon that past collides with the present, and Hazel finds herself pitted against an evil that has stalked the marsh for centuries. As her destiny intertwines with Annie’s in the shifting time-scape, Hazel confronts a terrifying challenge that parallels history—and could even change it. If she survives.

Sales links:

http://www.amazon.com/When-Clocks-Stopped-Time-slip-Mysterious-ebook/dp/B00DTV52PK

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530153

The First Lie

Selkie Moon Mysteries Book One

Selkie Moon is a woman on the run. In a mad dash for freedom she’s escaped her life in Sydney to start over again in Hawaii. But her refuge begins to unravel and she’s running from something else entirely. A voice in a dream says that someone is trying to kill her. Not that she’s psychic, no way. But the messages and threats escalate until she’s locked in a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious stalker. Entangled in Celtic and Hawaiian mythologies, the events become so bizarre and terrifying that her instinct is to keep running. But is she running from her past? Or her future?

Sales link: http://www.amazon.com/First-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y

The Calling

 The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Sales links: https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/buy-books-retail-links

Enter the drawing to win paperback copies of all three books.

The raffle starts on April 21 and ends 12:00 midnight Eastern U.S. time April 26, 2015. When you click on the Rafflecopter link you’ll be able to choose which series you would like to learn more about. After that, you’ll be entered in the drawing. To get an additional entry, click on the option to tweet the give-away. A random winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter. The winner will be announced on April 27.

To enter, click here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/eb0a35092/

To learn more about the other authors and their series:

http://www.marioneaton.com/

http://selkiemoon.com/

Virginia’s guest post: https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/virginia-king-mything-in-action/

Interview with Marion: https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/interview-with-m-l-eaton-the-mysterious-marsh/

And an interview with me on one of my favorite WordPress blogs: http://saintsandtrees.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/interview-with-author-amber-foxx/

 

Virginia King: Mything in Action

The First LieVirginia King Portrait

Intrigued by the blend of world mythologies in Virginia King’s mystical psychological mystery, The First Lie, I asked her to write a guest post on how she wove mythical elements into her fiction. Virginia’s answer to that question follows.

*****

Everyone, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences. Robert Louis Stevenson

In The First Lie, Australian girl Selkie Moon has run away to Hawaii to escape a destructive relationship but she’s landed herself in the middle of a mythical nightmare. Her name already has mythic origins – her mother named her after the selkies, the Celtic seal people who peel off their skins and dance in the moonlight on human legs. Ironic, since Selkie almost drowned as a toddler and has been afraid of the sea ever since.

Now that she’s arrived in Hawaii, with mythical symbols lurking under every lava rock, a series of bizarre events beset her. It all begins when a voice wakes her from a dream: Someone is trying to kill you.

The First Lie was originally set in Sydney, my home town. The writing was going through a flat patch so I decided to re-energize by grabbing a camera and visiting all the locations in the story—a whole day on the road. The outcome of that fateful excursion wasn’t what I expected. I came home and burst into tears. None of the places spoke to me.

In desperation I dropped Selkie into a whole new location, Hawaii, and the story came to life. She was now a stranger in a strange place, so I was on a journey of discovery too. My editor wasn’t too sure about it: You’ve got an Australian main character in a Hawaiian setting, but you’re drawing on Irish/Scottish mythology (selkies); it’s difficult to make those disparate elements fit together cohesively. She suggested moving the story to Ireland or giving Selkie a Hawaiian name, but I did the opposite. I made it work.

I mingled the mythical elements across the cultures to see what happened. I don’t plan when I write because it stifles psychological layers emerging in the story. Instead, if I get an idea— no matter how bizarre—I drop it into the manuscript and let it ride, let it niggle away at me until something pops. It’s incredible how connections form—usually in the middle of the night—each time adding another layer of depth. I wake most mornings and decipher the notes I’ve scribbled while half asleep.

In Chapter One, Selkie sees something strange in a mirror. It once belonged to a Kahuna and has special powers. Mirrors feature in many real Hawaiian encounters with the supernatural and they drip with symbolism in fairy tales—remember the queen in Snow White. I allowed aspects of these elements to create their own consequences. The mirror inspires some mythic scenes later in the book.

The First Lie is not a retelling of the selkie myth, but selkies create their own psychological thread. The myth involves a fisherman stealing a selkie’s pelt as the selkies dance in the moonlight. When one selkie can’t find her skin, she has to go with him and be his wife. Then seven years later, she finds where he’s hidden it and returns to the sea without looking back. This is an issue of identity, of theft, of soul. I used these concepts to add depth to this modern mystery.

Pele, the volcano goddess, has been encountered by many real Hawaiians. She’s associated with warnings of danger, such as house fires and other mishaps. Selkie is being stalked by a mysterious woman. Could she be Pele? Then there’s the landslide on the highway that sends Selkie and her friends in the opposite direction. Or could the stalker be warning Selkie about one of her new friends?

For a Celtic connection, I created a fictional Hawaiian beach named by a homesick Irishman—only to remember in the middle of the night that there’s a place in Sydney with the same name, just near Selkie’s childhood home. Spooky! And there are monk seals in Hawaii—they’re aumakuas or animal spirit guides that look out for the living. Meanwhile in Europe, scientists have theorised that the sirens in The Odyssey, who lured sailors to their deaths with their singing, may have been based on the moaning of monk seals. Greek mythology too? Yes, because the oceans are interconnected. Add another layer.

Just to make my editor’s head spin, Selkie has a fondness for Chinese food. Chinese mythology adds another thread to the mystery. Cowry shells, hugely symbolic in the islands and around the world, were used to create the Chinese symbol for money—survival in a strange place is an element in the story. And the cooks in Selkie’s favourite noodle bar see something in her aura that no-one else can see—old friend from far away—the Chinese phrase for a memory. It plunges Selkie into a deep investigation of her past.

I had no idea how The First Lie would end until all the mythical layers and threads collided in the last chapter. I just had to trust that the banquet of consequences would be—as the Irish might describe it—grand.

*****

Bio:

Virginia King has lived most of her life in Sydney, but has travelled to many places. Sheʼs been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, a producer of audio-books, a writer of fifty-plus childrenʼs books, and an award-winning publisher. These days sheʼs a full-time writer who paints a bit, living in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband.

Web site: http://www.selkiemoon.com

Sales link: http://www.amazon.com/First-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y

*****

Next week, Virginia King and Marion Eaton and I will be doing a give-away for the first book in each of our series. Details will be posted Tuesday. (Marion was featured in an interview last month. https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/interview-with-m-l-eaton-the-mysterious-marsh ) We are fans of each other’s work and want to share that enjoyment with other readers who enjoy a touch of the mystical in a mystery.

 

 

Random Unearned Happiness

A random collection of encounters that have made me smile:

 Smile 1: Today the college where I teach had a special event for which the faculty was required to wear full academic regalia. We lined up outside one of the buildings in our black robes and caps, assembling for the formal procession. On the railing of the building’s ramp, an equally impressive assembly of flies gathered, matching or exceeding our numbers. I’d never seen so many in one place with no apparent attraction—no food, no late unfortunate animals—just a black iron railing. They looked like an alternate version of us, pompous little goggle-eyed professors from some insect university, preparing for their own convocation.

Smile 2: I remember sitting at an outdoor table at the Cerrillos Whole Foods, getting directions to a hiking place from a stranger I was sharing a table with, and a young man walked by, saying aloud to all who could hear, “Another beautiful day in Santa Fe! Can you stand it?”

Smile 3: I overheard this line during an outdoor concert at the Railyard, spoken a lean, intense, green-eyed man with a little straw hat that turned up at the front: “It hit me—I’m almost fifty. The second half of my life is going to be about exercise and stress reduction.” He seemed elated as he told his friends this profound discovery, and shared the even more amazing fact that he’d talked to other people who’d had the same revelation. What I liked was that he called it the second half of his life. Now that’s an optimist.

Smile 4: The following graffiti were all on the same stall wall (in Santa Fe, of course, where else):

(An Om symbol) Just Breathe

            Think—while it’s still legal

            A good deed brightens a dark world.

            Walk as if your feet were kissing the earth.

Sometimes I walk around with a huge smile on my face just because I’m alive and seeing the sky and breathing the air. My feet are kissing the earth. Sometimes I get bogged down in my to-do list and have to do something to remind myself to smile. Today, being satirized by the flies did the trick. I won’t brighten a dark world by taking myself too seriously.