Find Your Creativity

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

Erich Fromm

“I love fantasy. I love horror. I love musicals. Whatever doesn’t really happen in life is what I’m interested in. As a way of commenting on everything that does happen in life, because ultimately the only thing I’m really interested in is people.”

Joss Whedon

Yesterday I attended my book club meeting. We’re reading Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. When I was thinking of what to write this week, I wanted to write about creativity, but my thoughts were all a jumble. I had no clear idea what I thought about creativity. Then after our discussion, everything snapped into place.

The creative person is a Wild Woman, or Wild Man. There’s a fire in their belly and they must tell their fire story or die. They’re not conventional. They’re often misunderstood. But, we need their message, because their story reflects the culture from which they come. It reflects human experience. Clarissa Pinkola Estés says that stories help us along our inner journey. They can lessen fear, they can help us cut through the crap, and they can help us regain the damaged parts of ourself.

There are as many fire stories as there are people to tell them. The story need not be in written words. It can be in visual art, dance, theatre, music, a finely made quilt, a beautiful garden, a home decorated in a way that invites you in, that opens up conversation. We connect to the stories that speak to some longing within ourselves. If we let them in, the stories can help us heal.

Of course, there are dark stories of destruction of a human soul. I’ve never been attracted to those kinds of stories, but I’m not going to say they don’t help us heal. Maybe those stories provide the wake-up call needed by a segment of the population. After all, we can’t heal if we don’t venture into the dark places of our psyche.

I’m going to close this week’s post with another quote from Joss Whedon. These were his last comments about Firefly fans at the 10th anniversary Reunion panel at Comic Con 2012. I use this quote, because I believe what he describes, happens to us when we allow ourselves to be affected by a piece of art.

“When you come out of a great movie, you feel like you’re in that world.… When you’re telling a story you’re trying to connect to people in a particular way. It’s not just about what you want to say, it’s about inviting them into a world. And the way in which you guys have inhabited this world, this universe, have made you part of it, part of the story. You are living in Firefly. When I see you guys, I don’t think the show is off the air, I don’t think there’s a show. I think that’s what the world is like. I think there are space ships. I think there’re horses. I think it’s going on in all of us. The Story is alive.”

What stories attract you? Look at the archetypes of the characters in those stories. Which archetypes speak to you? Those are clues to your inner life, the fire within your belly.

Follow the Story

All I want to do lately is work on my novel. For that reason I had a hard time thinking of what to write for today’s post. Then it came to me, share my writing process.

I’m not like some of my writer friends who create a detailed outline and then follow it faithfully chapter by chapter. Once I get the idea, I just start writing. Somewhere along the way I get a picture of the basic story and character arcs. I may write a story or character timeline, but I never stick to it, because I’m following some inner wisdom about how the story should go. I’m always thinking about what I’m working on and ideas come to me while I’m doing the dishes, or vacuuming, while I’m in the shower, or in the nether world between sleep and waking.

I find the more I write, the more I want to write. This is the first time I’ve felt like that about my work, except when I worked in the theatre. Being creative begets more creativity, a deeper self-understanding and joy.

For most of my life I’ve kept my inner life hidden, not willing to expose my true thoughts and feelings to the general public. When I was acting, I could hide behind a character. Now all those pent up thoughts are coming out in my storytelling. My personal philosophy comes out in my work, but when I write fiction, there’s also a bit of mystery about which parts of the book are from my real life, and which from my imagination.

Since I want to get back to working on my novel, I’m going to include a scene from it, which I’m sad to say will most likely be cut. I needed to write it so I could understand why this character, Chloe, would do such a terrible thing. As a former actor, I wanted to understand her motivation, this scene is what came out in the process.

Let me set the scene for you. The main character in the past, Morgan, is going to marry Jonathan, the town minister. The wedding is in two or three weeks time. Chloe, who as you will see, is a damaged individual, thinks she’s in love with Jonathan. So, she tries to get rid of Morgan in an “accident.” Here’s the scene.

After dinner Chloe announced her plans to take her evening walk. “Spring is in the air, Do you want to come Amanda?” she’d asked knowing Amanda would not come this night.

“No, not tonight. I’m tired,” Amanda said. It’s working out so perfectly. Herbert had been angry about something that’d happened at the bank. Amanda had taken the brunt of his rage. She’s so weak. Why doesn’t she fight back? Chloe never stood for such treatment. Her father had always been so loving, stroking and petting her. She’d been able to manipulate him and all his friends into doing her bidding. Herbert was no different. She could get him to do anything she wanted him to do, but he wasn’t very interesting and certainly not handsome. “Herbert, what about you?”

“No. Why would you ask me? You know I never go out for walks after dinner.”

Good. She’d be alone and unobserved. “All right. Goodnight then. I may not get back before you go to bed.” Amanda and Herbert muttered their good nights.

She walked out the door and took a nice deep breath of the evening air. Looking across the street, she noticed that the lights were glowing in the schoolhouse windows. “She’s such a fool,” Chloe assured herself. There’d been one frantic moment when Morgan had almost caught her planting the drug in her tea, but in the end, she hadn’t suspected a thing. “My plan is going to work,” she assured herself again. She took the large jar of oil she’d saved, little by little, from its hiding place near the wood pile. Stowing the oil under her cloak, she followed the path she’d scouted to the back of the schoolhouse.

When she got to her destination, she had to look to see if Morgan had succumbed to the sleeping powder she’d put into the tea. She peeked into the east window. Morgan lay on the floor in the aisle. Ah, she tried to escape. Not this time.

She’d been clever about that too. She overheard Seth ordering the tea and Martha mentioning that Morgan had begun to order it too. “Yes, I gave her a cup one day when she came to the office. I’m glad she liked it so much.” Seth had played into her plan like all the rest. And he thinks he’s so smart. I’ll show him. I’ll show them all. She’d purchased the sleeping powder from one of those nasty Chinese people. They didn’t even speak English, so she was safe.

Creeping to the back of the building, she soaked the pile of kindling she’d systematically stacked up, and the corner of the building in oil, careful not to get any on herself. She didn’t want to make a mistake at this point and get herself caught in the blaze. She lighted the edge of the pile. The kindling caught fire quickly. She stayed long enough to make sure the building caught fire. Then she followed one of her routes to the other side of the main road through town, disposing of the jar on her way.

Her heart was pounding. As she neared the other side of the walkway, she hoped the alarm would not be sounded too quickly. That was the one variable she feared. That Morgan would be saved and she’d have to start all over again.

The flames were just visible above the roof. It wouldn’t be long now. Just then Jonathan appeared and headed toward the schoolhouse. What’s he doing here? He said he’d be gone until very late. She wanted to scream, but the fire hadn’t been discovered yet. She held her breath as Jonathan opened the schoolhouse door and heard his yell down the street. The glow from the burning building was visible through the open door. She heard another yell and another. What are all these people doing out and about when they should be home in bed?

Seth came out of the newspaper office and ran toward the burning building, yelling at the top of his lungs. Max ran from the livery, and suddenly the street was filled with people. She stood there transfixed. Seth ran into the front door followed by Max. Good, we can get rid of him too, the dirty half-breed. Most of the building was now engulfed in flames. It’s so beautiful. The blue, yellow, orange and red conflagration rose up to the sky. But, what about Jonathan? Somewhere in her tiny heart, she knew he was safe. Once Morgan was dead and she told him what she’d done, he’d be so proud of her. But, he hadn’t come out yet. People were forming a bucket brigade. How foolish, it was obviously too late.

“Chloe, aren’t you going to help with the buckets?” Martha was pulling her arm.

“Oh, yes. But not too close. I’m so afraid of fire,” she said smiling to herself. She’d spread that around the last few weeks, how she’d witnessed a terrible fire and was deathly afraid of being trapped in one.

She let Martha pull her along to the end of the line farthest away from the fire, keeping a look out for Jonathan. Where is he? She took the buckets and passed them along as they were handed to her. Then she saw Seth with a bundle in his arms. It was Morgan! Damn him. He was yelling something. The sound of the fire was deafening and then the loud creaking of the weakening roof beams made Max dive out the door to land on the grass. Everyone else near the front of the bucket line ducked. There came a deafening crash as the roof collapsed. The kaleidoscope colored flames flared out momentarily over the heads of everyone on the ground. Screams filled the air as those closest to the fire crawled away from the extreme heat. The town’s people huddled together in the middle of the street. Only Chloe was standing separate, a forgotten bucket in her hand. She scanned the crowd. Where is Jonathan? She couldn’t see him anywhere. An unfamiliar sensation clutched her stomach. He not there. She had to find out where he was. She ran to Max. “Where’s Jonathan?”

“I couldn’t save him,” was all Max coughed out. Tears were streaking his smoke stained face.

“What! You left him in there? Nooooo…” she screamed. Something snapped in her head. He’ll be all mine if… She threw the bucket and ran toward the raging fire. “Jonathan,” she screamed. Hands tried to stop her, but she dodged them and ran toward the friendly flames. She didn’t care about anything but being with Jonathan. The conflagration seared her flesh.With the first inhalation, the flames filled her lungs. As her body collapsed, an unearthly light embraced her. There now, your pain is over.

This is a rough draft, but, I’d appreciate your comments about the scene if you care to reply to this post. I can use the critique. Thanks.

Attacking Others is Attacking Ourselves

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.
Bernard Meltzer

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

George Zimmerman is found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin and the country goes into attack mode. He’s characterized as evil incarnate. It’s a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed in a senseless way. We all feel angry and helpless about what happened to him. But aren’t we killing ourselves to hate George Zimmerman?

Every single religion teaches us that we must forgive our enemies. They don’t teach that so that the person we hate benefits, they teach that so that we benefit. I know from personal experience that when I hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, it hurts me a lot more than it does the other person. In fact, the other person might not even know they hurt me, or that I’m holding a grudge. They may feel perfectly justified in what they did. My hatred and the desire for revenge holds me back, makes me ill and cuts me off from the divine goodness that could come to me. To forgive is the ultimate act of self-love. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves.

We need to forgive George Zimmerman not for him, but for ourselves. If you think about it, can we really know what happened on that terrible day? I mean, were you there when Trayvon got shot? Did you see it happen? Were you there in the courtroom? Did you hear every piece of evidence? We can never know what goes on inside another person’s mind. We can’t possibly know what was going on in George Zimmerman’s mind when he shot Trayvon Martin. And we can’t know what was going on in Trayvon’s mind in his last moments. We don’t know the larger purpose of that event.

I wrote last week that we need to give up fear and trust God, or whatever you call God. I need to say here that I call God, Divine Oneness. I chose that name because we’re all connected. Everything in the universe, everything that exists is connected. That’s not just my opinion. Science has proven that we are all made of the same elements as what’s out in the cosmos. So, if we’re going to trust Divine Oneness to manage things for us, we have to let Her/Him take care of George Zimmerman’s fate too. We’re not God. Our teeny little brains can’t manage our own lives, much less all that exists. Nor can we understand the bigger picture of the plan Divine Oneness has in store for us. So we’ve got to stop buying into the idea that revenge is sexy, cool, protects us and balances the books. It doesn’t. It eats away our humanity.

I had two experiences that I think relate to George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. When my husband and I took our trip around the world in 1996, I broke down in almost uncontrollable tears at two different sites. The first was in Notre Dame in Paris. It was a lovely spring day and the Cathedral was full of tourists. The choir was practicing in the choir loft. We entered the Cathedral and began walking the tourist path. To the right just inside the entrance was a life size statue of Joan of Arc. I saw the statue and began to weep. Barry was very concerned. He didn’t know why I was reacting in such a way. I stood there blocking the path while other tourists tried to get around me. Finally, Barry said, “Do you want to pray?” There was an area cordoned off with chairs for those who wanted to pray. We sat there for about twenty minutes while I wept. To this day I’m not sure what made me weep at the sight of Joan’s statue, but I think it had to do with the fact that she was sacrificed in a senseless grab for power. She had a pure understanding of her purpose and she was willing to follow her guidance no matter where it led her. We remember her, not so much the men who burned her at the stake.

The other time I broke into tears, was when we were in Delhi, India at the Raj Ghat where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the midst of the city, which is crammed with buildings, is a lovely large parklike area. The moment we entered the gates, I felt we were walking on sacred ground. Our Sikh guide was telling us about the grounds and about Gandhi’s life. One of the other tourists asked, “Gandhi was a Hindu wasn’t he? Then why was he killed by a Hindu man?” The guide, who was very tall and elegant said, “It is often the case that men of great vision are misunderstood.” At that moment I was filled with the importance of Gandhi’s message and the meaning his life held for the world. I began to weep. We haven’t learned yet to let go of violence, and Trayvon Martin is just the latest example of the accepted viewpoint that guns protect us. I wept for the loss of Trayvon Martin just like I did for Joan of Arc and Gandhi and all the other victims of senseless violence.

I have a friend who says, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” Both Joan of Arc and Gandhi volunteered to be examples of love, purpose and peace. They left us a great legacy. We need to contemplate the legacy Trayvon Martin leaves, not nurse the hatred we feel for George Zimmerman. As my father used to say, “People who hurt others are in pain themselves.” George Zimmerman most certainly acted out of fear when he shot Trayvon Martin. He’s living in his own kind of hell. I refuse to join him there by hating him, because as A Course in Miracles says, “Attacking others is attacking yourself.”

Trust and Fear

Welcome to my new followers. I’m grateful to all of you who’ve taken the time to read my blog. I hope you’ll get something out of each post and will give me feedback.

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Albert Einstein
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
Dalai Lama

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and fear lately. Until recently, I was living in fear mode. That’s such a horrible place to live. There was a time when I trusted that I would be taken care of no matter what and that God and I were partners in creating my life. Then I was forced out of a most beloved job and for five years I lived in fear that other disasters were going to befall me.

I won’t go into all the little steps, and ahas that got me to wake up and begin my active spiritual practice again. It’s way too complicated. The point is, that I realized that I’d been so closed off, living in fear, that I couldn’t let anything good come into my life. I blamed God for my misfortunes when I was the architect of them all. When I remembered to look for the meaning of my misfortune, I saw that I’d called it to myself. I would have happily continued to teach drama, but that wasn’t my highest best purpose and my soul knew it. I began to practice trusting God again. And that brings me to what happened July 3rd.

My husband, Barry, had two flat tires on the way home from work. Normally, I would have gone directly into fear and worried myself sick. I’ve written before that we don’t have lots of extra money at the moment. So, naturally, I had a fearful moment feeling that we wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the tires. Then I took a breath. I’ve been practicing trusting that all is well in any given moment. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and said, Okay God, I’m trusting that everything’s going to work out. The little snigglet of fear was replaced with calm. We got the tires on the 5th of July. They were cheaper than the two we’d purchased for Barry’s car last fall. There was money left over in our account. Not only that, we have a book reading and signing scheduled for this week, with the potential of money coming in as well as other small amounts all coming at just the right time.

Now, you might think that was the end of that. Oh no. I’m a person who’s always thinking and making connections with what happens to me personally, and the larger world. As I’ve been thinking about fear in my life and how it affects me personally, I’ve also been thinking about how fear has affected us on a national level. The theme of fear has come up in the media again and again in one form or another. Fear on the personal level and fear on a national and global level. And, I’ve been asking myself what can I do to help us heal our fear. What comes to me is that I’ve got to join the conversation about what’s happening in this country.

I’m not someone who’s going to go out and march in the streets. I believe the change begins within me. I also believe what Eckart Tolle says, that “what we resist persists and what we fight grows stronger.” That’s not to say that demonstrations are wrong. They often bring attention to a situation that needs to be changed. It’s just not my calling to be out there protesting, or demonstrating. My calling is the written word. So, I’m going to pose some questions that might help you think about your own fear, if you are experiencing it as your predominant emotion. Do you think we live in a hostile or friendly universe? Do you believe God is loving, or vengeful? Do you believe what’s written on our money, “In God we trust”? Do you like what fear has done to our country? I mean, I think almost everyone will agree we’re in a mess right now. Are you willing to let go of your personal fears? Or, is everything just fine the way it is? If you trusted God to handle your life, how would you feel?

Yesterday I watched the episodes of Super Soul Sunday with Oprah interviewing Inda.Arie. She sang a song that touched me to my core. I want to include just a bit of the chorus. The song is “Break the Shell,” from her new album Songversation. I think the song speaks about how to leave our fear behind. Go check out her album.

“We have a choice to live, or truly be alive. This is your life. Child, it’s time to break the shell. Life’s going to hurt, but it’s meant to be felt. You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself. You cannot fly until you break the shell.”

This is just a snippet of a much larger inner dialogue that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Since none of us see the world in exactly the same way, I want to read your thoughts about what I’ve written, so please leave a comment.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

My voice teacher in college used to say “Perfect practice makes perfect”. She didn’t mean that you have to be perfect in every rehearsal. What she meant was that I should give my whole effort to each rehearsal. I have a writer friend who says something like, “It’s okay to write crap, as long as you keep writing.” What she means by that is that your first efforts may not be a work of art, but if you keep working, it might just become that. What I get out those two sayings is that I must keep working on my writing a little every day. We each need to keep getting up from failure, take the lessons, and try again. When we do that we improve our skills.

I’ve been writing for five years now. One thing I’ve learned is that to improve, I must write often. I can’t say I write everyday. But, I’m thinking about my current project everyday. Today I think it’s time I include a section of my novel. It’s pretty much as I first wrote it, so it won’t be perfect, but I’m excited to share it with you. For some reason, I had trouble with the formatting when I transferred the segment. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Let me set up the story so you understand what’s going on in this particular scene. There is a storyline and a main character in the present. Her name is Jenna and her life has been shattered in one terrible day. She goes home to her mother’s funeral and decides to stay to rebuild her life. While there she stumbles onto journals that connect her to the main character in the past, Morgan, living part of her life with her. This helps them both in the end. The excerpt I’m posting here takes place in the spring of 1859 on the Oregon Trail.

Overwhelmed, Jenna decided to go back to Morgan’s life. Maybe living with her for a while would give her some room to think. Settling herself on her bed, she picked up the journal she’d been reading. The words blurred and the now familiar feeling of her mind shifting and fitting into Morgan’s consciousness, overtook her. When she opened her eyes, she and Morgan were walking next to a wagon. The sun was high in the sky. Dust devils swirled engulfing the travelers as they walked beside their respective wagons. Mirages of promised, but imaginary water shimmered on the horizon. Morgan was drowsing as she walked, sweat dripping from every part of her body. Jenna winced. She’d never felt so grimy. How could Morgan stand it? The hair was matted to Morgan’s head under her bonnet, and her feet were swollen in her boots. Dust filled her nostrils and clogged every pore. Out of sheer survival, Morgan refused to think of the stench of her unwashed body, or that of the others on the trail. It was a struggle enough to put one foot in front of the other. Looking up the line, she saw that the other women and and older children were shuffling too. Time was reduced to this one unending march. She’d been walking like this forever and it was never going to stop. In her head day dreams of cool water dripping soothingly down her throat and engulfing her naked body kept her going. No birds were singing. The only sound was of the wagon wheels turning endlessly and grasshoppers escaping being trampled. Usually she was careful to watch where she stepped looking for snakes, holes or roots that could trip her. Today, her brain was boiling in her head and she couldn’t think at all.
Up ahead there was a scream and then a commotion of raised voices and calls for help. William, driving the wagon beside Morgan, reigned in the team. Sarah was running forward to the source of the disturbance. A sharp pain struck Morgan in the heart rousing her. Something was terribly wrong. She too, rushed forward. The screaming was coming from the Rosenberg wagon. A crowd of people were gathered near the left wheel. Morgan was near the back of the group, and too short to see what was happening. “My baby, get it off her, “ Mrs. Rosenberg was screaming in German. Chills ran through Morgan’s body. She didn’t need to see the reality of what had happened. Her imagination twisted her stomach in a tight knot. Many of those who had been in the front of the cluster of onlookers were pushing their way through the crowd holding their hands to their mouths, their faces ashen. Mrs. Acres threw up on a man who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. Many members of the train, even some men were crying. Morgan was shivering with shock.
“Get back,” The Wagon Master shouted. “We’ve got to move the wagon.”
Morgan had already backed away far from the wagon, tears silently running down her face. As the crowd cleared she saw the littlest Rosenberg girl, Elena, standing next to the wagon looking at the front wheel. She was shocked that the adults weren’t pushing her away. She should not be a witness to the horror of one of her siblings crushed under the wagon wheel. The girl turned and looked at Morgan, who gestured for the girl to come to her. Her face was radiant. She was surrounded in a most unusual glow as she walked toward Morgan. She took the little girls hand. “You shouldn’t see such horrible things.”
“It’s not horrible,” the girl said in perfect English with no hint of her German accent.
“It’s one of your siblings. Aren’t you sad?”
“No, it’s not, My brother and sisters are fine. I tried to talk to my mother and father, but they can’t hear me.” Then she looked up at Morgan, her eyes alight with love. “Will you tell them I love them. Thank them for my life and that I’m happy.” Morgan gasped. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mind was a jumble.
“Are you…?”
“Yes, but don’t be sad.”
“Why come to me?”
“Because you can see me. You have the gift. I must go now,” Elena said smiling.

“Do you want me to say hello to your father and mother?” The girl smiled radiantly. “They love you very much.”
Elena’s hand was warm in Morgan’s. Looking down at her she nodded as the girl began to fade. “Yes, tell them I love them.”
“I will, goodbye, Morgan. Thanks for reading such wonderful stories, and for being so kind to me.” Then she laughed, turned and skipped out into the prairie and vanished.
The air shimmered and Morgan felt as if she were caught in a whirlpool. She closed her eyes to stop the spinning in her head. Presently she turned back to the grieving members of the train. Sarah was comforting Mrs. Rosenberg. Mr. Rosenberg, William and the Wagon Master, were wrapping Elena’s body, while other men passed by with shovels. Morgan took in a quick breath and stifled a sob. The three remaining Rosenberg children were standing alone weeping. Daniel, the oldest was holding his two younger sisters. She walked unsteadily to them, putting her arms around them, saying nothing. What could she say. The four of them clung to each other weeping.
Mr. Rosenberg stood, cradling the body of his youngest daughter. He turned into the direction Morgan had seen her spirit disappear. There was a lovely oak tree not far from the trail. It stood alone on the vast prairie, as if it had been waiting to be the marker for such a precious gift. Men from the train, shovels in hand followed Mr. Rosenberg and began digging a grave under the lone tree. Wild flowers spread in a carpet of yellow, blue and lavender from the tree’s base out into the prairie. The entire train moved silently toward the new grave in a long procession. They gathered silently around. Mr. Rosenberg laid the small body in the grave. As he did so, Mrs. Rosenberg’s crying turned into a terrible keening wail. The children sobbed in Morgan’s embrace. There was no Preacher, or Rabbi on the train to say words over Elena’s grave. The men solemnly covered her body with dirt. Some of the women had collected wild flowers and put them on the grave. A man put a hastily carved marker on the mound at Elena’s head. Then Mr. Rosenberg sang a prayer in a language that no one on the train understood. It was a haunting tune in a minor key. As the song began, the breeze stopped as if the earth was paying tribute to this bright, lovely little girl. The only sound was the strangely beautiful song. Everyone bowed their heads. Many wept for the terrible loss of a child, for their own stupidity in shunning the Rosenbergs, because they were different, or for the loss of their own loved ones long gone. The strains of the song sank deep into their souls. They stayed huddled together for quite some time. Then Mr. Rosenberg and each of his children placed a stone on Elena’s grave.
The Wagon Master, usually a hard task master, said nothing of leaving. He’d witnessed this kind of tragedy before and knew that he couldn’t rush the members of the train back to the trail. If he were honest with himself, he didn’t want to go back either. It never got easier, these tragedies. That’s why this was the last train he’d lead. It was time for him to bask in the joys of nature and live out the rest of his life quietly on his little strip of wilderness. He hoped this was the last time he’d have to bury a child.
In time, William asked Mr. Rosenberg if he could say a prayer as well. Mr. Rosenberg agreed and took Sarah’s place holding his wife. The children joined him and the remaining Rosenberg family clung to each other.
William prayed, “God, we don’t understand your ways as well as we could. There must be a reason for this tragedy. We know that you’ve taken Elena to be with you. She was such a delightful, happy child. But, God, we’re left with a big hole in our hearts because she’s gone. Help us see the purpose of the death of one so young. And help us be there for each other in the hard times ahead. Show us our path. Show us our purpose in your plan. Help us never forget Elena Rosenberg and her joy in life. Amen.” The breeze came up again, relieving the heat of the day. The wild flowers ruffled and gave off a lovely scent. In the long moment of silence that stretched out encircling all gathered near the grave, Jenna marveled at William’s prayer. She’d never thought much about God. He was mysterious and hard to understand. To her he was a capricious character like Zeus. It was obvious that William saw him differently. Maybe there was a place where humans and God met. Her scalp tingled. There it was again, that feeling that everything she’d ever known was an illusion.
The members of the train dispersing quietly back to their wagons, broke Jenna out of her reverie. Only Sarah, William, Morgan and the Rosenbergs remained by the grave. Mrs. Rosenberg had stopped her shrill wail. Her face was closed, the light in her eyes completely gone. She was inside herself someplace and didn’t respond to anything outside. The group moved as one back to the wagons. The Wagon Master was on his horse near the Rosenberg wagon.
“Can you drive your wagon, Mr. Rosenberg?”

“Put Mrs. Rosenberg inside. Mrs. Comstock will you stay with her?”

“Of course.”
“The children can ride with you for the rest of today, Mr. Rosenberg.”
“Thank you.”
William and Mr. Rosenberg helped put Mrs. Rosenberg into the back of the wagon. Sarah climbed up beside her. Morgan and William helped the children climb up to be near their father.
The Wagon Master waited until everyone was back in their place, then called “Wagons Ho”. They began their forward motion again, very slowly at first and with heavy hearts. There were still miles to cover before they would reach their camp for the night.
Morgan walked beside their wagon in silence weeping. Her stomach was clenched in a terrible knot. Why had she taken up this journey? She could be home talking with Emma or helping Mrs. Waller with the baking or the children, instead of facing these hardships every day. For her part, Jenna was just as grief stricken as Morgan. Why had she picked up those journals. Was life nothing but a series of losses? Jenna recognized the rage building in Morgan before she herself was aware of it. She tried to help, but Morgan’s control snapped. Jenna was swept up in Morgan’s fury. They screamed at God. Why did you let Elena die? Why did you let my parents die? Why has my life been shattered? I don’t understand you. You’re supposed to be a loving God. Taking our loved ones, and our dreams away from us isn’t loving, it’s cruel! I’m alone because of you! Everything they looked at had a red glow. Rage filled every cell of their being. At first Morgan wasn’t sure what this new sensation was, she’d never felt so angry before. Strange this should be happening to Morgan, right after Jenna herself had had her own meltdown. Even though she tried to communicate with Morgan’s mind, she couldn’t make herself heard. Just as Morgan’s rage hit it’s height, a cool breeze touched her face. Her rage eased slightly and her vision cleared. The knot in her stomach relaxed and she heard a voice in her head. I accept your anger.
“What,” Morgan asked stunned? So was Jenna. Was she crazy to continue this life hopping bullshit. Who’s talking to us? Morgan felt Jenna’s presence for the first time and answered, “God.”
I accept your anger, the voice repeated. You’ve got to feel your life. Keep feeling, and asking questions. Insights come a little at a time. I’m here with you.

Bewildered, Morgan looked up at the sky. An eagle was gliding on air currents far above her. The breeze rustled through the prairie grasses and wild flowers. She could smell moisture from the river flowing near the string of wagons. she saw them with dual vision, hers and Jenna’s. Life is worth living no matter how long or short, so savor every moment. You’re not alone. All who’ve gone before you are with you. Morgan replied, That’s what father used to say. 

I wish my mother had, Jenna said to Morgan.

All is well, is that what you’re tying to tell us? They asked in unison.

What do you think?

Mrs. McCallister’s baby cried. A few minutes later the crying stopped, he was getting his dinner. The eagle dove and snatched a prairie dog from its hole. The sun, low on the horizon, sent shadows reaching out from everything it touched. They didn’t need to answer. Life was happiness, sorrow, hard work, uncertainty, frustration, joy, learning, love and so many other shades of emotion. They’d have to accept every one. Right now I’m angry, hurt, confused and alone, and that’s okay. We’ll know the reason one day. Morgan said for them both.
It might be okay for Morgan, Jenna wasn’t so sure. She didn’t like uncertainty. Most modern people, didn’t. Her mother had indoctrinated her with the idea that if she worked hard enough she’d be successful one day. Sharing Morgan’s life was making her face, the fact that that idea was a complete fallacy. Now she realized she’d drifted along never defining what success was for her. She’d taken it for granted that the shiny, comfortable, American dream was her dream life. That was washed away in one horrible day. I don’t want these horrible feelings. I want to know where all this is leading. Morgan believed that her life had a purpose and that Elena, and upon occasion, her father were trying to assure her she was headed in the right direction even though she wasn’t quite sure of the outcome. Jenna wanted to know the end of the story first before she took another step.
Thinking back on the events of her day, she realized, it didn’t work that way. The whole surreal thing of sharing Morgan’s life, and… Seeing the spirits of her parents was one thing, but an unknown little girl in the past. That was too weird. Yet, there must be a reason for it all, as Morgan had said. It occurred to her that she could go back to her own time, get rid of the journals, and chuck the whole thing. That thought made her stomach sink. If she did that, she’d always regret it. Her only true choice was to continue learning from Morgan.
After a couple of hours walk, the train reached the planned camping site. It was just before sunset. The chores were done quietly by fire or torch light. Most people were still affected by the tragedy.
The Wagon Master came to their fire. He was an outwardly gruff man with long brown hair streaked with gray. Above his upper lip was a handlebar mustache and on his chin was a long beard, both also streaked with gray. It was obvious he’d been living outdoors for many years. There were deep lines in his face, which was tanned dark brown. He could have passed for an Indian. The clothes he wore were buckskin. There were dark stains on the top of his thighs and sweat stains under his armpits and down his back. Every part of his body was lean, evidence of the hard work he’d done most of his life. Yet, his eyes were bright with deep smile lines at their corners, which told a story of a man who’d squinted into bright sunlight, leading people to a new life. Morgan saw that he’d found peace there.
“Mr. Comstock, I’m hopin’ you’ll do me a favor. The Rosenbergs seem to like you and your wife. You too, Miss Carlyle Would you mind movin’ your place in the train up behind their wagon and keepin’ an eye on ’em. I don’t like the look of Mrs. Rosenberg. I’ve seen this kinda thing before. She might do herself an injury. Miss, if you’d also keep a close eye on the children, that’d ease my mind no end.”
“We’ll be happy to do anything we can, Mr. Fisk,” William replied for them all.
“I knew I could count on you seein’ how you’ve been so kind to ’em. Thanks. We’ll move the wagons in the mornin’. I’ll go tell Mr. Rosenberg to ease his mind. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” William turned to Sarah and hugged her close.

Morgan finished putting the dishes in the box so they’d stay clean for breakfast, while William and Sarah held each other and grieved the loss of their own children, Morgan went for her bedroll and laid it out under the wagon. Presently William and Sarah were laying out their bedding in the lean to. There was no music that night, everyone was alone with their thoughts. The crickets and coyote songs were the melancholy music fitting for this night. Morgan wondered if she should tell the Rosenbergs about her encounter with Elena’s spirit. Not yet, came the answer. She turned over thinking that she would not be able to sleep after such tragedy, and her episode of rage. Traces of her anger lingered. It was going to take a long while to understand the meaning of everything that had happened to her recently, if she could ever understand it. As she lay pondering, and drifted off to sleep.

Jenna opened her eyes back in her own room with so much to think over.

I hope you enjoyed this little segment of my novel. I’ll keep writing and as my book goes though many revisions, this scene will undoubtedly change. It’s nice to take a snapshot of where I am now, so I have something to compare with future work.

At the bottom of this post are links to a children’s book I wrote and my husband illustrated many years ago as a present for our oldest nephew Scott. You can also find it at I wrote it at a time in my life when I felt lost. The story of Scottosaurus The Little Dinosaur, reflects my inner search for home.

Scottosaurus e-book:

Scottosaurus paperback book: