I’ve chosen that double-dip name for my blog (Sophy-wisdom), first because Sophy is my Christened name, spelt like that, with a “y,” and then because all my life I’ve been straining and struggling to find wisdom.
Recently I saw two movies about creativity, I’ve come away in awe of the human spirit. One is SEYMOUR about a classical pianist names Seymour Bernstein, and the other LOVE AND MERCY about the life of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Clearly, the artist (writer, musician, painter, sculpture), who is listening to inner voices and requires huge doses of solitude, is driven almost mad by living up to the public expectations. Seymour Bernstein gives up a career as a classical pianist, because he can’t stand on-stage performing, and Wilson has such panic attacks that he finally bows out of the big gigs and stays home, isolating and writing music. A Big Book tour sounds fabulous. Continue reading
I even praise the cat,
Its savage patience and quick paws
My mother was an intuitive, a kind of white witch, close to the earth; and, like all good seers, she always had a cat, black with one white patch – a spot on the breast, or paw.
My mother’s cat had nothing to do with other members of the family. She held allegiance only for Mummy. She was often seen (when she was seen at all, for she was a retiring, modest, rather introverted, and noise-averse animal) cleansing herself daintily beside my mother’s chair. The remarkable thing is that when one cat died of old age, my mother never replaced her. She didn’t need to. In a few weeks a little black kitten would walk, mewing out of the woods, wrap herself around my mother’s feet, and boldly enter the house, to replace the one just lost.
When Mummy died at the youthful age of 68 of lung cancer, the cat, who slept at the foot of her bed, vanished. I’ve often wondered what happened to her. It would not surprise me to discover (when I pass over myself) that she had found a way to join my mother behind that Impenetrable Wall. That’s the love of a cat.
Now here is something curious. No cat is mentioned in the Bible. No cat leapt onto Jesus’ lap. Or arched its sinuous back for the stroking fingers of King David. Continue reading
Well, the time has come to talk about my new novel, LOVE, ❤ALBA which comes out August 10, and why I wrote it, and why I decided to self publish, and how dismayed and discouraged I became when I found that my agent could not find a publisher: because there must be many writers, successful or just starting out, who can benefit from my experience and boy! have I learnt a lot! I had just published The Treasure of Montségur, a pretty serious novel set in 13th century France. This is a period that makes living in the 21st Century look like a piece of cake! In that book, I was exploring how you find hope and joy under sickening circumstances. This is always the way with writing: “We do not write in order to be understood,” wrote C. Day Lewis. “We write in order to understand.” Afterwards I wanted to write something light-hearted, fun, sweet, because this is truly a beautiful world. Continue reading
This afternoon (Friday, 4.17) I was listening on the radio to Metro Connection as I drove back into town, when a story was told of an artist who one day was looking for floor tiles to repair his house. He asked. “God, show me where to go,” then felt impelled to get in his car and drive left and right and left and right and right and left, having no idea where he was going in Baltimore, but feeling guided, when he found himself at a dead end, face to face with a sign: FREE GLASS TILES. Metro Connection reported the story without comment, and I am thrilled.
When I wrote A Book of Angels (published 1990) NO ONE talked about these little guides, these “miracles,” and if you did, you weren’t sure you were judged quite sane. Continue reading
Well, don’t anyone try to convince me there’s not life after life. I’ve had too many experiences to believe in the silence of dark mouldering eternal sleep. The world is too full of life—and mystery. And by the way, of LAUGHTER! At one level it’s all laughter!
My first cousin died recently. On the Saturday morning before I had heard of his death, I found myself staring at the books in my bookcase, reached out and plucked a book I hadn’t noticed before. “Where did this come from?” I thought, regarding a volume of Italian short stories, in Italian, printed in 1999. . . .and then from the pages fell a yellowed invoice Continue reading
Well, I’ve just posted a few words about how the Universe sends us gifts and roses, the little grace notes that affirm we’re not alone. Here is another story, quite different, that I told about in one of my books, though I forget which one just now (maybe The Path of Prayer?).
I was walking on the canal in Georgetown, and once again I was in a funk (You must think I’m always down, but actually I’m usually courageous and upbeat.) On this day, however, I was at the end of my rope. “God, give me a sign,” I spoke silently to my angels, my guides, “and don’t make it one of your subtle signs that I can’t read. I want something that will hit me over the head, because I’m not in a good place today. I need to know that everything is going to be all right.”
Just then a flock of pigeons rose out of the waters of the canal, sweeping up in the air, swooping and circling, the light flashing from their white wings. I was startled. You expect sea gulls on the water perhaps, but not pigeons. At the same time, they were so beautiful that I stopped in wonder to watch them fly. Just then PLOP! One shat on me, right on top of my head.
What could I do but laugh? I’d asked for a sign to hit me on the top of the head, and here it was. It broke my foul mood. I went home light-hearted and back to my desk to work.
The ways of the angels are mysterious. But remember, children, we are not promised that nothing bad will happen to us. We’re promised that when they do we’re not alone!
May you have a lovely day. Winter is nearly over. Spring is coming. The light is returning (one more month to the solstice). Watch for signs. Be happy.
I wrote last time about the Dark Side – an aspect of the spiritual that I don’t like to think much about. Today I want to write about the LIGHT. And since we’ve just finished Valentine’s Day, it’s appropriate to think of roses – and of all the little ways that the Universe (another of my thousand names for God) pours affection onto us.
One day I remember being blue. I wished for a sign that everything would be ok. A minute later, I walked out of the house (I lived in a house then), and there on the sidewalk lay a red rose. Laughing at myself, I took it as my “sign.”
It turns out that roses are often a sign of an answered prayer. St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-97) is the Roman Catholic saint of the rose. “What matters in life,” she wrote, “is not great deeds, but great love.” After her death, she promised to “shower roses on her little ones.” She believed that like a child we should be enamored with what is before us, totally attentive to all the expressions of love. I’m not Catholic but I have heard that if you pray a novena (nine days for one wish) to St. Therese, and if the wish is granted, you will receive
The Dark Side
I rarely touch on the Dark Side in this optimistic, light-filled angel blog, but recently something happened to me so unusual that I share it, in case there are others who feel lonely and lost, “beside themselves,” or “not themselves.” It’s not that we don’t all fall into a trough sometimes, feel blue, or even, god knows, become depressed, but what hit me last week was so coarse and unpleasant that I found myself hating whoever was living in my skin.
I went to New York over the weekend, where I met family and friends, visited the Exciting, Noisy, New and Different; yet even in the midst of loved ones, I felt lonely, fearful, awkward, anxious, lost.
Back home, I finally had time to sit in solitude and howl to God, my angels, my inner Higher Self. “Oh God, help me, help me. I can’t do this. I can’t do it alone!” (whatever “it” was.) Then I picked up a pen and began what I call automatic writing. It’s easy. Continue reading
One of the joys of writing a blog is to discover that someone reads it. These past weeks I’ve received several reports of spiritual experiences—and I want to tell them all. But I pick only two– both concerning life after death: one came from “C.” (name withheld), whose husband died, and the other is about a dog. (Don’t you love Pope Francis, by the way, affirming that dogs and other pets may well go to heaven: Well, YES! Who wants to be in a heaven without our beloved dog, cat, horse, turtle, snake?)
Story # 1: Bill lay dying in hospice, his family gathered around. Earlier his daughter had asked him for a sign. “ If there is a heaven, and if you’re there, show me a sign. You’re so clever. If anyone can do it, you can!” And then a grandson reinforced it. “You have to give Mom a sign that you’re ok. She’s going to have a hard time with this, so it can’t be vague.” Continue reading
Years ago I interviewed the Dalai Lama for my book, The Ecstatic Journey, Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life. The book is about what happens when you have a spiritual experience and what happens afterwards, and it was written out of my own need for such a guide after having had some dramatic spiritual experiences. (We all have them; why don’t people talk about it?) The interview took place in Dharmashala, India, and it was life-transforming. Yet now, years later, I think of questions I didn’t ask. I wish I had the chance to do it over again. And yet, it was extraordinary. First, I was bowled over by his greeting. He saw me walking down the colonnade of his office and living quarters, turned and strode forward, hands out, his face wrinkling with smiles. Holding my hand, he led me into his office, directed me to a couch. “Sit here,” he said, “What can I do to help you?” Wow! That’s how I want to be greeted. What’s with this English reserve I learned while growing up? Why didn’t I ever express such joy at seeing someone? Why didn’t I make them comfortable like that? Right there, my trip to India paid for itself! Second was the depth of the interview. “When I was young,” he told me, “I used to think I could attain enlightenment.Now I know I have only this much.” He illustrated with thumb and forefinger only ¼ inch apart.