Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, October 30, 2009

Awards Day

Debra Schubert, of Write on Target, http://debralschubert.blogspot.com/, was kind enough to pass along the Kreativ Blogger award. If you haven't already checked out her blog, rush right on over, do not pass Go, because she has a lot to say about writing. And she says it oh so well.

So, now, as part of this blog award, I am asked to name seven other worthy bloggers who must also follow the rest of the directions:1) Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog.2) Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog. 3) Write 7 things about yourself we don't know.4) Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to.5) Link to those 7 other bloggers.6) Notify your 7 bloggers.

So here goes, 7 things you don't already know about me:
1. I am a very impatient person. I hate waiting. If something doesn't work right away, I curse, mutter, etc. It is a fatal character flaw.
2. I get very cranky if I don't eat every few hours. I'm hypoglycemic. Friends know that if they schedule dinner any time after 6 pm, I'll either eat before I get there, or start eating without them.
3. I wish I could get in touch with some people who knew me when I was little. Facebook or Classmates.com have not turned up anyone I'd want to re-connect with.
4. Not having either one of my parents alive still feels weird, even though my Dad died almost six years ago. Still can't get used to being the "elder" in the family.
5. Standing up for myself and putting myself first feels selfish, but right.
6. Doing what feeds my soul makes me happy. So why do things that don't?
7. I don't like political rants on blogs. Sorry to those of you who do it. It doesn't mean I won't keep visiting, it just means I don't like it and probably won't respond.

Here are the deserving blogs I am passing this award to:
1. Tabitha Bird, because she is one of the best writers I've come across in a long time. And because she's healing herself and creating a wonderful life.
2. Crystal , her posts are fun, creative, and challenge our brains. And she's a reliable, steady commenter.
3. Elizabeth Spamm Craig because she's a wonderful writer (check out "Pretty is As Pretty Dies,"), because she's a great mom, and because she is doing so much to help other writers.
4. Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler, at womensmemoirs because they do so much to help other women memoir writers. Check out their new website. It's got a wealth of information.
5. SuzyHayze. She is a gifted writer, a wonderful blogger, and writes from her heart.
6. Joanne DeMaio. Her blog is beautiful, thought-provoking, and inspiring. And she leaves wonderfully thoughtful comments on my blog. Supportive and loving.
7. Elspeth Antonelli - I only recently discovered Elspeth's blog and I'm so glad I did. She unabashedly shares about writing, frequently asks really thoughtful questions, and is just an all around wonderful friend to writers.

Hope you will check out blogs mentioned here you haven't already visited. They're well worth the time. And thanks again, Debra, for thinking of me. Happy weekend, everyone.

Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rhythms

Life is rhythm. Sometimes staccato. Sometimes legato. Sometimes silent. Maybe the rhythm is suggesting a jitterbug. If it's three-quarter time, you might try a waltz. Rather than get thrown by life's changing rhythms, I am learning to shift from one to the next.

I had what I thought was a great idea for a nonfiction book on aging. Still do (think it's a good idea, I mean). But it wasn't happening. I did a few interviews, then lost energy for the project. That doesn't mean I won't go back to it at some point. But for now, I just can't get into that rhythm.

The novel, though. It came through in the silence of the Scottish Highlands and whispered further in a magical forest in Ireland. At first I couldn't write past the first few paragraphs. But yesterday, I began to research. It flowed. One website after another revealed more potential background in John Phillip Souza-like rhythm. Before I knew it, the day was gone and I had pages of material to review.

In dancing and singing, two of my main hobbies, rhythm is key. I hadn't thought about rhythm in life, but it makes sense. If you tried a waltz to a cha-cha beat, you'd be off balance and stumble a lot. Dancing a Bulgarian dance to an Irish Waltz mixer wouldn't work either.

So I'm paying attention to life's rhythms. and my own. And when what I'm doing doesn't fit the rhythm, it means I need to listen better to find the fit.

What are your rhythms telling you?
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Voice of the Muse

Back in May I did a writing retreat in one of my favorite places on the planet, the Oregon Coast. I used Mark David Gerson's book, "Voice of the Muse," as a guide. It was as if the muse were whispering in my year, gently making suggestions. I got about halfway through the book before the retreat ended.

Have I finished it? No. I haven't been able to move foward on any of the ideas I had for new writing projects. Then, when I was in Scotland, a character whispered in my ear, "please tell my story." That's never happened to me before, since I write memoir and personal essay, not fiction. I don't want to say too much more about who she is and what it's about, because truthfully, I don't know much more at this point. Also, I don't think it's a good idea to share about ideas at this early stage.

Part of me is terrified to attempt a novel. Part of me is excited. Part of me says, just have fun with it. Then I bumped into Mark David at the New Mexico Book Coop meeting last Friday.
When I told him what had happened in Scotland and how nervous I was about it, he said, "You're going to write her memoir." A lightbulb went on in my head. What a great way to approach it.
I immediately signed up for a workshop Mark David is giving this coming Sunday, called "Birthing Your Book."

This is a weekend I was supposed to take my mother-in-law to her hometown to attend a 90th birthday party for a dear friend of hers. I didn't want to go. I still don't know if I have to take her or my hubby will be able to take off work and do it. But we've worked it out so that if I do have to go, I will be back in time on Sunday to attend the workshop. Balancing everyone's needs can be really difficult.

It feels selfish to put my needs first. But if I don't, who will? My memoir is about listening to that inner voice of wisdom, the voice of the Muse, Spirit, whatever you want to call it. I know about negative consequences when I don't listen. So, selfish or not, I'll be at the workshop Sunday.
And if you want a great writing guide, give yourself a gift of "Voice of the Muse."

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Friendships

I don't think I'm normal when it comes to friendships. Well, if there is such a thing as normal anyway. I am an only child. A latchkey kid from second grade on, I came home to an empty house. Because of the kind of childhood I had, I didn't feel particularly good about myself and grew up wanting what others seemed to have. I think that is how I chose friends.

In elementary school, I envied the popular girls--the ones who were pretty, bubbly, vivacious, and smart. At first glance, I wanted to be friends with them. But upon deeper reflection, the truth is, I wanted to BE them.

Then there were the girls I chose because I wanted to be part of their family, not my own. My best friend lived across the street from me, and I hung out there as much as possible, hoping to wangle a dinner invitation. Dinner at her house was so different--her mom cooked and cooked well. Her family (two brothers and the dad) actually ate together and talked. At our house, my mom knew how to make one thing, meatloaf. And Dad just threw ground beef in a pan and called it a hamburger, with canned green beans and spaghetti sauce in a jar. We ate out 4 or 5 times a week.

As an adult, I wanted friends I could talk to. Someone who loved and accepted me unconditionally. As with boyfriends and husbands, something was wrong with my picker. Just recently, a good friend pointed out to me that I seem to target people. I'll see something, some aspect of that person, or a characteristic, and decide I want them in my life, never stopping to consider they might not feel the same way about me. I'll maneuver (all right, this is telling the truth Tuesday so I'll say it, manipulate) things so that I get what I want. It never turns out well.

I have good friends in my life. But I seem to want different things--more time together, more intimacy, that kind of thing. I've learned not to make assumptions about what others are thinking and feeling, so if I begin to feel uncomfortable, I ask questions about what's going on. Believing that others really do love me; really do care about me; really do enjoy spending time with me, is still hard. Most of the time, I remember that. But when I forget, and act off the self-doubt, it's not a pretty sight. Luckily, my friends know me well enough to call me on it.

At 60, I'd like to be able to say I understand what friendship is all about. What it means to be a friend. What realistic expectations are about friendship. But the truth is, I'm still a bit clueless.

What do you feel about friendship? Are yours nourishing you? Do you have issues with friends as well? Would love to hear your comments on this topic.

Blessings,
karen

Monday, October 26, 2009

Self-confident or Conceited

As writers, if we want to be successful, we have to learn to promote ourselves. Even though I spent 30+ years marketing others, this part is difficult for me. I finally decided to ask myself why. The answer is complex, but at the core, it feels like bragging when I talk about my book, or my writing, or my upcoming workshop.

Not content to leave it there (you guys know by now I never leave anything without pulling it apart first), I remembered my mother telling me not to win at games--others would feel bad. I remember being told it was conceited if you said nice things about yourself. And talking about successes, well, that's just plain bragging.

Self-confidence, on the other hand, means one has faith and trust in who they are. There is a knowing, deep inside, that they have worth. There is value in who they are and what they do.

After years of hating myself, I finally have a healthy self-esteem. I know I am a good person. I know I bring love and joy to those in my life. I even know that I wrote a....oops I was about to write that I wrote a good book when the fingers stopped typing. I can't write that. That's bragging. That's conceited. That's just wrong for me to say that about myself.

But is it? I don't have a pat answer for this one, folks. I'm still struggling with it. I wouldn't take offense or think you were conceited if you said good things about your books. I might get annoyed if you pushed me to buy it, however. I want to make that decision myself after getting to know you. Ah, maybe that's the key. I don't have to say the book is good. I have to share what it's about. And I have to share me. But I do have to know, inside of myself, that my work is good. Otherwise, why would I want anyone to know about it.

What are you thoughts about self-confidence versus conceit? Are you comfortable talking about your writing? Curious minds want to know...

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting Sidetracked

How easy it is to get side-tracked. I finally had a day with no outside appointments. No lunch dates. No appointments with mom-in-law. No errands to run--the groceries were shopped, the laundry done, the house cleaned, dinner made. Nothing but time, time I would use to begin the novel.

7:30-9:30 am: Participate in bloggydom world
9:30-whenever: write

So far so good. Everything's going according to plan. I write the first few paragraphs. I import the short fiction piece I wrote a few years ago that is the basis for this idea. I realize it doesn't work as a first chapter. I get quiet and ask the main character to talk to me. Decide it needs to be told in first person. I go ahead and change everything from she to I.

10:30: Call good friend in Portland. Read her what I've written. Silence. "Well," I ask.
"I wouldn't read it," she says. And proceeds to tell me why.
She's right. I go back to the computer. And stare at the page. Stare some more. The voice inside my head begins to speak. You can't do this. Don't waste your time.
Switch on Spider Solitaire. I'll just play a few games.

12:00: Time for lunch.
12:30: Ooh, I'd better finish that book I promised to write a review on.
4:30: Done. As a reward, let's play a few more games of Spider Solitaire.
5:30: Time for dinner.

As Scarlett O'Hara would say, "I'll think about it tomorrow...."
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Managing Expectations

I am so damned hard on myself. Harder than any abuser in my past has been. Inside my head, I expect myself to do everything, well...perfectly. Except I wouldn't consider myself a perfectionist. Duh!

Here's the deal. I sing with a trio--we take our little act and go to retirement communities and sing for folks who can't get out any more. Music makes them happy. Music makes me happy. I've been singing since I could talk. When the shouting between my parents became unbearable, I'd go to my room, close the door, sit on the floor and play my 45's, singing along with Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Crystal Gayle, The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Elvis, and so much more.

But I'm not a professional singer. Never wanted to be. Never intended to be. That means sometimes I go off key. Sometimes my voice cracks. The audience doesn't seem to care. They love us. Keep asking us to come back. While I'm singing, I'm ecstatic. It's when I watch the video we've asked my hubby to make, to use as a learning tool, where my problem starts. I only see what's wrong with my performance, not what's right.

So I have to ask myself, what are my expectations regarding singing? In the deep, dark recesses of my mind, am I expecting to be discovered and become another Susan Boyle? Truth is, there is a little girl inside who is craving that kind of attention. She wants to be praised and adored and told how wonderful she is. But the adult me knows better.

My former teacher told me I didn't belong in the group I was in. Perhaps she was right. She wanted a professional group. And that's definitely not me. I need to keep honing my craft, taking lessons, improving my technique. But an old slogan, Progress, not Perfection, is what I need to remember. And like the character in "Some Like it Hot" said at the end of the movie, "Nobody's perfect."

The same goes for my writing. I've been avoiding the attempt to write fiction because I've never done it. My expectation is that I should be able to do it very well or I shouldn't do it at all. Nope. Not gonna happen if that's the way I'm thinking. Instead, I'm telling myself I just need to try. Have fun with it. Even if it's terrible, the experience of writing it will be well worth it.

So how about you? Are your expectations of yourself realistic? How do your expectations get you in trouble?
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Energy

It's so interesting to me that as soon as I realized I needed to start standing up for myself, my energy shifted. Rather than feeling resentful about taking my mother-in-law to the eye doctor today, I enjoyed my time with her. And she was right; her eyesight had worsened in just a few months. So the trip was well worth while.

I am becoming aware of how energy affects me in so many ways. In Europe, there were many places where I felt an energy that made my soul happy. Other places, I felt nothing. When I meet certain people, the little hairs on my arms stand up, and I immediately want to leave their presence. Other people, my heart opens and I want to spend more time with them.

Energy permeates everything. If I'm in a bad mood, that impacts others around me. If someone else is cranky, if I don't remain centered inside myself, my attitude can become infected, just like catching a cold.

I know it isn't possible to maintain a good attitude every single minute of every single day, but by standing up for myself and monitoring what I agree to do and not do, my energy seems to be more stable.

How do you remain centered in the midst of the chaos of life--children, parents, friendships, relationships, and the daily activities of simply living our lives?

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Falling

I fell again. It truly pisses me off. Last week, I was in my kitchen, with its hard, tile floor. I'd opened the door to the dishwasher and turned towards the sink to grab a dish. When I turned back, I'd forgotten the dishwasher door was open, and I fell over it, backwards, on my hips and back. For those of you who haven't fallen lately, or don't remember what it is like, it is discombobulating to suddenly find yourself on the ground or the floor. I laid there, flat on my back for a few minutes, checking to see if I could move all my parts. Luckily, I didn't break anything--this time. Yes, I was still jet-lagged, but really, that's not a good enough reason.

Here's a brief summary of the falls that I remember: fell off my bike and fractured my right ankle in three places--the doc said if I was a horse, they'd put me down; I fell while on vacation in Mexico and severely sprained my left ankle; I trip on stones, cracks in the sidewalk. You name it, I'll fall over it.

So this time, I got quiet. Real quiet. And asked myself what is going on with me about falling. Am I just a clumsy person? No, I don't think so. I'm fairly graceful and I dance pretty darn well.
Am I being punished for something? No, I don't think so. Spirit doesn't work that way. Then I asked if Spirit was trying to whisper something to me? The answer came. I've always fallen. As a small child, I fell and required stitches in my chin; I fell and concussed my head. If there was ice, I'd fall walking to school. Falling has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. What is the opposite of falling? Spirit asked. "Standing up."

And I got it. Boy did I get it. As a child, it was impossible to stand up for myself. In fact, I'm still struggling with being able to stand up for myself. And standing up for oneself means being able to say "no" when it's required. I am the primary caregiver for my 88-year-old mother-in-law. I adore her. She's a lovely, warm, loving woman. But her care needs are escalating just as my needs are making themselves known. And it is creating internal conflicts.

Now that I have some awareness that my falling might have something to do with my learning to take better care of myself by being truthful, with myself as well as with others, perhaps I won't need that particularl message hammered home to me in such a brutal way.

What is Spirit whispering in your ear that you may not be hearing?

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up


The Rock of Cashell





An amazing sunrise from the Isle of Skye Urquart Castle on Loch








The Cliffs of Moher

Glad you all seemed to enjoy the travel photos from Scotland and Ireland. Here are the last few photos. I did put an album with more photos on Facebook, so if you want to see more pics, check it out.

I'm still recovering from jetlag. Woke up every morning at 4 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Friday it was 5 am. Progress, but not perfection. That evening, my sister-in-law, who is here visiting her mom, decided to cook dinner for the two brothers who live here in New Mexico. Mom has always loved to entertain and even if we just bring in food and eat it at her house, she feels like she's hosting people once again. It was lovely to see her so happy.

Saturday I had a singing gig at a retirement community. Despite being a writer, words cannot describe how I feel when I'm singing to seniors (I mean seniors who are older than me). Hope I can continue doing this for a long time. I'm having trouble with hoarseness and sore throat. Don't know if I'm straining my voice or it's food related due to acid reflux. Grrrr.

Sunday, hubby and I had the day to ourselves after taking his sister to the airport. We decided to take a walk on our beloved Bosque. The Rio Grande River runs through Albuquerque, separating the East and West sides. Along the river is a protected area that hosts a public park.
Bike and hiking trails wind through the Bosque, following the river. It is an oasis in the midst of the city. This week, the ancient Cottonwoods began to change color as Fall arrives in the Duke City. As you can see, it's pretty spectacular.

Now that family obligations are over with (except for having to take Mom to the eye doctor Tuesday), I'm going to focus more on writing. Wish me luck.
Blessings,
karen

Friday, October 16, 2009

Assimilating Part 3


Let me introduce you to the lovely town of Inverness and the beginning of our trip through the Scottish Highlands.


This is the B & B we stayed in, dating back to the 18th century.


One of the more mystical spots on our journey. Cairns are piles of stones. These are Clava Cairns, Bronze Age burial cairns from 2,000 BC. That means they are 4,000 years old.
When the Sun hits a certain stone, it reveals whether it is Beltane or some other Celtic festival day.








This is a Garron, a Highland pony. He's magnificent, isn't he?






Another Scottish Highland resident, the red deer.


As I assimilate the things I saw and how they made me feel, I realize how much animals and nature connect me with Spirit. Another gentle reminder for me about how to remain more connected when I'm not traveling.
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Assimilating Part 2

Supposedly, this is a 5,000-year-old Yew tree in a tiny Scottish town called Fortingall. They say Pontius Pilate was born here.



Here's a close up. Our guide said it is the oldest living thing on the planet. Hard to know what to believe, but it's unimaginable, if it's true.



Heather grows everywhere in both Scotland and Ireland. Here is one of the last of the purple blooms. Mostly, we saw reddish brown all over the hillsides. It made me think of the song from the musical, "Brigadoon," about heather on the hill. Brigadoon was about a town that only came alive for one day every one hundred years. When you drive thru Scotland and see all these towns that are centuries old, you can imagine that being possible.




My hubby was fascinated with these "tree tunnels" as we wound are way on the winding, narrow streets.



Meet "Hamish," a hairy cow. No kidding, hairy cows are indigenous to Scotland. Isn't he cute?






Hope you all aren't getting bored with these vacation photos. I love looking at other peoples' trip pics, but not everyone does.
As I'm assimilating the experiences from overseas, I'm also allowing the idea that was sparked in Scotland to emerge. Those of you who write fiction, could you comment a little bit on how you got started once the germ of an idea sprouted? Do you first try to get a handle on who the protagonist is? Or do you focus on plot, trying to figure a beginning, middle and end? Making something up where nothing existed before is totally new territory for me. I knew there was a reason I've been hanging out with y'all.
Blessings,
Karen



















Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Assimilating

I don't know about the rest of you, but travel opens me up in ways nothing else can. Away from my daily routine, all my senses are aroused by new sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feelings. This is a hiking trail in a public park in Edinburg called the Salzburg Crag.


In Europe, people cut their food with their knives in their right hand and eat with their forks remaining in their left hand, the curved portion of the fork up. In other words, completely opposite from what I'm used to. I recently read an article that talked about ways to stimulate creativity and included exercises like writing with your non-dominant hand, writing your signature upside down, things like that. Well, for me, that's what travel does. Fires my cylinders in different ways.

I'm not very adventurous about trying new foods, but I did try Haggis, although I'd said I wasn't going to. It was actually quite tasty. A traditional Irish dish is bacon and cabbage. I was told that corned beef and cabbage is not traditional, so I wondered how we in America got it so wrong.


Language is another thing that's different. Even though they speak English in both Scotland and Ireland, the brogue makes it difficult to understand. And forget about Gaelic. It only has 20 letters in the alphabet.

Some gaelic prefixes are:
kin__at the head of (like a lake or valley): kinlochliurn
kil__holy place or church: kilmore
inver__at the mouth of: Inverness at the mouth of river Ness

The scenery, architecture, the people I meet, the conversations I have with those from different cultures and backgrounds, the history I am walking back into, all work on my soul and my psyche with almost constant stimulation. I am flooded with new awareness, awakened curiosity and creativity, and sensory overload. When I return home, I must give myself time to assimilate it all. Maybe in that sense, jet lag is a good thing. I am too tired to do much of anything.















For example,this is a spot where public executions were once held in Greenmarket Square in Edinburgh. It was an event families attended, including young children. Picnic lunches would be packed and hundreds would crowd the town square to watch.



Standing on a spot where many people died, some for simply stealing bread, changes your perspective. It makes me realize how far we've come as a civilization. Being in a land where religious wars resulted in thousands of churches being burned to the ground and thousands of people lost their lives, it makes me wonder if we've really come all that far. We may not hang people for stealing bread, but we are still killing people because they don't believe in the same God we do. If only we could just live and let live, we might finally have peace on the planet.

More later. Blessings, everyone.
karen

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pics from Scotland

Okay, you all asked for it, so here goes. We took 500+ pictures on this trip, so choosing a few to post on this blog is a challenge. I'll start with Edinburgh, Scotland.


This is Holyrood Castle, home of Mary, Queen of Scots.




Imagine a city that has a writer's museum. Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott. Inside, you will find Scott's writing desk; some letters they had written; furniture that had been in their homes.



I just loved the architecture of this church. Actually, the architecture in Edinburgh is quite lovely. The city was home to so many great thinkers, like David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Carlisle, Conan Doyle...and that energy, those amazing minds that posed questions about humanity, still exists in the city today.



This is Deacon Brodie Tavern. Aside from being quite old, it is the place where Robert Louis Stevenson became inspired to write Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Apparently Deacon Brodie had quite a secret life.

What I want to say most about Edinburgh is that I was inspired to finally begin a novel. I'll remind everyone that I've never written fiction, except in the creative writing classes when I returned to school for my degree. I've had an idea for a novel for 20+ years, but it's not that novel that I'm inspired to write. It's one for which I wrote a short fiction piece on. But the character (based on someone I actually do know) made herself known to me and asked me to tell her story. There's an old Yiddish saying, Oy vay! Loosely translated, it means Yikes!
Although terrified, I'm also ready to give it the good old college try. Wish me luck.
More photos tomorrow. Promise!
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, October 12, 2009

Home Again

Travel is wonderful, but it is oh so nice to come home to your own bed. 13.5 hours flight time and 4.5 hours waiting for flights, but we got here safe and sound. We made ourselves stay up till 9 pm our time and slept for 8 hours straight. Our doggie was very happy to see us.

Thanks to those of you who continued to check in here while I was away and not blogging regularly. I will spend the next few days recovering my energy, catching up on your blogs, and beginning to write my own again.

Blessings to you all,
Karen

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Telling the truth Tuesday - from Killarney

Greetings from Killarney, Ireland. I am in love with Ireland - the lilting sound of the old Irish language (Gaelic, but I'm told they don't call it Gaelic here; they call it the Irish language). Even when they speak English, it is songlike.

Our night on the farm with the Irish family was, indeed, very special, and one of the highlights of the trip. Not only was Gretta a phenomenal cook (the best scones I've ever tasted), but we ended up having a totally unexpected serious conversation. It started with Shawn's (thehubby) shrine to Obama. In the sitting room is an Obama cap, a flag, his book, and a vote sign. Shawn loves American politics and particularly Obama. He was thrilled to get some Americans who also love Obama. Apparently mostly Republicans visit Ireland! Or at least Shawn's farm.

After dinner, Shawn asked me what I do. When he asked what I write and I told him memoir, he wanted to know what my book was about. He got quiet after I told him about being sexually abused as a young child and how hard my life was until I met Gary. Then he started talking about his 27-year-old son, and the girlfriend who has he and Gretta quite worried about their boy. It sounded as if she has some emotional problems that need professional help. Shawn poured his heart out to me. We sat for over two hours talking about the situation. Remarkably moving and profound experience to get that close to someone that quickly.

Today we visited Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney stone. It was pouring down rain. It turns out, there are woods surround the castle lands, and within those woods is an old Druid site, with standing stones and ancient oak and yew trees. Upon entering these woods, I can only tell you that I felt magic. It was as if the ancient energy of the spiritual people there entered me and I was filled with magical energy. We also climbed to the top of the castle to kiss the blarney stone. Apparently it gives one the gift of eloquence. Hopefully I will carry that gift into my writing when I get home.

We are finally in one hotel for the next three nights. Tomorrow we will tour the Ring of Kerry and some more standing stones.

My Tuesday truth: We all need to seek the magic in this world. It abounds, if we open ourselves to it.

The trip is everything I'd hoped for and more.
Blessings to all of you,
Karen

Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Scotland to Ireland

Glasgow is the first European city I have visited that I did not like. Every other city has a heart, a rhythm, a feel to it. I felt nothing in Glasgow. It didn't help that my first smell was urine as we walked one city block to our hotel. We did a bit of laundry and it was so damp, we had to carry our wet laundry on the plane to Scotland the next day. Didn't like the neighborhood our hotel was in. While in Glasgow airport waiting for our flight to Dublin, I realized I don't think I'm a city girl anymore. Born and raised in NYC, I've always been more comfortable in cities than in the country. But now,it is nature and the ancient sites that speak to me.

When we arrived in Dublin, our guide, David, met us. Our first stop was Newgrange, a burial site of Mesolithic people who lived there 6,000 years ago. The main activity was around 3000 bc.
This site is about 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. The burial mounds are called passage graves, built in the neolithic period. The engineering that was required to build the site is truly remarkable. What I find astounding is that sites all over the world have similar features regarding solstice, where the light comes thru a structure lighting the burial area. How they knew what they knew is a mystery.

Upon arriving in the city of Dublin, we immediately went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells, illuminated gospels dating from around 700 a.d. They are beautiful. But what absolutely blew me away was the "Long Room." We weren't allowed to take photographs, but it is a long, rectacular room stacked floor to ceiling with old, old books. It is the largest collection of medieval texts in the world. Don't you love the smell of old books? I do.

Internet access is intermittent, so we haven't tried downloading photos, but I promise I will post photos of the trip when I get home.

Tomorrow we are off to a 6th century monastery and some incredible gardens. We'll be spending the night with an Irish family on their farm. More later,

Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Greetings from Scotland

Our guide,Hugh Allison (you can google him; he's an author; he's written 3 books and is very smart and knowledgable) tells me there was a Scottish Enlightenment roughly 1760s thru 1820s. Huge thinkers like Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Carlisle, Sir Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scoptt, moralists, chemists, all asking questions about humanity.
There was something called the Declaration of Arbroath, which our Declaration of Independence was modelled after. Who knew? I felt an incredible energy in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Highlands should probably be on everyone's bucket list. And Hugh can trace his ancestry back so far it is inimaginable. One of the many magical things we've seen is a 5,000 year old Yew tree in a tiny place called Fortingall. It is said that Pontius Pilate was born there.
It is also said it is the oldest living thing on the planet.

Another truly mystical site was the Clava Cairns, a Bronze age burial site. Cairns is gallic for a pile of stones. The Clava Cairns date from 2000 bc and are 4,000 years old.

Some gaellic prefixes for place names are:
kin__ at the head of a loch (lake) or valley
Kil__holy place or church
inver__at the mouth of - therefore Inverness means at the mouth of the RiverNess.

Stirling Castle in Stirling was a bit disappointing, as the Royal Apartments were closed, But afterwards, we met Hamish, a Highland cow called a hairy cow. We stayed at a lovely B&B in INverness. The Loch Ness beast was first spotted in the River Ness, which runs from the North Sea. Loch Ness (the lake) is 24 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide and 850 ft in depth. It is easy to believe the myth of the beast, but alas, we didn't see him.

We spent two days on the Isle of Skye, also known as the island of the mists. There are two main mountain ranges, the Red Cullens and the Black Cullens, both distinctly different. The capital of the island is Portree, which means the King's port, because Bonnie Prince Charles came in there. It is also the land of Skathach, a Celtic Goddess of War. We also so a Fairie mound, and legend says if you open yourself you can hear the fairies dancing. It is called Aantsidhe.

We drove on the road to the isles, past the largest mountain in Britain, 4418 feet, called Ben Nevis, which means the terrible one.

The HIghlands are mystical, magical, historical, and quite beautiful. The story of the clans and how the clan system disappeared is quite interesting, but I won't go into it here.

When we left the HIghlands today after spending 3 days there and drove into Glasgow, my heart ached. I wasn't ready to re-enter civilization. Tomorrow we tour the old parts of the city, then on Saturday we leave for Ireland.

I truly know how blessed I am to be able to do a trip such as this and I don't blame those of you who are jealous. I would be, too. Wait till you see the photos when I get home.

Blessings to all of you,
Karen