Throughout my novel, A Comfortable Distance, a theme emerges regarding the transcendence of life’s sacred and exalted moments. Toward the end of Derrick’s near-death experience, he is left with one of the final moments from his life that he can still remember. The memory is of he and Bonnie, the woman he loved, when they had spent a weekend in a cabin high in the Smokey Mountains. Bonnie beckons Derrick to join her outside to view the scene from their terrace as a glorious snowfall begins to whiten the wooded mountainside. Putting his arm around Bonnie he whispers that he wishes this moment could last forever, to which Bonnie says it really could last, like an eternal flame, if they chose to keep it alive. Derrick is quietly intrigued by the idea that a single moment in time could influence every turn and circumstance of their future, always reminding them of the sacredness of life and the capacity for joy and love that these simple but extraordinary experiences can inspire. It’s an idea he would eventually reject and regard with cynicism when he began to fall back into his self-destructive pattern, which would bring his and Bonnie’s relationship to an end.
The theme is symbolized by the blue-and-white irises, which represents the sacred moments of prayer that had provided Derrick’s protection while journeying through Purgatory to Sky Island, the “beginning of Heaven.” When Derrick reaches the shores of Sky Island, he notices one of the irises growing up at his feet and he thoughtlessly picks one, finding it tangible now (before then, the irises had appeared as ghostly objects, untouchable). The iris, in his hand, continues its rapid blooming, growing in fullness and light, until it finally leaves his hand as a brilliant thing, transforming into twinkles of light that float away to join the sparkling breezes that blow through the air and the trees in Heaven. It symbolizes those exalted, transcendent moments that live on forever.
When Derrick returns to his life, he remembers the eternal quality that exists in Time and in the heightened moments of our lives if we seize them and allow them to lift us up, to connect us to Heavenly and eternal things. He realizes that Heaven itself is but a single, exalted moment that never ends, and that our earthly lives can be the beginning of Heaven, like the little island just outside the great Empyrean where glorified souls enter God’s Realm.
My novel, a Kindle Book, can be found on Amazon.com.
My best friend, Thomas, has begun to create a new Enchanter’s Almanac, illustrated by much of his own art work and filled with short articles and calendar items. He has asked me to write some one-page pieces for the publication, and I am reprinting one of them below about the Baby Boomer generation and reincarnation. A Boomer myself, I find this particular theory regarding holocaust victims of World War II reincarnating as passionately activist, anti-war “hippies” to be intriguing to say the least. Here is the article:
Boomers and Reincarnation
An increasing number of web sites and internet forums provide a place for dialogue on past-life memories of the Holocaust in Germany during WWII. A prominent book on the subject entitled Beyond the Ashes: Cases of Reincarnation from the Holocaust by Yonassan Gershom explores the phenomenon of many Baby Boomers, born just after the war and into the 1950’s, having reported vivid dreams and memories of experiences in ghettos and concentration camps under the command of SS soldiers and cruel treatment by prison guards.
Reincarnation theory suggests that the souls of people who die very young or violently tend to reincarnate very quickly back into a physical body and, therefore, often carry fresh impressions of their recently terminated lives. As if in response to the unresolved trauma of their past lives, Baby Boomers entered their young adulthood with an impulse toward anti-war and anti-establishment demonstrations. This restless generation harbored inexplicable measures of angst and rage against “the man” that sparked a counter-cultural revolution, often referred to as the “hippie movement,” which influenced every level of society, including music and fashion and, eventually, public policy ensuring greater civil rights and liberties for blacks and women and other minorities, and that finally ended the Vietnam draft in 1973.
Over the past half century or so, a tremendous amount of scientific study by such pioneers in the field as Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker has resulted in a vast database of cases on past-life memories, particularly in children, who often recount their memories with detail precise enough to be verified. It a subject necessarily explored by anyone fascinated by the journey of the soul and what may lie beyond our present day lives.
A friend and I have begun work on a new novel entitled The Witch on Pumpkin Vine Hill. The story involves a young spinsterish woman whose life is lived, in the beginning, in relative obscurity, quietly caring for her sickly and demanding mother, looking after the house where she has lived all her life, tending to her garden and house plants, which flourish with more speed and lushness than can be explained by the standard green thumb. Starla is aware of a strange power that seems at times to issue through her, such as occasionally when her duties and her mother’s demands overwhelm her and she finds that her tasks inexplicably complete themselves, leaving her astonished and wondering if she is loosing her mind or if some other more remarkable cause is at play. She is vaguely familiar with odd stories about her father’s side of the family, which her mother forbids her to speak of. Having lost her father at a young age, Starla remembers only her aunt on her father’s side, her namesake, Aunt Starla. Upon her father’s death, when Starla was around three year’s old, she and her mother and older brother visited her aunt’s farm in Pennsylvania to bury her father in the family plot. She remembers sitting on a blanket on a hillside near a tumbling pumpkin patch while her aunt, with long blonde hair and wearing a sort of gypsy dress, danced around her in a strange and joyful ceremony. She remembers the bees that wove about her aunt’s ankles in a dance of their own, and that her heart filled up with love for and a deep connection to not only her Aunt Starla but to the high hill full of orchards and thick woods and rich farmlands.
When her mother dies of her long illness, Starla begins her journey, first into a dark night of her soul when she encounters a sinister and stalking shadow that seems to watch her every move and discourage any act of independence, and then toward the discovery of her destiny involving the unexpected inheritance of her Aunt Starla’s farm on Pumpkin Vine Hill, which Starla learns is more than just a farm but an enchanted place, a power spot on Earth where magic thrives and dimensions intersect. And with the help of teachers indigenous to the hill, she starts to learn her craft for a grand purpose involving her role as an earth witch and guardian in which she will span the gap between the planet’s utter destruction and its survival and ultimate healing. But not without the interference of her rival, the stalking shadow, who soon reveals herself as a contender for the right to inhabit the enchanted property as its chosen “witch of Pumpkin Vine Hill.”
I have written the first four chapters of the novel and have thought of publishing it as a series on Amazon’s Kindle direct publishing program. Part one would be about 80 or 90 pages. The photo above was created by my co-author, Thomas Paschal, as an idea for the cover. He has published his own Kindle book, The Okten Power, on Amazon. We are excited about this new idea. There’s much work yet to be done…
I Recently published my first novel on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The story began as a 40-page narrative, written soon after my father died suddenly in 2004. At the time, I held a job requiring a good deal of drive time in my car, which gave me time to develop the kernel of an idea about a man’s journey through a Purgatorial landscape with his estranged father.
In my college literature classes, I’d taken a particular interest in Dante’s remarkable epic and its illustration by the nineteenth century woodcut artist, Gustave Dore. These dramatic images from The Divine Comedy had impressed and stimulated my own imagination to such an extent that my own story naturally evolved into a loose retelling of Dante’s work. My novel, A Comfortable Distance, in many ways exists as a tribute to Dante, and at some point in its development that became my intent, weaving in subtle clues of comparison as exemplified in details such as the representative initials of some of the characters’ names: Derrick Anderson (Dante Aleghieri), Bonnie and Beverly (Beatrice), Brother Vincent and Val (Virgil). The “Virgil” characters provide guidance to Derrick in some way or another, and the “Beatrice” characters, both wearing blue and white, assist Derrick and his father with the purity of their prayers, which are symbolized in the protective, blue-and-white irises.
This blog will delve further into features and literary devices of my novel while also turning my “ramblings” toward other projects in the works and assorted issues concerning the writing life.
See Novel here:
In my novel, A Comfortable Distance, Derrick lives a life of determined isolation from people, from relationships, from God. But in his solitude, he descends into a darker place that results in his own death wish and his eventual demise. In the Dante-esque world where he finds himself, he learns that his rightful place is with the contorted, human-shaped trees in the Forest of Suicides. He rejects the implication that he died as a suicide, having expired from an “accidental”overdose of sleeping pills and bourbon; the fact that he wished for death and lived a life of separation and self-destruction slots him for a spot in the forest, which he must fight against with every ounce of his being, struggling to extricate himself from the forest without the appearance of the protective irises that have inexplicably rescued him before (because the forest is where he belongs).
Derrick learns that the purgatorial island he inhabits is not as much of a safe distance from Hell as he had thought as so many hellish forces threaten to drag him into the depths or into a horror of darkness and isolation, which reflects the pattern of his earthly life when he kept himself apart from others who would have loved him and given him sources of healing and ease from his internal pain. In life, his “comfortable distance” from others ultimately sent him into miseries of depression and addiction that sent him into a downward spiral, ending in death. He had refused to accept the notion that embracing the love of others, of his sister and Bonnie, of God, would have brought his salvation.
At the end of the story, Derrick learns the lesson, but feels stuck, unsure of what to do with his life, how to serve God, and how to move forward from a past that paralyzes him. Brother Vincent reminds him of how Derrick, while in Paradise, had drank from the River of Lethe, the waters of forgetfulness, and he encourages him to continue drinking from Lethe, to forget his past and step forward toward the Light of God and toward his purpose, which would reveal itself in time.
See novel here: