Monday, February 10, 2014

Books, Talks, and Tennis

Charlene Elderkin, standing, and 4 Twin Cities
contributors to her book Where the Tree Falls,
 a Forest Rises,
at the Minnesota book launch
In this last of my random ravings about 2013, I want to mention a publishing highlight you may not know about.  Becky and I each had a chapter in Where the Tree Falls, a Forest Rises: Stories of Death and Renewal, an inspirational anthology of true stories of personal renewal following the death of a loved one. The June Minnesota book launch at our home featured six Twin Cities contributors and the editor from Viroqua, WI, Charlene Elderkin.

Three other books have deeply touched me this year. In the tiny library at Present Moment yoga retreat in Mexico, I happened upon 29 Gifts, Cami Walker's 2009 memoir about the power of giving away a gift for 29 days in a row. This spiritual practice transformed my life for a month. I wish I were still doing it, but despite the rewards, it's surprisingly difficult to persevere. When I do remember, the results can be astonishing and miraculous .

Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping has had a deeper effect. Tipping presents such a different approach to forgiveness that I can't describe it here. I recommend both the book and the CD, read by the author, for any of you who, like me, have a tendency to blame or resent.

A third transformative book is Philip Shepherd's New Self, New World. You may have read about the "brain in the belly" a few month ago in the popular press. The book is so much more profound than that catch-phrase suggests. I'm savoring it slowly, but even after just 96 pages, I am more often staying "sensationally present" to what is.

You also may not know about presentations we did in 2013. Becky and I spoke about our lives at a monthly meeting of the Northern Iowa chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Mason City, Iowa. After what we thought was an interesting gracefully choreographed talk, we didn't sell a single copy of our 5 books, reminding us how fortunate we are that our income doesn't depend on our speaking or writing. A more enjoyable aspect of Mason City was discovering that Meridith Wilson's home town boasts a Music Man Museum, celebrating one of our all-time favorite musicals.

Two Harbors Public Library program on
Home Funerals and Green Burials
I did 3 presentations with Carolyn Laine on home funerals and green burials. The first, initiated by my brother Jim at the Two Harbors Public Library, resulted in an excellent article in the local newspaper and an overflow crowd at the library, the biggest turnout they have had for any topic, the librarian said.

The highlight of our  presentation at the Women and Spirituality Conference at Minnesota State University in Mankato was that my sister Pat Anderson showed up. She understands better now why Becky and I are committed to helping families know that when a loved one dies, they don't have to call a funeral director. The spectrum of ecological, economical, and spiritually satisfying alternatives to a conventional commercial funeral can make a big difference, personally and environmentally. It's great to have the support of all my Minnesota siblings for this work of the heart.

My third presentation with Carolyn Laine was at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community. Even though the temperatures were below zero and Minneapolis streets were clogged with snow, 40 people attended. One was a Madelia High School classmate, a man I hadn't seen since we graduated. Carolyn and other members of the Minnesota Threshold Network have done many other presentations around the state, with more scheduled for 2014.

Tennis injury -- imprint of the metal
racket frame visible on my nose
A final 2013 highlight is that Becky learned to play tennis, a sport I have loved, but not played enough, for almost 6 decades. We have been taking lessons through the Senior Tennis Players Club and, as a natural athlete, Becky is already competition for me. IT IS SO MUCH FUN to play beside or against her, as well as good physical and mental exercise.

Of course, tennis is not without its risks. For example, a person can take a racket blow to the face when her partner lunges for a lob because he doesn't realize she is already there, waiting to make the shot. Luckily, nothing was broken, and the colorful eyes and swollen nose healed quickly, thanks to ice and homeopathic remedies.

So. There are some personal highlights of 2013. Whether or not anyone ever reads these blog posts, I have loved writing them, being repeatedly flooded with gratitude for the abundant blessings of an amazingly rich, full, and happy year. Namaste.


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