I’ve found a great pedicurist who makes my feet look cute. So for a break from my everyday schedule of writing that plays havoc with my neck and shoulders, I thought I’d book a different treatment at the same spa.
My appointment yesterday for a deep-tissue massage led to an interesting discussion with the therapist, whose answer to all life’s problems lay, she explained, in the personal application of astrology—a “scientific” system that I should use in getting to the psychic root of my muscular pains. Didn’t God place the stars in the heavens in the expectation that we would use the spiritual powers they afforded?
Earlier in the receiving lounge a waiting client, an aging truck driver wearing plaid flannel, witnessed to me about the wonderful help he was receiving there for his diabetes through reiki (which he pronounced “reekie” like it was a bad smell)—a Buddhist practice whereby the life force energy is transferred through the palms of the healer by the laying on of hands. During his testimonial to me, his portly wife finished her session and limped into the lounge to join us; yes, she proclaimed, her aura was finally adjusted.
Now, I live in a small city built upon the industries of agriculture and natural gas, where Sunday mornings the cops still set up radar traps to catch churchgoers. Most residents here are politically conservative and culturally down to earth, their feet firmly planted in the soil while their heads brush the heavens (to coin G.K. Chesterton). Yet, in the span of two hours, I faced the encroaching tide of Eastern mysticism so at odds with Western sensibilities—a philosophical corrective for our era, many would say, that allows the circular flow of “balance” to trump the linear march of propositional “truth” as the source of peace. All religions are the same, they declare; all cultural viewpoints carry equal validity for seekers of harmony.
Everyone is looking for inner peace, striving to find rest for the soul.
This is the message behind my next novel, which in my drafting has now hit the noteworthy word count of 80,000 (only 20K to go). I’m grappling with a character who believes—like the massage therapist yesterday—that she can chase down peace and the fullness of life if only she tries hard enough to let the organic fullness of The Universe speak into her existence.
In my story, Libby (a 50-ish, single salesclerk in Minneapolis who loves cooking soup and hates apartment living) is on the verge of her first house purchase after years of caring for her only real family—her recently deceased grandmother who is speaking to her from beyond the grave through a letter and the bequest of an antique child’s ring. But Libby’s younger friend Sybil (zany owner of Amulets Alternative Apothecary) is begging her instead to blow her budget on traveling with her to sacred places around the world—a monastery in Japan, a mountaintop in Africa, a mosque in Istanbul. They compromise with a road trip to North Dakota, up near the Canadian border, to take in a tour through a mansion museum led by the newly wed and very pregnant historian-curator Paige (who speaks on behalf of the town’s founder and builder of the mansion). In that old house Libby discovers her cultural heritage and the true meaning of “home,” to enter her personal rest.
Wish me luck (or, perhaps I should say, pray for providence) as I push on to the end of my theological exploration. Like any piece of fiction, my novel is just a little story—but I know how influential story can be to potential readers who are treading out their own walk of life.