giveaway: 3 books that celebrate a search for spirit

3 book collageDESPITE THEIR DIFFERENT-FROM-MINE SPIRITUAL upbringings, authors Dani Shapiro and Katrina Kenison and I find ourselves at a common juncture: the crossroads of What Does It All Mean and How Much Longer Do I Have To Figure It Out. To celebrate the just-released paperback edition of Dani’s latest book, “Devotion,” Katrina and Dani and I invite you join in an across-the-blogs discussion of where we each find spirit in our lives. Maybe you’ll win our three books; we have six sets to give away. Onward!

I’ve told you how Katrina came into my life, and through her came Dani, whose bestselling 1998 “Slow Motion” (subtitled “a memoir of a life rescued by tragedy”) was one of the most compelling stories I have ever read.

Then last year “Devotion” was published, and I learned that Dani and I had more in common than the dramatic loss of a parent, and our writing careers. “Devotion” is a seeker’s tale, written at midlife; in our books and lives we explore a lot of the same terrain—as does Katrina in “The Gift of an Ordinary Day.”

Does a seeker ever stop seeking?” Dani writes in “Devotion.” “Or is the very definition of a seeker one who keeps searching, driven by an insatiable hunger for knowledge, awareness, wisdom, peace? The very idea of craving peace struck me as vaguely oxymoronic. Craving, after all, was the antithesis of all things peaceful. It meant living with a constant itch. A dissatisfaction with what is. But could there be such a thing as spiritual satisfaction?”

I have often thought that some shortfall in my religious upbringing turned me into a lifelong questioner. But Dani was raised in a very devout tradition of Judaism–and she wonders aloud, too. So does Katrina, whose religious background probably fits closer to mine than Dani’s, but is somewhere between. As Katrina describes it:

“I was envious of friends with solid foundations which they could either accept or rebel against.”

MME, TOO. MY TINY extended family had few traditions (other than Grandma’s Brazil Nut Stuffing recipe).

I was raised in the Church of Very Loosely Speaking, as I explain in “And I Shall Have Some Peace There.” Many things were a little vague and free-form in my upbringing, through my parents surrounded us with books, instilled the love and power of language, exposed us to theater, museums, music, travel.

Another compass point they provided: They did not tolerate prejudice—not even those “harmless” commonplace jokes at the expense of a particular nationality or race or even sexual orientation—pretty progressive for our 1960s suburban setting. Whether they believed in God, I do not actually know, but they did believe that we are all God’s people. From my book:

We were not baptized until Grandma finally won out when I was 4 and my sister 2, and they walked us down the aisle together. Lordy.

My parents didn’t belong to churches. Then the guilt of raising two heathens set in. Off we went. Like I said, Lordy. I was the kid who tortured Pastor Auman nonstop with the one obnoxious question:  How do you know for sure?  One Sunday morning before church, around age 15, I fell off the stool in front of my bedroom ‘dressing table’ while curling my eyelashes, pulling out all the top ones on one eye. (They grow back. God is forgiving, even to impertinent nonbelievers.)”

I found my own church when I got into the garden 30-plus years ago, adopting a spiritual practice with lots of kneeling in front of forces bigger than myself—certainly a meditation, and form of prayer.

SPEAKING OF WHICH: Near the end of “Ordinary Day,” Katrina recounts writing a list of all the things she’s grateful for and wishes to “seize and capture,” including sons bent over cereal bowls, silk long underwear, sweet carrots and sharp knives, a crescent moon.

Maybe it is a form of prayer, this list making in the name of gratitude and remembrance,” she writes. “If so, I pray for ordinary things.

Katrina’s gratitude list, her prayer, ends with this tricky item: “Life as it is.”

Can we find moments where we are satisfied with things just as they are, when the craving and seeking abate? Ah, but there I go asking questions again. And here’s one more:

So tell us: Where do you find spirit in life, or maybe even a glimmer of an answer?

How to Win 1 of 6 Sets of Our Books

TO ENTER TO WIN ONE OF SIX SETS OF THREE BOOKS EACH—“Devotion,” “The Gift of an Ordinary Day,” and “And I Shall Have Some Peace There”–comment here and on Katrina’s site and also on Dani’s, noting in all three places where you find spirit in your life. Tell us why, too, if you wish. (Hint: You can copy and paste your answers to all three spots if you like; that’s OK.)

I understand some of you are shy and just prefer to say “Count me in,” or “I want to win,” but if you feel like sharing your story, please do; all the better.

Entries close at midnight Saturday, February 19, with winners to be drawn at random (using the tool at random [dot] org) and announced the next day.

Remember: Once you post your entry here, go see Katrina and also Dani to triple your chances—and tell them Margaret says hello.

Want the Books Now?

  1. jacky barnes says:

    WOW! even if I don’t win I gotta read these books! I just recently walked away from everything due to stress and the need to be with my grandbaby. It has been so worth it. I am homeless( living w/ daughter actually) and jobless but the happiest ever!
    I gave away years of my plants, trees and bushes that I put all my self into. I have already begun buying and acquiring new to plant at my daughters and at her neighbors since I have no dirt of my own. I have faith!

  2. Hillary B. Ayazides says:

    Spirit is not some kind of unknown, at least to me, it’s not defined. It flows from the living or maybe from beyond, but either way it’s felt with all it’s power. Spirit is energy.

  3. mary says:

    i search for and find peace/spirit/grace/hope in books, pets, children, gardening, nature, water, wide open places with endless sky.

  4. Sherry says:

    Not surprisingly I feel most at peace in the garden as well, hours fly by without my noticing. During the winter my kitchen is the refuge but a small part of my mind is still out in the garden, planning.and dreaming.

  5. Cathi says:

    I find what looks best at the farmers’ markets, then I cook the way my grandmothers used to cook. I share with my brother and his family, my niece and nephews, my mom, a few friends. All kinds of soups, soups full of the best greens, apple cake, blackberry crumble, lentils with artisanal sausage, roasted Brussels sprouts, turnips and greens, veg chili, it all brings comfort and nourishment. I feel connected to the earth because I buy or trade with friends who are farmers, I bring them food too, food from their own land, I give some back so they can see how good it really is and the goodness is shared with many.

  6. djwulf says:

    For many, many years … and even as a child … I was always “doing” for others. Protector, caregiver, sister, co-worker, wife and mother. While being caught in the chaos of everyday living, I lost sight of myself. Most recently, while in NYC of all places, I began an urban garden space as a relief to my daily stress. The peace, and absolute joy, that it brought to me and to the people in the city neighborhood was such a surprise. I can definitely relate to “de-Martha-ing” and finding your true self again. ♥

  7. Candy says:

    I definitely find spirit in the gardens in which I work, mine, the meditation garden at the farm and the school garden with the kids. Besides that the various hiking places I visit. The outdoors is where spiritual renewal happens for me.

  8. Marie Nickerson says:

    I have been observing nature, on wings and legs or in the earth, for so many years now. Doing so has heightened my awareness of a power and greatness I have yet to fathom. One might call it spirituality, I call it “One-ness”. I began with a small but complete herb garden in the middle of a city as an 18 yr old newlywed. From there, we moved to the deep woods in southern NH, to find our book-inspired “Five Acres and Independence.” Time marches on, and after many gardens and yet another move to a home with a panoramic view in Milford, NH, I have slowed down a bit to really think about where I’ve been. I look upon all that I know; the valley and streams below, the smell of the newly warmed earth, the peace of the snow covered hills, and the eyes of the creatures that share it with me. Keep writing, and never loose that inner peace.

  9. Benjamin says:

    In my memoir, MORNING GLORY: A Story of Family and Culture in the Garden, I find it through rediscovering my distant mother, her family’s dark past, and how the past lingers in me as I struggle in a new marriage. Then I find it in my new garden, an echo of my mother’s garden, her grandmother’s, and my sense of place and family is bridged. I find it in writing, in gardening, even in teaching. I find it in cutting down cardboard boxes or watching geese fly overhead. I find it in the last bee on the last aster in fall. I find it here, now.

  10. Cat Montgomery says:

    I find a spiritual awakening when I walk outside into a fine mist, feel its cool soft sprinkles against my face. this feeling invigorates me, reminds me of being on Maine’s coast as I marvel at the ocean’s powerful beauty. At times, I am empowered by the warmth of the sun in my backyard as I breath and soak in the spiritual feeling of being in love with life’s beautiful aray of grasses, flowers, trees, birds and general living goodness around me. Stress just melts away when I am amongst nature’s blessings.

  11. Collette Wilson says:

    I always feel most like myself, and most spiritual in my garden, watching my birds, hearing the rustle of grasses and the beauty of wildflowers.

  12. Jane says:

    Nature. That is where, for me, God can be seen and felt in the purest way. I also see and connect with God through the creativity of others–whether it be a writer, chef, sculptor, furniture maker, painter, landscaper, musician–it really doesn’t matter what the gift or talent is, just that its being tapped into and shared. These things–nature and creativity–are spiritual inspiration. The writer or the chef can be the inspiration to the musician or sculptor to create their best…and so on…

  13. Grace says:

    In this crazy fast paced world, I reach deep inside the spirit and find peace through relaxation imagery sessions…soft music, soft voice of instructor, calming scents, tingly vibes throughout the body. Gets me through.

  14. Mary-Ellen says:

    —–It’s all around me. Just have to always try to live in the present and experience what life is offering at that moment, Being in my garden and enjoying all that it offers is just about the best!!!!

  15. K says:

    Lately I have been thinking a lot about mindfulness and gratitude, as others have commented. I am particularly grateful that spring will come again (hopefully, soon!)

  16. Susie Collins says:

    My journey to spiritual light has been long and difficult at times, but at present I feel happy, loved, and in extreme awe of absolute beauty in the natural world around us. This beauty includes humans first and foremost although I know many people are at oposite ends of the spectrum as far as spiritual enlightment goes. The time spent out-of-doors in the living, natural world inspires us all to attain to spiritual enlightment.

  17. elizabeth davis says:

    I find spirit all over the place and mostly within. Just now, I was out at the ocean walking my dog, Squid, after the rains. The moon is full, and the night is clear in spite of so much rain. Everything was wet and dripping, the earth completely soaked. As we were leaving the ocean to go home, I looked out and saw the waves crashing on the beach and thought how much I love living near the water. It’s hard to feel the nature with city lights along the walk, but I try and ignore the glare and let the moon light my way. I am blessed to have this puppy, even though she’s three now, we still think she’s ‘tiny.’ I’m always urged to go walking her and so I do, early mornings after I drop my daughter at high school in the Pacific Palisades. I walk in Temescal Canyon, the mountains, less than a mile away from the ocean. There’s water running in the stream from so much rain this year. I like being quiet when I walk so I might find a rare hawk alone in the woods or a family of deer and there are always lots of bird sounds. I never plug my ears with headphones or pipe in music when there are nature sounds to be heard. I consider my walking my meditation and I breath and stretch as I go. I enjoy walking alone so I can be quiet and not talk. I feel replenished and full of life and love as I walk and this is how I connect with Spirit each day. I relish sunsets again by the ocean in the evenings.

    1. Margaret says:

      ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED — though fine to comment to add to the conversation. We’ll be selecting winners by random drawing, then notifying them by email today. Stay tuned!

  18. Sue G says:

    If I have a bad day, I go out in the garden for 10 min and all the knots and upset stomach stress gets washed away, I love it.
    I consider my garden to be my church as well. Even in the dead of winter with 3 feet of snow, I walk around (snowshoe!!) and see beauty in the leafless trees and the snow covered shapes of the coniferous trees, I just take a deep breath and be thankful.

  19. Karen says:

    I too have left work to focus on gardening; to create something beautiful and productive on a 2 acre blank canvas. Unlike yourself Margaret, I am not leaving behind a successful career. I have aimlessly moved from job to job working without passion and finding very little personal fulfillment for almost 25 years. I finally acted on what I’ve known for a long time – that I wasn’t going to get anything different unless I did something different (there is a famous quote along those lines – much more succinctly put than mine but I think you know where I am coming from) – so I have made the break and am focusing on going with the flow, living in the moment and appreciating the simple joys of life. I believe that by doing so my creative spirit will reemerge and my authentic self will lead me intuitively to what will be the right path for me to follow when the time is right. If I don’t win a copy of your book I have it in my Amazon shopping cart ready to buy. I have just discovered your blog, book etc tonight and I have fallen head over heels in love at first sight with your garden.

    1. Margaret says:

      Nice to see you, Karen, and welcome. You are most kind. I am happy to hear that you have take the next fork in the road; sounds like you were ready. Sometimes our “gut” is the strongest signal we have to go on, right? See you soon again I hope.

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