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From the eighteenth-century has emerged new friends, John and Abigail Adams, originally from a working farm at Braintree, Massachusetts. As husband and wife, their humanness enlivened my imagination: I was with them during their long relationship with its chilling hardships and lengthy separations.

Prior to this memorable experience, found in the pages of John Adams (2001), by the master writer, David McCullough, I only knew John and Abigail from history’s dust-covered pages about our country’s beginnings.

In McCullough’s perception, too few knew of Abigail’s emotional and spiritual and political support of John, of his intellectual brilliance and astute reading of character, his ease speaking in the political arena, his passion for truth, his sense of humor, his diplomatic work in Paris and the Hague that led to American independence—all these had been insufficiently addressed by Adams’s authors. So McCullough set to work. Years would pass.

Ruminating over John’s and Abigail’s letters, diaries, and journals, visiting all the places they had lived in America and Europe, and steeping his imagination with sensory impressions, McCullough allowed the story to take its present form in his unconscious, while ever critiquing what he wrote and checking his facts.

Readers of John Adams by David McCullough can’t help being touched by the immediacy of this piece of eighteenth-century history. As one of the Founding Fathers, McCullough honors Adams’s passion for American Independence, the form of government of the new country, and his role as one of the Founding Fathers.

At midnight I awoke with this dream:

The Eyes of Isis has just been published and drawn rave reviews. I’m eager to buy my own copy.

 For the remainder of the night, sleep came in fits and starts, given my body’s memory of touring the Egyptian Temple of Isis with a Jungian study group in 1996. It was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style, with construction beginning around 690 BCE.

 

 

Overwhelmed then and now by the Sacred Feminine, my psyche thrummed with energies opening onto vast realms beyond imagining. Who would have thought I would revisit this sacred site of Isis in my dream? Would find such nurturing as I await my transition? Would again feel at home within Isis’s protective arms?—No matter the centuries that separate us, Isis first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, c. 2350–c. 2100 BCE. The priests of Heliopolis developed her myth that spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, its mysteries practiced in her Temples.

 

 

Isis’s devotees yearned for spiritual growth in this life and a high place in the afterlife. In this striving, they leaned into her motherly wisdom and compassion, sought the succor of her healing, and welcomed her presence at the weighing of heart ceremony in the underground Hall of Osiris. I share their yearning.

The dream seems to invite deeper penetration within the eyes of Isis opening out upon bliss, and not lose heart with the rigors of my transition. This is working out.

 

Yet another historical novel has emerged from the rubble of World War II: this time, The Paris Orphan (2019) by the Australian Natasha Lester. Featured therein is the plight of the first women photojournalists covering front line battles in Italy and France, to the pique of their male counterparts.

Like the protagonist Jessica May’s sensitivity to word and photo, the author weaves a compelling story. Of note is the balance struck between Jessica and Lieutenant Colonel Dan Hallworth, set against the atrocities of war; neither story overpowers the other. The inclusion of unexpected humor, from poignant to tender to gallows, together with the plot’s switchbacks makes this work. Even more compelling is her use of the dual timeline that fleshes out relationships, both authentic and sinister.

Names of real people, of memorable battle scenes, of old-world chateaux, of clothing, of Lucky Strikes, of language, attest to Lester’s research. She drew her Jessica after Lee Miller, a Vogue model-turned-war-correspondent, of considerable talent, during World War II. Martha Gelhorn, one of Hemingway’s wives, also palled with Jessica, making light of the filth that clung to them for days, sorrowing over the dead and maimed bodies in field hospitals and upon battlefields.

Critical to these women was reporting their impressions of this shocking world to their readers, never mind how male censors would alter their work before wiring them to newspapers. In no way could their male co-workers produce such photos and stories, and they knew it. It was their compassion. Thus the rub—

 

Available on Amazon

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