Up in the Clouds with G-d

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Today, I logged into Facebook and received a punch in the stomach – Julie Ryan, a great and noble woman and one of the people dearest to me on the other side of the Atlantic, unexpectedly passed away.

There are no words to describe Julie. Those who knew her, even a little bit, will never forget her. I never had the privilege of meeting her in person, but nevertheless, she was an enormous spiritual influence in my life. I am firmly convinced that Hashem led me to blogging first and foremost so I could get to know Julie. Though not Jewish, she was the one who first taught me the importance of what Rabbi Nachman from Breslev calls hitbodedut, just being out there alone with G-d and pouring all our feelings and prayers and cares and sorrows, our thankfulness and our fears and dreams, to Him in our own simple words, like a child speaking to their father.

Julie used to have a blog called Eyes of Wonder, where I first found myself on the receiving end of her kind and loving words. She eventually stopped blogging in order to protect her family’s privacy and her own time, but in years to come we have kept in touch – occasionally, as Julie was the busy mother of ten children and grandmamma to several grandchildren, and I also got married and started a family of my own – but she was in my thoughts very often. I have a whole notebook, which I treasure, filled with inspirational quotes from Julie’s blog, and excerpts from emails she had sent to me. Here is one, which I know she wouldn’t mind me sharing:

“Dear precious Anna, I have written you so many letters in my heart (and have a couple in my saved drafts folder, that never got completed and sent along—as I seem to always try and write a *longer* letter than time actually allows, then end up sending nothing–please forgive me for that, my dear friend). So, this morning I am sending along much, much, love to you—and an enormous thank-you for sharing your beautiful life and family with me, with all of us. We treasure you and have been so very blessed and honored as you have shared your beautiful wedding and priceless gift of your baby (and the exciting journey with all the sweet steppingstones along the way to actually holding your jewel in your arms and taking him/or her to your breast). ((Anna)) thank-you for continuing to share with me/us, even though at times life has not permitted me the time to respond as I would have so liked to. Thank-you for being my friend, for always thinking the best and hoping the best, and freely giving from your heart. I am so grateful that it is so.”

I am torn between sorrow for Julie’s passing, and thankfulness for there having been such a woman, mother and friend in the world.

I will conclude this with a poem Julie loved, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Out in the Fields with God. It just about summarizes her simple, childlike faith, and the very essence of her being:

The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday
Among the fields above the sea,
Among the winds that play,
Among the lowing of the herd,
The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
The humming of the bees.

The foolish fears of what might pass
I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass,
Among the new-mown hay,
Among the hushing of the corn,
Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born —
Out in the fields with God.

Image: Grey Havens by Carel de Winter

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The Last Outpost: new environmental sci-fi novel

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If you are fans of environmental science fiction, I hope you check out my new novel, The Last Outpost, now available both on Kindle and in print. It is set in Antarctica, with its theme being the precarious balance between man and nature. Also features a mysterious indigenous tribe, an outrageous government conspiracy, and ancient monsters sleeping under the ice.

From the blurb:

“Scott “Buck” Buckley, an environmental scientist, accepts the position of general overseer at the McMurdo Antarctic research station. After signing a secrecy declaration, Scott becomes privy to the existence of Geyser Valley, an area with a unique warm microclimate, which is home to the mysterious indigenous Anai people. In an outrageous conspiracy, the world governments are keeping the existence of these people a secret, to avoid limitations on the division of land for natural resources.

Scott is fascinated by the unique culture of the Anai, visiting them and learning from them as much as he can. In the meantime, the world becomes more and more unstable as global war is about to break out. Just before darkness sets over Antarctica, warfare tears the world apart, and the research station finds itself completely isolated for the long and sunless winter.

In the loneliness of the winter, Scott remains facing difficult questions all alone: who are the Anai, and how did they come to Antarctica? How much truth is there in their legends about giant ancient reptiles frozen in ice, waiting to come back to life? How is McMurdo going to hold on until the communications and supply lines are restored? And where are the limits one is not allowed to cross, not even in the name of survival?”

I’m also looking to hand out 5 review copies (in digital format), so if you are interested, please get in touch with me through the contact form. Thank you!

The lush green winter

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I just thought I’d take a couple of photos to show you how vividly green everything looks after the latest bout of rainfall. In Mediterranean climates, the winter and early spring are the months of abundance and rich pasture, while summer is the dry, lean season. We have winter flowers about to burst in a riot of color and, as you can see above, our apricot tree is already budding. It’s my favorite tree, and has given us some delicious fruit last season, as early as June.

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Our chickens are enjoying the fresh green grass, plenty of bugs and worms to vary their diet, and the sunshine after a few rainy days during which they were cold, damp and miserable (they can, of course, take shelter in the coop anytime, but they do get bored, and prefer to roam around even when it’s wet).

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a pleasant winter (or, of course, summer, if you are in the southern hemisphere) and keeping warm.

Turning 3

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My dear little boy is leaving toddlerhood behind and turning 3 tomorrow. Where does the time go?! This year his birthday falls on Friday, the very day on which he was born, just a few minutes before Shabbat, in fact. We barely had time to call my mom and say congratulations.

We have felt your absence so much, dear sweetheart, before you arrived to make our world brighter, and we’ve been thankful ever since that G-d chose to give you to us, and not to anybody else.

So happy birthday, Israel. I love you more than the whole world ten times over.

Winter is for Writing

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Winter is a great time for me to work full-steam on writing projects which I might not have as much head space for in busier seasons, and so I am wrapping up 2017 with a new historical fiction release, Land of the Lost Tribe (published, like all of my fiction, under the pen name of Hannah Ross):

“The 9-th century A.D. is drawing to a close, and Simien, a Hebrew domain in the heart of Africa, feels the threat of its powerful Christian neighbor, the Kingdom of Aksum.

A courageous traveler named Eldad ha-Dani sets out upon a journey to rediscover his long-lost Jewish brethren and save his kin from spiritual isolation. But when his only companion meets a brutal end and Eldad remains alone in the desert, it looks like the people of Simien might never be known to the rest of the Jewish world.”

Now available in print, and at a limited-time launch price of 0.99$ on Kindle.

There was a child once

 

There was a child once, and this child is not gone. She is still there, deep within me. I may look all grown up, but I’m not, at least not always.

I’m still the baby yearning for the peace and security of her mother’s arms.
I’m still the toddler curiously peeking at the world around her, ready to discover something new and exciting at any moment.
I’m still the little girl climbing trees, looking for a special secret hiding place all her own.
I’m still the teenager with an acute impression of beauty, love of fascinating stories, and a desire to express herself in poetry and art.

The child is still there, and it is my task to love the child, to take her by the hand and let her walk with me in the grown-up world. Life is more fun and interesting this way.

There was a child once, and the child found much excitement in life, but she was also lonely. She had no siblings and few friends. That’s sad.

My children are different. They are happy and secure, and they have many people to love. This makes me happy, but there’s more. There is me, too. Still a little girl with a dark fringe that falls into her eyes. Still one who is content to sit for hours and watch ants crawling, to experiment with colors and words.

Love your children. Love the child within you, too. Don’t lose touch with what is so precious in you, in me, in each one of us.

Wild Children is here!

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The big day is here! Wild Children, my newest fiction release, is now up and available for purchase in print and on Kindle.

The novel is set in a dystopian world where reproduction is strictly controlled and transgressions punished. Those who are born without a permit grow up on the fringes of society and are cast out into the wild abandoned lands at the age of twelve.

A boy is born despite a law that states he has no right to live. His mother loves him, though he puts her entire family in danger. Circumstances force her to give up her son, but nothing can tear the love out of a mother’s heart.

The book should appear to lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction, pioneer life, and survival in the wild.

Also, my publisher is still looking to give away a few review copies (print+digital in the US, digital only in the rest of the world), so drop me a line through the contact form or in the comments if you are interested.