January 24, 2018

Sanity and Spirit, Finding Your Lupine

Guest Post

Chris Abbate

Photo by Sharon Penn

In his book, The Story of Your Life: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography, Dan Wakefield provides what he calls a “step-by-step approach to exploring your past and understanding your present,” including excerpts from what workshop participants have written. Bill Finger has used this approach in leading workshops at his church and among men’s gatherings. In evaluations, participants have said things like, “inspiring and joyful… I loved hearing what people wrote. I liked that we didn’t critique but just listened.” Finger is scheduled to lead a similar class at the Five Points Center for Active Adults, Raleigh NC (May), and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, N.C. State University (October). Chris Abbate, who participated in a 2016 workshop led by Finger, wrote about his mother, Mass, poetry, and lupine, a good example of how reflecting on the past can illuminate the present. A portion of what he wrote follows in this guest post.


The highway to work each August was purple. A huge purple field on the east side of the highway, that in the morning, a big orange sun would rise over and create a purple haze. It sparked something deep within my spirit. It gave me an awareness I hadn’t had before. It was new life. [Read more…]

The Power of Telling Our Stories

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by Georgia Springer

Mary Karr, in her book The Art of Memoir, says, “In a great memoir, some aspect of the writer’s struggle for self often serves as the book’s organizing principle, and the narrator’s battle to become whole rages over the book’s trajectory.”

In writing my memoir, The Crane Dance, I did struggle to understand my core identity. As the drafts unfolded and finally formed a coherent arc, my narrator’s battle did in fact help me “to become whole.”

The writer and memoirist Joan Didion says, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images.”

In The Crane Dance, disparate images bounced about from India to Boston, then to North Carolina, back to Mississippi, to Atlanta and Mendocino, Cairo to Stonehenge, the beach to the mountains, then finally back to Jabalpur, with home in Raleigh the center of this crazy journey. What drew the line straight and true, finally, was the journey of the heart, determined to find the right compass coordinates for the larger story. [Read more…]

JourneyCake Spirit

JourneyCake SpiritIn 1989, the poet Robert Bly and mythologist Michael Meade led a weeklong conference that I attended along with 110 other men. Meade told a fairy tale that more than 25 years later has now led to the naming of this new website: www.journeycakespirit.com.

The hero of the story, a pig herder, had encountered many challenges on a long journey. Finally, with the help of his animal allies, he won a magical horse from an old and tricky hag. The horse would take him out of the forest, but the evil sorceress sabotaged the deal. She snuck into the corral and drained the marrow from the legs of the horse on the morning of his freedom. The pig herder set off for the edge of the forest and as he approached the last tall hedge to navigate, the horse collapsed.

Another piece of fate had entered the story, as fairy tales are sometimes prone to do. That morning, a protective elf in the forest had watched the wicked ways of the witch. The elf captured the drained marrow and made it into a cake, which she packed in the hero’s bag. [Read more…]